The IC’17 Children’s Program: How I Got By with a Lot of Help from My Friends!

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Marie Vasile

By Marie Vasile, California, United States

“Act boldly and unseen forces will come to your aid.” This is an anonymous quote Linda May shared during our Urantia Book study sessions. I would hear her and think: What a pleasant affirmation! If only I could have that sort of abiding trust in our heavenly creators and unseen friends.

Although I have been a reader for over thirty-five years, somehow that sort of conviction has always escaped me. My husband, Tom, teases me that I do a great imitation of Olive Oyl from Popeye, “Oooh! Oh, my! Oooh, my heavens!” Of course, having the teachings of The Urantia Book has helped. Still, the issues of my psyche persisted until a meeting with fellow reader Derek Samaras launched a transformative adventure for me. I have come to believe that this meeting was not by chance. He introduced me to Miranda Clendening, who was planning the children’s program for the Urantia Book Fellowship’s 2017 International Conference (IC’17).

Now that our nest is empty, it seemed the perfect opportunity to give back and help with the children’s program. Unfortunately, I fell ill, so I was not able to join the Fellowship Family Life committee calls until September. By then, Miranda had moved on to co-chairing the entire conference and had a heaping platter of commitments.

It became clear that if the children’s children were to happen, I would have to be a major player, maybe even the leading planner. I was not looking for such a responsibility. I was still recovering from being ill, and I had just accepted a new job. This was not the sort of thing I did—taking on leadership roles of this nature. Surely this calling did not have my name on it.

I turned to prayer and worshipful problem solving. “Dear Lord, what could I possibly bring to this situation?” I would ask. And I would get back, “Well, if not you, then who?” The answer was no one, really. Everyone else on the committee was more fully obligated. I was the most likely candidate. So, with much doubt and trepidation, I accepted the responsibility of organizing the children’s program for IC’17.

Children’s programs take planning and incorporate so many details —snacks, toileting, rest breaks, first aid supplies, etc. My head was spinning. Fortunately, there have been great women—Julia Fenderson and Sara Blackstock—preceding me, creating a wonderful foundation from which to provide the Jerusalem Marketplace experience. With five conferences under her belt, Sara promised her mentorship and proved a saint, supporting and encouraging at every turn. Sara, kudos to you for your decades of devotion to our children and family life!

Extensive planning was required. Some days were eight to ten hours of just communication, keeping all parties apprised of needs and decisions. The Fellowship Family Life committee met once a month, and we assessed and adjusted as necessary. I created six drafts of a program schedule. Finally, a children’s program developed that appeared workable.

Accent here on “appeared.” I could only hope that what we planned would fly. We needed so many volunteers. Each attending parent was asked to volunteer a minimum of two hours. The parents of three of our five enrolled families were already involved up to their eyeballs in the functioning of the conference. From where were the necessary hands going to come? I would pray, and help came out of the woodwork, mostly.

The help appeared first with the Deoto family, Riula and William Deoto and their children Solonia and Gabriel: without them there could not have been a children’s program. Riula, our program co-chair, saw me through every anxious step of the planning and delivery. Tom Vasile, my husband and co-chair, did so much at home behind the scenes and all he could in Denver. Lucia Samaras, Derek’s mother, stayed most of every day just to help. Patricia Strawser and her Spiritual Engineering young women led Friday afternoon, meditation and art. Jack Miller taught yoga our first morning. Pato Banton came to tell a story as a Jesus Follower, and being the creative sort he is, coordinated a skit, which we performed excitedly before his Friday night concert. Janie Whinery folded paper boats that the children enjoyed coloring. Justin Michael and Patrick Yesh organized our gallery visit. Tony Finstad and April Helen Morgan provided so much calm, reassuring moral support, especially on Saturday—Interfaith Day. Christilyn and Steve Larson donated straw and floral decorations. And as for Jack Kane—he’s been designated our unseen Family Life member and guardian angel! Whatever hole we found, whatever supply we needed, Jack was Johnny-on-the-spot. He built our jail; provided boom boxes, snacks, supplies; found friends to teach us jewelry making—you name it, he secured it for us, refusing to be reimbursed. I am convinced the angels on high are singing his praises, as I cannot proclaim them enough. Thanks, Jack!

For the equivalent of three and one-half days, those who ventured into the Jerusalem Marketplace played, sang, prayed, and worshipped together. All fingers and toes, arms and legs stayed intact. We shared basic principles about our heavenly Creators’ special connections with each child, so I hope we met our goal of a safe, fun, spiritually-infused experience for our children.

One participating parent related that he did not enter a classroom or sit through even one workshop, yet it was his best conference experience to date because of the abundance of loving service and unselfish devotion he experienced.

In my experience, it was all transforming. We were able to create a little bubble of care, concern, compassion, and love that is still seeing me through. I spent unfathomable hours planning, so the structure was present, yet with no guarantee we could pull it off. But we did—boldly and blessedly.

During our August Family Life committee meeting, we communicated everything to Sara. In closing, she shared that “to work with children is to work with the angels.” Yes, Sara. I consider myself the most blessed—thanks to all my seen and unseen friends!

“Act boldly and unseen forces will come to your aid.” No longer do I view that as a pleasant platitude. I now know what abiding trust looks like. Instead of wringing my hands, I say gratefully, “Oh, my heavens!! Let’s roll up our sleeves. There’s work to be done here with my name on it, and it is going to be glorious!”

Urantia: The IC’17 Children’s Program
Urantia: The IC’17 Children’s Program

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