Month: March 2018

The Saddest Day

Asking people what is the saddest day in their lives opens the door to the sacred. Ask kids, and they will give you the same answer: the saddest day is “Back to school” after a school break. I didn’t know that Back to school is one of the saddest phrases in the English language. According to, Back to school are the three words that most kids loathe (unlike their parents who think Back to school is the happiest day).

I’ve met two boys from our neighborhood last night before the Ad. Council meeting. First, they took off like they wanted to go down the street toward Francis Street then they stopped. Two teenagers talked about something and turned around. They looked sad and lost. I greeted them, recognizing one of them, who joined our youth back in October for the Fall Party, and asked if they needed help. Both boys politely declined my offer and walked away with sad faces. Those kids in our neighborhood become adults too early because of the reality of their lives. Obviously, much heavier things were in their minds than Back to school. It’s not even a Spring Break yet. I was sad that they didn’t allow me into their sacred.

For Christians, today is the Saddest Day. Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday is an alternate name for Holy Thursday, the first of the three days of solemn remembrance of the events leading up to the crucifixion and death of Jesus. The English word “Maundy” comes from the Latin mandatum, which means “commandment.” As recorded in John’s gospel, Jesus gave his disciples a new commandment to love one another as he had loved them (John 13:34).

Maundy Thursday is the saddest day because Christ loved humanity to the end and in full humility welcomed his death on the Cross. Historically on this day, Christians demonstrated compassion towards the poor: until 1689, there was a custom of the monarch washing worshippers’ feet in Westminster Abbey. Food and clothing would also be handed out to the poor. Pensioners from local communities received “Maundy money.” Maundy Thursday sets up the tone for Christian compassion and love.

I looked at the teenage boys walking down the street and wondered what their story was? Talking to kids at Carden Park School, Mary Buckler and I learned that most of the kids come from extended families with five and more children. Some of them sleep on the floor. Many of them do not see one of the parents and do not know much love. It is so much pain behind the sadness in their eyes.

How could we build trust with those kids, who face the hardship of life too early? Tonight, if we had those children with us in worship, they could hear the words of love directly from Christ. It could be an amazing revelation for each of them to hear for the first time that God loves them so much.

Pastor Lydia

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Just in Time

Last Tuesday I went to Carden Park Elementary School to spend time with a boy or a girl during lunch. I am still a little nervous since I am still in training. I was so happy to see Susan Gentry there, who came to visit her daughter. Allison spends a day at Carden Park as a part of the gifted children program.

Susan’s smile gave me a boost of confidence and I was ready for action. I noticed a little boy sitting away from all children on the bottom of the steps in full isolation. Nick was in trouble after he tried to choke his friend. The boy was too impulsive and did not know that putting his hands on another child’s neck was not a game. Nick felt very bad, he did not eat his lunch and sat with his face hidden in his hands. I started talking to him and learned that he would not go on a field trip after lunch.

“I was never on a bus before.” Nick cried. I didn’t know how to calm down a child, neither was I sure that to punish the boy for the whole day was the right thing. I am not a teacher. This was when I remembered my friend Cleo – the clown, who had a gift of making anybody smile just in time. Cleo Thomann’s name can be found in a book “The 1951 Kansas City Flood” by Brian Burnes, and you will find a story of a young man, who was chased by a police while driving toward the Fairfax plant to rescue the time cards.  Without Cleo, all 900 employees would not be paid. The name of the article about Cleo is titled “Just in Time.” 

Cleo’s credo was: “It is worthwhile to make someone smile.” Cleo had a gift to make people smile even when he did not wear his clown’s costume. Yes, Cleo was a professional clown. He was able to pull out of his pockets so many little and big items that made not only kids’ eyes grow big. People joked about Cleo, “He always looks so innocent until he starts showing his tricks!”

Cleo went every Friday to the Correctional Facility to work with the troubled teenagers.  They waited for his visits impatiently because every time Cleo brought something that is hard to find in a place like that – a smile.

I remember my visit with Cleo and his wife Opal in their home back in 2002. He showed me the stoplight that his wife gave him as a gift because Cleo, as she said, “Does not know where he goes.”  Thomann’s house had many fascinating things. The doll collection was one of them. This beautiful doll’s collection began with the first doll 67 years ago. Opal lost her father when she was just ten years old and never had a doll. Cleo gave Opal her first doll after they got married. This is how her collection began.

Cleo had the words to live by – “I think everyone in the world has but one desire and that is their happiness. My goal is to help people find it. Some think money, some find comfort in alcohol and drugs, in a big home, but none of these works.  I think I’ve found the answer.  The only way you can get happiness is from someone else. It makes you happy when you make someone else happy.  People are happy when they see their children happy and their friends and neighbors happy, and the more people you make happy – the happier you will be.”

The memories of Cleo made me see Nick not as a troublemaker but as a boy who needed a smile. It made all the difference when he suddenly looked at me and smiled! It came right in time for me to see the meaning of our church ministry at Carden Park. One smile does not seem like a big thing but when it comes just in time – that makes all the difference.

–Pastor Lydia


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Carden Park Elementary School

Garden Park Elementary School and Francis Street First are partners! Candy and Mark Sheehan and Pastor Lydia visited the school and met with Jennifer 95% of children are from low-income families and need extra tutoring and mentoring. Even joining kids for lunch and becoming her/his “Lunch Buddy” will make a difference. We have a mission field not too far from the church. Our Congregational Life & Mission leaders decided that children are our priority and accepted the challenge.

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Lost and Alone


It is said that no one gets out of childhood unscathed.  That may be true, but clearly, some are more scathed than others.  You may be one that is feeling lost and alone; depressed and sad; or maybe unwanted and unloved.  If so, there is one thing you need to know above all else.  Despite all the abuses of this life, you are a child of God.  You are wonderfully and awesomely made.  And God loves you just as you are, without conditions.  If you know nothing else, you must know this simple truth; this good news.  If you have a church home we encourage you to attend regularly.  If not, come explore the wonders of God’s love with us this Sunday morning at 8:45 & 10:45.  We are the Francis Street First United Methodist Church, 12th and Francis, downtown St. Joseph.  I’m Mike Perry, one of the leaders there and we’ll save a place, just for you. 

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