“From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise.” Psalm 8:2(a)
In September, 2013, my church began a program for children called Friends and Heroes. We thought it would be cool to reach out to the children in the neighborhood and also to an apartment complex a couple of miles from the church. We were full of excitement and had a strong desire to serve the children and to share with them Jesus’ love. That excitement lasted about 10 minutes into the program on the first night. We found out rather quickly that having 85% of those attending from outside the church involved a whole different ballgame than the one we were used to playing.
These kids bounced off the walls. When I say they bounced off the walls I mean they literally bounced off the walls. The classrooms in the basement of the church have brick walls. Some of the boys would actually climb the walls just like they were training for the Ninja Warriors series on TV. Once they got to the top they would jump to the floor. The children have come a long way since that first night but at times it’s still a struggle. A lot of nights we measure the present by how they behaved in the past. “Well, at least we’re able to teach them more than we did this time last year.” On more than one occasion, I’ve asked the Lord, “What were You thinking?”
It’s not like we haven’t seen fruit because we have. Many children have given their hearts to Jesus, as well as some of the parents. One couple was headed for divorce. They came for counseling with the pastor, God got a hold of their hearts and they now attend church on Sunday mornings. Another family almost had their house repossessed and through prayer and the church’s food pantry, we were able to see them get on the other side of their financial difficulties. One of the mothers died a couple of months ago and a teacher, Miss Rhonda , has reached out to her children in special ways.
And then two Wednesday night ago God beautifully showed us He is indeed in control, these are His children and He absolutely adores them. We are raising money to buy six goats to give to three families in a third-world country and I’m responsible for taking the offering. God impressed upon me to go a different direction that night. Instead of giving my normal “offering speech,” He told me to show a video of Chris Tomlin singing his song, “Jesus Loves Me.”
As the song was playing, for the first time, many of the children felt the tangible presence of God. Without giving an “altar call” some of the children came forward and knelt at the altar. A couple of the girls were crying. Some of the younger children were drawn to sit on the floor up on the stage. Two of my grandchildren snuggled with me while worshipping Jesus. It was touching to look out at the kids still in the pews. Their eyes were closed, some were swaying to the music, a couple of them had their hands raised, some were bent over with their heads in their laps. God’s presence was there and it was incredible watching the children respond to Him. All too soon the music was over.
You know, I can’t say it was the kiddos who were changed that night. Some of them are still wall climbers full of crazy energy but I now know they’re wall climbers who love Jesus. I’m the one who is different. I saw God and the children loving on each other. I saw it in the expressions on their faces and in the way they responded to His presence. He is for those children. How could I not be too?
The teachers at O.C.C. are experienced saints who have been involved with children for years and know how to work with them. However, these children are unique and not like any others we have ever dealt with before. What was God thinking when He sent them our way? He was thinking about how much He loves them, how much He is for them and that they are totally worth the effort.
You know, they really are worth all the craziness.