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AS an older, first-time mom, Columbus’ Lee-Anna Watson at times had battled insecurity. But she found peace of mind in the words on a tiny sign in front of Columbus’ Grace Lutheran Church. It read simply, “Mothers Of Preschoolers meet here.”
In twice-monthly meetings she began attending among 50 women, she found guidance, wisdom, friendship and support.
“The mom bond was immediate,” said the 44-year-old Watson, mother of a 3-year-old girl. “You could tell there was a camaraderie and love and acceptance.”
She now is such a strong believer in the Christian-based MOPS that she regularly recruits other moms of youngsters to attend. The other day, two people she invited in the past year were on hand at Grace when MOPS kicked off a new year of help, Scriptural teaching, fun and activities.
While moms, most in their 20s and 30s, eat, listen to speakers and discuss topics of family and faith, their children are divided into age groups down the hall and then hear Bible stories, sing songs and enjoy snacks.
The Rev. John Armstrong, Grace’s pastor, told the assembled moms they had been bestowed with an important task of shaping the next generation through divine love and grace.
“In case you’re not aware of it, God has placed into your hands little sinners,” he said as mothers giggled. “And our job is to let them know that he cares for them so much that he bears their and our guilt at the cross. Remind them often that they are loved supremely and sacrificially.”
Greensburg’s Lisa Brunni, director of the children, called Moppets in the ministry, said one element of the program is probably more enjoyable than any other.
“We just love the opportunity to teach them about Jesus,” Brunni said. “At such a young age, they’re like sponges.”
To help the youngsters retain what they’re learning, children attend the program weekly. But every other week, moms use the time as they wish — for errands, groceries or even naps, such as Watson did when her child kept her awake at night.
Brunni said that, occasionally, interest in moms wanting to attend has exceeded space available in the children’s classes of MOPS. But organizers plan to open another nursery at Grace by October to make room for more people.
Columbus’ Pat Probst, a MOPS mentor years beyond raising her own brood, sees the two groups at the church as particularly important today when so many young families have no relatives who live nearby to offer a support network.
“This is very practical,” Probst said.
Moms such as Stacy Devreese found a support and social network when she began attending late last year after her family moved to Columbus in November.
“Now, I have all these friends,” Devreese said, motioning to the other women around tables in Grace’s fellowship hall. “It’s nice to meet other moms in your exact same situation. So, when I’m facing something like sleep issues with one of the children, I can come here, and somebody will have already gone through that, and give me suggestions and help me out.”
Other women say MOPS serves a need simply for moms needing adult conversation in their day-to-day, child-oriented life of basic communication. Still others such as Columbus’ Karen Riley sought it after realizing that her youngest child, Noah, needed interaction with others after his older siblings began attending school.
“And I think purely because I’m an older mom (of five), I get asked questions,” Riley, 41, said. “But everybody here is down-to-earth and easygoing.”
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