Recently I spent time with a crazy, beautiful community of children. It may have been one of the most diverse groups of young people I have ever been with. There were 4 year old children all the way to 14 year old teenagers, all in the same room. There were kids who have practically raised themselves on the streets, with no structure or safe place to call home, and certainly no experience of church or knowledge of Jesus… AND there were children who were raised to know Jesus in Christian school and in Sunday School and church all of their lives. There were children with brown skin, white skin, black skin. Such incredible diversity in one big bunch of boisterous children! 64 children in this group to be exact. And their ENERGY was bouncing out the wazoo!
I realized very quickly that the only way there would be any ministry to happen in these beautiful hearts that day was if Jesus Himself would show up and touch them. And isn’t this our desire for every child we are with? For Jesus Himself to touch their hearts? But sometimes it helps if we can set the stage for them, so to speak. But not this time. It seemed as though there was really nothing we could do to create an atmosphere that would engage all of these kids. 4 years to 14 years old… Big age gap there you know? But there was one thing we could do. Be present. That was all the atmosphere we could create. We were present. And we began to interact with them and with the room by faith. Absolute faith.
At one point we were able to get the attention of about 40 of the children. There were still 25 others running, skipping and rolling around on the floor. Some were in a group huddled in the corner, talking and laughing and they really appeared to not want anything to do with listening to what I had brought to share with them. But by faith I began to pour out the heart of God for them in a story…
My favorite story to start with children is the boy Samuel. For many reasons I love that story! One of my favorite lines in all of Scripture is from that story where it says “Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord… 1Sam3:7”. The Lord is with children and He is speaking to them whether they know Him yet or not! So this is where we began. I shared with them about God’s presence that has ALWAYS been with them, even when they did not know it. That He has loved them from the beginning, and that He has been talking to their hearts. They just have to learn what His voice sounds like and what His presence feels like. We talked about how He trusts them with His words and messages, and He trusts them even to the point of sharing His image with them, in them. We began to look for His likeness in our hearts. Half the room engaged, half the room seemingly not. We invited them to do an activity with us in this spirit.
Some children began writing and engaging in our activity, while others were arguing, playing, talking, laughing… but by faith, we continued. It honestly felt a bit chaotic… there was not a time that night where we felt like we had control of the room. But Jesus… He was there and He knew how to get to their hearts.
Oh to see the faces of so many of these children light up when they saw God’s image in their own hearts and realized it was Him who had put that there! They began to write furiously in their journals of all the things they saw in their hearts that they knew were His image in them.
But then there was that group of teenagers huddled in the back corner. You know, the ones I had mentioned before that seemed to be in their own world. Not really engaging with anything we were doing. Or so it seemed…
The Spirit of God came right into the center of that group of beloved teenagers and He touched the heart of a 14 year old girl in their midst. She began weeping in the presence of Jesus and could not stop. For an hour she could hardly say anything. She just wept. Her friends surrounding her were worried. Her younger brother was worried.
“Why can’t she stop crying?” he asked me. “Is she ok?”
At this point a few of us were sitting with her, praying quietly over her while she was with Jesus. I looked at her brother and responded “Oh Honey. It’s ok. Jesus is just touching her heart, so we are praying for her. Do you want to pray for your sister?”
“I… I don’t know how to pray.” he said.
I invited him to sit with me and I got to love on him and talk with him too, about our beautiful Jesus who loves him.
It was all so amazing. Every crazy filled moment. Jesus is not limited, and His heart for kids is for EVERY SINGLE ONE of them. Whether they know Him yet or not. Whether they are bouncing off the walls or sitting like a mouse in the corner. His heart for them is the same. And you know what? He can do what He wants, when He wants to. And sometimes all it takes to create an atmosphere where these hearts can meet Jesus is that you just show up. Be present. Give you. And trust Him to be Himself. Don’t try to make something happen. Just let Him do or not do whatever He wants. It really is all about Him anyway. And these children have been in His care for way longer than I or anyone else has known them. We simply love them in His heart for them. We give ourselves by faith. And we hang out to see Him with them, loving them too, and touching their hearts like only He can do.