May 18, 2011


When I saw Ephraim taking pictures of Ms. Scott, my heart just melted,” said Lisa, the organizer of my congregation’s second annual “Ginormous Flea Market.” We were standing by a tree in the small garden watching a neighborhood boy run the “Photo Booth.” Ms. Scott was an active parish leader in her day, but now shows up to church with her walker, home health aide, and a smile. Seeing her on the garden bench getting her portrait taken by Ephraim was a precious sight.

Running the photo booth was supposed to be my volunteer role for the day, but I couldn’t resist handing over the camera, printer, and money jar to a curious, eager kid who happened to show up on Saturday. We’d never met before, but Ephraim hung around by the craft tables for a while in the morning, asking lots of questions about how to make the beautiful paper bowls and recycled plastic tote bags. As I sat on the ground making a sign for the photo booth, he gave advice on design and shared his hope that mom would buy him a camera soon.

“Want to be my assistant photographer today?” I asked. “Sure!” he replied.

Off we went to fetch extension cords, photo equipment, and the bag of “dress up” gimmicks like cardboard mustaches and florescent green boas. Like many kids today, technology came easily: he already knew how to use the camera and hooked up the portable single-sheet printer. All we needed were customers. So off he went, enlisting his younger brother as helper, to find shoppers among the market tables. (I’ve no doubt those cute kids drummed up more business than I could have!) 

After the first paying customer, I was pretty confident he could run the show by himself, so asked if he wanted to be in charge. With a final reminder to always wear the camera strap around his neck, so as not to drop it, I went off to help in the craft area. When Lisa came back later to check in, she was thrilled to see Ephraim and his brother involved in a meaningful way. And wasn’t even worried that I’d handed over her expensive camera!.

As far as I’m concerned, the Ginormous Flea Market was a ginormous success. Beyond the money, this event raised good will and joyful spirits. Throughout the day we saw a delightful mix of neighbors and parishioners – of all generations, cultures and walks of life – serving one another and having fun. The event offered a range of service to the community: inexpensive goods ($1-$5) for anyone in need, education about recycling and the environment, health screenings and HIV testing, craft sales by local artisans, clowns and face painting for kids, dance tunes, and cook-out. The church raised money from all the donated goods, food, and raffle tickets. 

It’s also a pretty fun method of evangelism. When I was minding the craft tables, a woman engaged me in lively conversation, telling me she didn’t know our church existed, then ask if I was a member and whether I attend the 8:00 am or 10:00 am service (she must have seen the sign out front.). “I think my faith needs to be rekindled, and everyone here today seems so friendly. I’ll probably show up tomorrow and check it out.” I encouraged her to come and thanked her for coming to the flea market.

At the end of the day, I packed up the photo booth with Ephraim. He was quick to ask when we were hosting another event, dreaming of another gig as photographer. I said I wasn’t sure, but we’d get in touch when it was time. Before leaving the garden he called out, “I’ll see you at church tomorrow!”