I met Darlene O’Brien eleven years ago. It was during the reception the Church had for me when I first came on staff at Mount Ararat Church in Stafford, Virginia. Darlene arrived at the very end of the reception while running into the Narthex, dressed as Bokay the Clown. “Hi. I’m Darlene! It is so great to meet you!”
She had just arrived after doing ministry with kids in Fredericksburg. She was excited and happy and in full Bokay The Clown fashion.
I quickly learned Darlene’s passions:
Ministry with kids
Fill Up The Carpet Squares!
Darlene and Jerry were storytellers with our elementary ministry when I first arrived at Mount Ararat. Our elementary groups met in the fellowship hall and had lots of carpet squares for kids to sit all over the tiled floor.
Darlene began praying every single week that God would fill those carpet squares up with kids.
On Sundays, I would find her and Jerry holding hands and praying for their morning. Their relationship was lovely. A partnership.
After a couple of years, we moved our Kids Ministry into a brand new adjoining building. On the first Sunday we opened, we were bursting with kiddos and families in both of our elementary teaching theaters and preschool environment.
I saw Darlene touring around the facility. She locked eyes with me and a lump was in my throat. Her eyes teared up.
She hugged me tight and whispered in my ear, ‘God filled the carpet squares to overflowing!’
Two years ago, we began our second campus at Mount Ararat.
One Sunday Darlene came to me and said, “I’m going to Courthouse Campus with you.”
I knew that Darlene’s health had not been the best.
I asked her “Are you sure, Ms. Darlene?”
She boldly said “Susan, we are given this one crazy life to make much of Jesus. It’s time for me to start praying for kids to come and fill up carpet squares over on that campus and serve there.”
The first Sunday arrived on Courthouse Campus and she came flying into her Small Group room. She had puppets, snacks, toys and all things a kid would love. As she entered the large group area, she was greeted with enormous bright yellow carpet rectangles for the kids to sit on in the cafeteria of Colonial Forget High School . The bright carpets stopped her in her tracks. “Susan! More Carpet Squares to pray over.”
Over the next year, every Sunday at Courthouse Campus, she was in her element.
Honor Your Family, Leave a Legacy
Another beautiful lesson I learned from Darlene: honor your family and leave a legacy.
Anyone who spent any amount of time with Darlene knows she adored her family. Stories of Jerry, her kids, grandkids or great grandkids were always on the tip of her tongue. She honored them and she loved them.
Three of her grandchildren were usually with her on Sunday mornings, Lizzy, Tommy and Emily.
They received an incredible gift from their grandmother. She taught them how to serve.
All three grandkids volunteer on Sunday mornings. They don’t sit by and watch what needs to be done. They actively learned how important it is to serve others.
As soon as Tommy was in fifth grade he began talking about volunteering. And sure enough, middle school arrived, he got his name tag and was immediately serving, just like his grandmother.
Darlene left a deep legacy of service.
Teach One More
I’ve been in Kids Ministry for over 20 years. I sincerely know that Darlene was one of the most passionate Kids Ministry people I’ve ever met.
She used whatever method she could use to explain to kids how deep Jesus loved them and the great plan He had for their life.
Her energy and smile alone were captivating. She brought the gospel alive every single week. Her love for Jesus and for kids was beautiful and contagious.
She would do anything to teach one more child about the gospel message of Jesus.
Her Life Had Impact
I believe the effects of Darlene’s faithfulness will be experienced for generations to come.
Anytime I think of Darlene, the first thoughts immediately come to my mind:
1. Let’s fill those carpet squares!
2. And... “Susan, we are given this one crazy life to live to make much of Jesus...”
She challenged me while she was here on earth and she is challenging me now in her death. Darlene left this earth about a month ago. Sadness and grief were heavy.
In her death, she causes me to reflect: What will I do with this one crazy life I’ve been given?
Ms. Darlene used her one crazy life to:
make much of Jesus
minister to Kids
faithfully love her husband and her family
And we are all better people because of her faithfulness.
So, I ask you too, friend: what will you do with this one crazy life you’ve been given?