For nearly a decade, Ellen Stamps traveled the world, hopping from country to country, serving the Lord and teaching.
In her wildest dreams she said never imagined her travels would lead her the community of Wilmore, and there she’d pioneer Back Porch Art — a weekly session where children from all different nationalities could meet, play and learn together.
“Life is really amazing, where it will take us,” Ellen Stamps said. “It brought me here, where I’m suppose to be now.”
What surprised her even more is that all her globe trotting would maker her the perfect role model for the children in the community of Kalas Village.
It began when in the course of her travels she met a man named Robert Stamps and fell in love and eventually married. They moved to Wilmore where Dr. Robert Stamps is currently the visiting professor of worship and the dean of chapel at Asbury Theological Seminary.
The couple moved into the seminary’s student housing of Kalas Village and developed close ties in a community of dozens of different families from all over the world including Britain, Korea, China, Malaysia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Haiti.
It did not take long before Ellen Stamps recognized a glaring issue in the Kalas Village community — the children had no where to gather together and were bored.
So in April, after some prayer and a brainstorming session, Ellen Stamps started Back Porch Art, a place where children in the neighborhood could “play to learn.” And for the past eight weeks, every Thursday mornings from 10 a.m. to noon dozens of children and the parents gathered on the grass of Robert and Ellen Stamps’ side yard to sing, dance, learn Bible verses, play soccer, work on art and craft projects or just splash around in the kiddie pool.
Ellen Stamps said when it first started she had a handful of volunteers and maybe 25 children. But by the end of the summer 60 or more children eagerly awaited each Thursday to come over to “Mrs. Ellen’s house.”
“Everyone is a volunteer and this really wouldn’t be possible without them,” Ellen Stamps said. “I’m so grateful there is so many people to thank.”
Among the volunteers were her son Peter Stamps, who taught drawing; Tiffany Walt, a seminary's wife and also an artist who taught painting; Fiona Richardson, a British missionary to Tanzania who told stories and led the children in drama activities; and Kathy Davila, an English as a second language teacher at Wilmore Elementary.
Back Porch Art was truly and international event with Pearl Kang, a minister’s wife from Asia, give lessons to those wishing to learn Korean.
Other volunteers coached the children in soccer and monitored the slip and slide, while teenage volunteers from the neighborhood taught skills such as bike repair and guitar playing. There was even one volunteer who moved to Wilmore six months ago from India and made baskets of piping-hot naan bread to pass out as snacks during one Thursday session, Davila said.
“It’s something that these children can go home to another part of the world and take with them what they’ve learned,” Ellen Stamps said. “I get so much joy, I’ve already heard from one girl in Korea who said she misses coming on Thursdays. She told me she had nothing to do, but I told her she could take what she got here and use it where she lives now.”
Other crucial volunteers were Dr. Marylyn Elliot, chaplain of students and student families at the seminary, who was in charge of the finical aspect of the Back Porch Art; and Julia Tennent, the seminary president’s wife, who help facilitate the permission to hold the event in Kalas Village.
“It’s really wonderful what she’s done here,” Elliot said. “This was just a pilot program, but it was a success.”
Back Porch Art celebrated its final day last Thursday, and even took time to “crown” Ellen Stamps and honor her for setting up such a wonderful “gift” for the community’s children. The project was such a mammoth success, that Back Porch Art will be returning again next summer and possibly also in the winter with a whole new set of crafts, events and Bible lessons.
“Everyone is welcome and invited,” Ellen Stamps said. “It doesn’t matter what part of the world they’re from.”