|The Bernal family arrives for worship.
When you see the colorful children’s train in Eldorado on Sunday mornings, follow it to the United Methodist church.
Children are leading the church’s growth in the Clinton District community. Worship attendance is about 40 people, with three classrooms of children and babies in the nursery.
When Bobby Jones arrived as pastor five years ago, he and his wife, Mary Lee, counted about a dozen worshippers, none of them children. Prayer, revival services, watermelon feasts, fellowship dinners, and more have renewed interest in the church.
A major attention-getter is the Bernal family "train," powered by a riding lawnmower driven by mom Candace. She found the toy cars at a garage sale and hooked them together, to transport the children to church when dad Juan needs the car for work. On rainy days, bright umbrellas shield the young passengers.
"She even goes to get other people’s kids," Mary Lee said.
Last year the Bernals moved from Texas back to Candace’s hometown—and church home. She was excited to discover her former Sunday school teacher, Betty Shumaker, continuing to educate the children and helping them learn songs, explained Mary Lee.
"Candace is an inspiration," Mary Lee said. "Every Sunday, people have new ideas. The Spirit of the Lord is in their lives. It’s breathtaking."
The children open worship every Sunday morning, starting with the song "This Is the Day" and special music such as "Deep and Wide." Gathered in front of the congregation, they repeat their memory verse. Children’s church begins about 30 minutes later.
"We know God is doing this. We live about 35 miles away," said Mary Lee.
The Joneses live and work in Blair. Bobby is a Supply Pastor. For many years, he was a Lay Speaker, filling area pulpits during pastors’ absences.