Children snack as they wait for school buses

Maya looks forward to getting her snack at the church on her way to school. The fruit juice and granola bar are the only breakfast she has before she starts a long day of first grade.

Maya participates in the Warm Start program at Asbury United Methodist Church, St. Louis. In 2010, the Rev. Frances Penn Cleveland saw a need to provide a safe, welcoming environment for children who waited for school buses outside the church. Asbury is a central location for more than 74 buses.

The current pastor, Ivan James, said volunteers open church doors from 5:30 to 8:30 a.m. on Monday through Friday throughout the school year. During the winter, they offer hot chocolate in addition to other snacks. "We serve 55-60 kids a day and sometimes as many as 100," said James. "Parents also come with their kids and help serve."

Fifteen of the children have participated in Asbury's outreach program, Real Deal. The program engages them in Bible study, a rap session and community service projects. The kids have made crosses for ill members, studied African-American history and discussed "What would Jesus do?"

During winter and spring breaks, the volunteers provide a reading program for the children. Asbury also offers the summer "Asbury Academy," where children can sharpen reading and writing skills. They also can attend vacation Bible school.

"We want to make a difference in people's lives," said James. "Christ moves in mysterious ... ways."

To learn more about the Warm Start program, contact James at [email protected].

AT A GLANCE Asbury United Methodist Church | 4001 Maffitt Ave., St. Louis, MO 63113 | 314-371-4863 | [email protected] | www.asburyumcstl.net | Lay Pastor: Ivan James III | Average Attendance: 26 | Missouri Conference

"It Worked for Us" is written by Christine Kumar, freelance writer and administrator, Baltimore Metropolitan District, Baltimore-Washington Conference.