Singing, Puppies and Prayer honor graduating Blue Ball Elementary 6th graders in East Earl

Record photos by Carol Quaintance Natalie Apgar holding 2-week-old lab pup.
Record photos by Carol Quaintance Carlee Hartman and Samantha King showing their joy during graduation.

Singing, puppies and prayer were highlights of the ELANCO Relief Time graduation party for 33 sixth graders and the leadership team of ELANCO Relief Time at Blue Ball Mennonite Church in East Earl May 1.

Thursdays, Blue Ball Elementary School children grades 3-6 are escorted across the street to the Blue Ball Mennonite Church to attend an hour non-denominational Bible study.

For graduation, a banquet style taco lunch with all the extra goodies was a hit with the kids for their graduation celebration party. Garden Spot High School Vice Principal Elias Cox, featured speaker, opened with prayer.

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Amelia Collins of the leadership team, said, These children, our future leaders, know that they are loved and cared for by our all-volunteer teachers and staff. I am truly dedicated to them.

Her daughter Michelle Coblentz, director and coordinator, said, I prayed about this group and was given an answer to organize under this name and lead this group in Christian love and scripture studies while nurturing and mentoring them.

The kids love it, they build relationships with each other and the adults. We are a bonded community of love, she added.

Then Coblentz happily showed their newly designed T-Shirts depicting their logo The Way, The Truth, The Life; John 14:6.

The cross in the center of the shirt is crooked; because nobody is perfect and we want the kids to know that. The words I AM in the center is another word for GOD, said Coblentz.

After lunch Coblentz spurs them on to sing louder and louder until their favorite Oh Happy Day echoes in the room.

Grins, giggles and puppies warmed up the place. Puppies?

Yes, 2-week-old black and yellow puppies were passed among the students with gentle care as Cox opened with What does love actually mean? Jesus Christ living in your heart.

He read parables from the Bible: John 10:1, 2, The man who doesnt enter the sheep pen by the gate but climbs in by some other way is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.

To me this is all about character. You will face temptations as you get older. People will encourage you to do bad things. The person that you are is determined by what you do, Cox said, who tells them that when they are climbing over fences or looking around to see who is watching them, it is their head that knows they are doing wrong. He reminds them they have all been taught and guided to do the right thing.

When others know you, they should see Jesus Christ. My challenge to you is to not be jumping over fences or hiding in bushes. Dont take things that dont belong to you or do things you know are wrong, he said.

He referenced the Good Samaritan story love your neighbor as yourself.

Cox also spoke about bullying. Have you ever seen anyone being picked on in school? Have you ever asked the person to stop? That is hard to do. They might start picking on you. But you need to step in. You look at them and say, I need you to stop picking on him. Here is the next line, It is okay if you pick on me but stop picking on him. You may be ridiculed but you keep showing love.

He said most people are good and its their job as Christians to show love. To make an impact in life, he challenged the graduates to love people without judging them, but not becoming a part of them. Another word for love is sacrifice, he said.

You can change a person by loving them even though they treat you bad. We all just want to fit in. The pressure to fit in is strong. Dont you all want to know that you have value? asks Cox. When they ask, Why are you still nice when I treat you bad? Your answer is because I love you and God loves you and he loves me.

A moving and emotional talk, some left with tears in their eyes.