Neighbors loving neighbors. It is a beautiful sight and one that was abundant in Surrey Hills last Saturday. We were not able to do Camp Surrey this year, but knew we wanted to do something to show love to our campers and neighbors and let them know we are thinking about them. So, we decided to sponsor a neighborhood block party in conjunction with our annual water balloon battle.
Events in the Love Avenue are a ton of fun, but also require lots of planning. It starts with a Love Avenue Team that came together, showed up, and put their hearts into this event. My Love Avenue team consists of 11 amazing people, from age thirteen to 75-ish (don’t be fooled, the 75-year-old works circles around all of us). The first step to the event was the prep-work which is a ministry in itself.
We do our annual water balloon battle at the neighborhood ball fields. To prepare for the event, we always clean them up really well. It’s often the only time of year the fields look spick and span. I always invite our neighbors to join us for a work party the Friday night before the event to mow, edge, and pick up trash. This year, I got a message on Wednesday from a neighbor I’ve gotten to know the past couple of years. He sent me a picture of the freshly mowed fields and let me know he took care of all the mowing so we could focus on edges and trash. What a blessing! Then, our crew got to work.
On Saturday afternoon hundreds of Surrey neighbors lined up with about 13,000 water balloons and had a total blast. If you’re wondering how we determine who wins a water balloon battle, we don’t. It actually makes for amazing debates and bragging rights for everyone all year long.
We were blown away by the number of children we had! We reserved the first 10 minutes of the battle for children only. Afterwards, it was at the parents’ discretion if their child would continue to participate. After about 30 minutes of water balloon mania, all participants took about 10 minutes going over the field, picking up all the balloons. We want to keep our neighborhood beautiful, and our policy is always to leave things better than we found them. The cleanup time is actually a great relational time. There’s something about crawling around on the grass, picking up thousands of tiny balloon pieces alongside your neighbors whom you were just pummeling with water balloons. Conversation begins to spark, laughter erupts, and relationships are built.
After the clean-up, everyone walked across the street to the Lion’s Club Park, where we had food trucks, live music, gaga ball, yard games, inflatables, a cornhole tournament – all kinds of fun!
We also set up a Camp Surrey kids table and gave away over 100 gift bags filled with goodies. These bags had Camp Surrey reusable water bottles, bubbles, giant pixy sticks, Camp Surrey pillowcases, and more. We also had a craft table for them to decorate those pillowcases. We got lots of inquiries about Camp Surrey and even had a QR code on the table for people to scan to join our waiting list for Camp Surrey 2022. We ran out of gift bags in the first hour because over 150 kiddos showed up to the event! What a great problem to have!
Camp Surrey provided ice chests full of water bottles and juice boxes as well as hand sanitizer and insect repellant. We decided to keep the fun going after dark and hosted a movie on the park lawn. A couple of months ago, we cast a poll on our neighborhood Facebook page and let them pick the movie (with the stipulation that it had to be G or PG). Zootopia won by a landslide! It was an incredible evening of neighbors loving neighbors.
We had between 400 and 500 people participate in this event. We had well over 150 children. We made a special announcement before the movie. Pastor Joe introduced himself and invited everyone to join us at the Surrey Hills Elementary School Gym the next morning for a special worship experience and blessing of the children. I’m thrilled to say we had SEVEN brand new faces Sunday morning. Praise God!
In the midst of so much sadness and chaos the past year, there was something amazing that happened this weekend in our neighborhood. It was a day without arguments, politics, or anger. It was a day of relationship, a day of love, a day of community. God is so faithful.
I often think of the old saying from the movie “Field of Dreams” when it comes to relaunching our church into this neighborhood. I used to always quote the line, “If you build it, they will come.” Weekends like this are a loving and gentle reminder from my Papa that I need to change that mantra in my head. The truth is that “God will build it, and we will love.”
Surrey Hills Love Avenue Champion