I thought I knew kids. But then I met these kids. In my opinion there are three breeds of kid: spoiled kids, good kids and then sad kids. I volunteer for four hours a week to work with the latter. Many of them have a history of homelessness or a parent who is in prison. Many of them live with an aunt or grandparents. They are hurting. I couldn’t possibly summarize my experience over the last year working with these girls, but I am changed forever because of it. Simply, they taught me more about life, evangelism, and missions than I could have ever taught them.
The following is a short true story from a night there a few months ago (however, I changed the names for obvious reasons).
“I love you but you don’t love me!” Zaviana retorted in her husky voice, hands braced on her little hips. She was wearing a princess shirt, pink mini skirt and leggings. I looked down at the petite six year old, her oily black hair neatly braided in ball ponytail holders. Her mischievous eyes sparkled.
“Girl! You’re crazy!” I said in the same sassy tone she used. I caught her in my arms and tickled her until her squirming body hit the floor (the natural impulse of a child when being tickled is to get a low to the ground as possible).
“I love you so much! But do you know the most important thing you need to remember?”
“What?” she asked still giggling.
“That Jesus loves you,” I said.
Usually, everything in the classroom was fun and games until the name of Jesus was mentioned. Then, either one of two things would happen: either one of the girls would roll her eyes and complain saying:
“This is boooring.” Or they would just ignore me completely.
Sometimes one might say, “I know, I know, Jesus died for our sin.” And just as I was about to encourage the little girl to tell us more another would find some creative way of bringing up body parts at that moment. Either way it went it was rarely positive.
I felt desperate and defeated. What on earth was I supposed to do? How was this churched, country bumpkin supposed to relate to this class of undisciplined, inner city girls anyway?
As the conversation began to go down the toilet—literally—I called them to get their attention.
“Girls…girls…lets not talk like that…”
“Girls…girls…lets not talk like that…”
“Ew! Zaviana —you nasty!”
“Let’s not call others names Tirrell. How would you feel if I call you a nasty?” I asked the eight year old. I had a partiality to Tirrell, probably because she was quick-witted, listened sometimes and had a cute sense of humor, but I worked hard not to show favoritism.
“But she is nasty! She thinks she’s a boy!” Tirrell retorted.
Zaviana grinned and covered her mouth to keep from laughing.
“Zaviana…” I held my arms out to her. She came over shyly still smiling from the attention she was getting negative though it was. “Zaviana, I want to tell you that you are a beautiful, smart, wonderful young lady. God created you exactly the way He wanted you to be. He has a plan for your life. And you are not a boy you are a lovely, little girl.”
“But I’m ugly,” she said.
“That is a lie from the devil,” I said seriously looking carefully in her eyes. “You are beautiful—that’s what God says. You are a child of God.”
I turned to the rest of the class. They’d all gotten distracted and where now chasing each other around the room, climbing over tables, chairs and behind bookshelves. It took me a solid five minutes to get half of them sitting with me on the floor. I turned to one girl.
“Jamartha, who are you?” I asked her excitedly. She frowned.
“I’m Jamartha…” she answered giving me a look that said: You are crazy weird.
“No,” I said. “That’s your name, but who are you?”
“I don’t know.”
I turned to another girl. “Nijah, who are you?” I asked again.
“Nijah…” she smiled shyly.
“But who are you?” I asked again.
“I’m a friend,” she said.
“That’s great! Are you a friend of God?” I asked.
“Are you a child of God?” I asked.
She nodded again.
“Everyone say it with me: I’m a child of God!”
“I AM A CHILD OF GOD!” They chorused.
“Stand up! Say it louder! Tell me who you are!”
“I AM A CHILD OF GOD!” They said again. Every face smiling.
“Doesn’t it feel good to say that? Don’t any of you forget it!”
Life is a constant journey of discovery. One curiosity leads to another. Along the way, you begin to learn a lot more about yourself then you previously did. Identity is huge. God wants us to know who we are. Apart from what we do, how we look, what our background is like, He wants us to know that above all He is what defines us and gives us significance. It's a lesson I must remind myself of again and again.
Thanks for reading, please pray for my little girls at the ministry and the constant spiritual warfare. I'm there Thursday nights.
In Our Precious Father,