“Once Upon a Time” or “Such a Time as This?” by Linda Sharkey

“Once Upon a Time” or “Such a Time as This?”
Changing the Lives of Children One Bus Ride at a Time
Mrs. Linda Sharkey

Linda, affectionately referred to as "Miss Linda," is a licensed and ordained minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Together, she and her husband, Rick, pastor Spokane Christian Center. They have three children and four grandchildren. Linda keeps busy in her many functions within the church. She has developed a Saturday Sunday School program which is a bus ministry outreach to children in Spokane. Saturday Sunday School was started in April of 1991 and has grown from one bus and seven children to 11 buses and up to 1,200 children each Saturday. Miss Linda also leads Women of Passion, our women’s ministry here at Spokane Christian Center. She loves teaching the Word of God to her “girls” each Tuesday morning. She has written and published four children’s curriculum books and various teaching aides, as well as articles for Charisma Life Publishers. Miss Linda has traveled extensively as a conference speaker in the United States, Canada, and the Philippines. Her ministry style is a mixture of compassion, wisdom, and humor, and includes something for everyone. Her greatest desire is to reach all people for Christ.

Linda Sharkey Linda Sharkey

Once there was a little girl, playing in the streets, running, jumping, and playing hide-and-seek with all the other kids in the neighborhood. Her mother was a Sunday School teacher and her dad was an usher in their local church. Her life was normal, healthy and secure.

Then in one night everything changed. Mom left the home with another man, leaving her father to raise the kids. Darkness, despair and hopelessness filled the home. Then her dad was turned in for child abuse, and the little girl went into the foster care system, bouncing from home to home feeling alone and lost.

If it weren’t for Jesus, she would have been lost and forgotten, hidden in the system.  She looked for a church and found one within 20 blocks from her foster home. There she found happiness, joy and acceptance, and she chose to be there every time the doors opened. God’s love was there even in the midst of her chaos.

This little girl was me, and this is the reason I began Saturday Sunday School at our church. It all started in the spring of 1991 when three people began knocking on doors and asking kids to ride a bus and come to Sunday School. In one year we had one bus full (65) and began to drive another bus.

Nineteen years later we have 10 buses traveling all over the city of Spokane, Washington to pick up kids and teach them about God’s love for them. Saturday Sunday School has over 40 volunteers and our goal is to teach kids that (1) God is in a good mood  (2) Jesus’ blood paid for everything (3) They are important, and  (4)  Nothing is impossible with God.

Every Saturday morning the buses roar to pick up the kids from homes of despair and bring them to a loving place called CHURCH. At church we sing, dance, play games, laugh, and pray. We tell stories of Jesus, and when we ask them to give their lives to Jesus, the altars fill every week with hungry kid’s eyes, hands and hearts lifted to Heaven. I can hardly say the prayer without tears swelling and my voice cracking, because every week I see me.

We have special events for the kids including the largest Easter Egg hunt in the city. In the summer we have an outdoor program, which includes a free picnic and a large water gun fight.   In the fall we give backpacks full of school supplies to the kids. At Christmas, we have breakfast with Santa where all the kids are served by members of our church.

Every Thursday the bus drivers go door to door to invite the kids for the Saturday  program and to recruit new kids in the neighborhoods. This is where evangelizing begins and we bring Jesus out of the church and into their homes. We go into the homes and overlook the dirt and the smells that linger long after we have gone home. The smell of cigarettes, marijuana, alcohol and heaven-knows-what. Bare-footed, running noses, lice infected hair, kids run to get their weekly hugs.

In the houses, the cupboards are bare but the families sit around big screen TVs and smoke circles the air. Some weeks we come with clothes, food, or paint — whatever their need is. We’ve prayed with families and seen God work and change the lives we encounter.

Let me end with a story about a young girl sitting at the hairdresser, getting her hair bleached. Her life with her parents was not good, so she began her life showing off the only thing she had, her beautiful body. She became an exotic dancer. At 16 she started making lots of money. That lifestyle leads to more heartache than you can imagine.

But she told the hairdresser that one day, she decided to turn her life around, quit dancing, and start going back to church. The hairdresser asked her, “How did you know to go to church?”  The young woman answered, “When I was 7, I attended church at a Saturday Sunday School program. A lady named Miss Linda prayed a prayer of salvation with me and I gave my heart to God that day.”

That hairdresser is my daughter and with tear filled eyes she told me this story. So I ask again: “Once upon a time” or “Such a time as this?”