AP NEWS

Families flock to Easter egg hunts

April 16, 2017 GMT

Doug Fry of Terre Haute is visiting his daughter Kimberly Platt in Fort Wayne for Easter, and there was one must-do item on his weekend agenda : taking his 7-year-old granddaughter, Lucy Platt, to Saturday’s Easter egg hunt and carnival at Level 13 Church in northeast Fort Wayne.

“Kids love it,” the 49-year-old said. “We could not do anything else today but this.”

That was apparently the case for hundreds of other families who showed up just before noon for a free lunch of hot dogs and chips before children scattered across four grassy areas outside the church to hunt hundreds and hundreds of colored plastic eggs.

It was a scene that also took place earlier at the church across St. Joe Road, Ascension Lutheran Church : and at a host of other sites as community groups and area congregations awaited Easter, today’s Christian celebration of the resurrection of Jesus.

“It’s the holiest day of the Christian year,” said the Rev. John Stube, pastor at Ascension, a congregation in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, standing in the church gym, where dozens of children gathered after the hunt.

Children ended the egg hunt with a five-station educational activity similar to what Roman Catholics know as the Stations of the Cross. Hands-on activities highlighted key events of Holy Week : children dropped construction-paper leaves with sayings and prayers along a path to mark Palm Sunday and sat at a low bench to get a feel for the Last Supper before moving to a station that taught about the crucifixion.

At the Easter station, Skylar Brown, 21/2, was part of an activity that encouraged kids to make a banner spelling out “Alleluia” and a box to keep it in. Her mother, Jamie Brown, had volunteered to help. “She loves making crafts,” Brown said of her daughter.

Stube said this was the second year the 40-year-old Ascension had sponsored an Easter activity for children in its neighborhood, which had been largely rural but is now sprouting with several new housing additions going up in the area. The church also runs a school for children from preschool age to eighth grade that is adding four new classrooms to handle growth, he said.

“This has been something with the children to get them knowing the message of the church and what Easter is all about,” Stube explained. “The stations are new this year. It’s learning, but it’s active, so it involves the senses in the learning process, and it gives families something to talk about with their children, (for them) to get to the message of life from death and what that means for us.”

At Level 13, under a sunny blue sky, the temperature approached 80 and moms standing in the registration line wished aloud that they’d brought sunscreen.

Christopher Roller, meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s northern Indiana office outside Syracuse, said the warm weather didn’t set any records for the date : that happened in 2002 when the temperature hit 85 degrees in Fort Wayne.

But the predicted high of 81 or 82 degrees was the first day this year the thermometer passed the 80-degree mark, he said, and between 11 and noon, Fort Wayne’s temperature jumped 8 degrees, he said.

Level 13′s Pastor Rob Tippey said the carnival was “just a simple way to share God’s love.”

Part of the Wesleyan denomination, the church is 10 years old and moved to the current site in 2008. It’s name comes from people’s tendency to avoid the number 13 as unlucky, Tippey said : “the place where people don’t want to go, don’t want to talk about and the people some church people might think they don’t want to associate with.”

But that’s not what Jesus would have done, Tippey said.

Level 13 sponsors the Easter carnival event as one of several forms of outreach, including a ministry to young people adjusting to life after foster care at The Courtyard, a sheltered living facility in Fort Wayne, he said.

“We just want to be a church that is open and loves everyone,” Tippey said.

Fry said his granddaughter enjoyed last year’s hunt so much that she brought a best friend along this year. Lucy won eight weeks of dance lessons as a prize inside one of last year’s eggs, he said.

She was so happy that when she reached her limit on eggs, “she would hand them to the little kids so they could win something,” Fry said.

“It’s a wonderful church,” he added. “They really have a heart for the community.”

rsalter@jg.net