As I recall hearing about Rock the Block (RTB) for the first time, I remember it was a very exciting time in our church. It was a new way to reach the children and their families in Birmingham for Christ. No longer would we cover the classrooms with butcher paper and wait for the children to come—instead, we would put door hangers on our neighbors’ doors, prayer walk in our neighborhoods, and prepare to teach the children and their families about Jesus right in their own neighborhoods.
It was spring of 2009, and as we headed to training, we received a binder with information about our responsibilities as a host home, our curriculum, games, crafts, and instructions to help us write our testimonies so that we could host our first RTB. Even though our subdivision was small, we knew that God would do big things. Our team was assembled, and we were ready to rock our block.
Looking back, one of my favorite parts of that week was teaching the children the RTB song, “My Rock, My Sword, My Shield!” The song is based on the verses in 2 Samuel 22, “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation” (vv. 2-3). We went into the week relying on God to be our rock. He brought many children and families to us both from our neighborhood and the surrounding neighborhoods. We, along with our team, were so thankful for such a great week to be able to teach the lessons, hear amazing testimonies, and share gospel presentations with the children. By the end of the week, we were eager to be a host home again the following year.
With our first year such a success, we headed into our second year not knowing that things would be very different. We prepared just the same as before, but when we got to our first night, we had no children. I looked down the street, and I saw a boy playing outside. He’d been invited the year before but had not shown up. We’d invited him again this year, but he had not come. I knew that I needed to go and invite him again. He agreed to come, and I later realized that this was God’s plan all along.
The first year, I was so preoccupied with all of the children that had come that I didn’t seek out the one who had not. But God is a God who goes after the one. That second year, God took away the 99 and sent me after the one. Our whole team embraced him and loved on him that night and for the rest of the week, along with a small group of children who ended up joining him. We realized that success this year looked less like a whole bunch of kids learning about Jesus and more like one child, who really needed it, seeing the love of Jesus poured out on him.
In the years that followed, our family was able to continue serving with RTB by helping other RTBs in our community, by helping the inner-city program at Birmingham Southern, and by joining with our small group to help at their homes.
There are so many ways to get involved. For our family, it was a team effort. Having my children (of all different ages) be pushed out of their comfort zones alongside me, my husband, and other members of our church family, prepared them for all that God had in store for their lives. They learned to be bold in sharing their testimonies and the gospel with others. I know that the timing of RTB starting at Brook Hills was instrumental in the lives of three of my older children, who each had a chance to participate and lead RTBs in our community. Each of these three children have since followed God’s call for their lives to go even further than just down the street—they have been able to go to the nations. When we became foster parents in 2010, our foster children were then able to attend the RTBs, often of families in the church who were also teaching them on Sundays throughout the year. They heard gospel truths not only from us, but from an amazing church family who loved them just as much as we did.
Rock the Block continues to be an incredible opportunity to show our community the love of Christ. God has used RTB to impact my life, my children’s lives, and the lives of children and families all over Birmingham for His glory. It is my prayer that the Lord will continue to bless the ministry of Rock the Block in the coming years, and that we, as His hands and feet, would always rely on Him to go make His name known in our community and beyond.
Connie Barnhill and her husband, Don, began attending Brook Hills in August 1992, and soon after, they became members. They have six children: Greg and wife, Hallie; Brett and wife, Allison; Katelyn; Madeline; Julian; and Christopher. They have five grandchildren: Caroline (4), Beau (3), Sam (2), Lucy (3 months), and Hunter (3 weeks).