I never imagined how much I’d enjoy working with children.
When a child myself, I was not one of those girls who waited my turn to cuddle a newborn. I never once begged to babysit. But after I got married, my husband and I wanted to serve in our little church, and we offered to take over the junior church class from my in-laws, who had been faithfully teaching it for more than 20 years.
We moved some time later, and thus, to another church, and after a restless year of pew-warming, I volunteered to work with our new church’s junior church program. Each week, we have a small group of kiddos from the surrounding communities that come in on church vans, and each one is a gem.
Kids are refreshingly honest, and most are easy to read. Some are sweet people-pleasers who never test the rules, while others–usually little boys–immediately toe the line and test my reaction. Will I enforce the rules? Will I let them slide? Though not perfect by any means, I strive to be consistent in enforcing the rules, and it always bears fruit. In time, children that were once annoying and cranky often become loveable star students, maintaining their spunk and enthusiasm within the bounds of the classroom rules.
One of my favorite parts of each Sunday morning with my little band is prayer request time. Hearing the tragic stories these kids share, many of them poverty-stricken, makes me grateful for every Sunday morning that they come, many with no encouragement from their parents or caregivers.
But on some Sunday mornings, prayer request time involves humor along with the tragedy. Don’t get me wrong–I take each prayer request as seriously as the children do. But sometimes, it’s all I can do not to laugh out loud at their vivid descriptions and expressive body language.
To the best of my memory, here are a few of the poignant, yet humorous, prayer requests that we brought before the Heavenly Father this past Sunday alone.
Z (a boy): Last week, I had a cough and a cold and a runny nose, and I lost my voice. But I guess you can tell I got my voice back, but now it’s crooked. Can you pray for my voice?
T (a little boy with a charming speech impediment): My dog, Steppenwolf, got bit by HIS dog (points to another boy) before, and his ear was all hurt with a bite, but last week, his ear FELL OFF!! Me: Wow! Is there any way to help him? T: No, his ear is gone now. Me: What kind of dog is he? T: He’s a wolf and husky together. Me: Ah, I get the name now. T: What? Me: Never mind. I’ll be sure to pray for Steppenwolf.
C (a boy): Well, you know, you been prayin’ for my Grandpa ’cause he’s got cancer, but now he’s even sicker. The doctors think he had a stroke because Grandpa tried to put both his legs into one pantleg. Me: Oh, I’m sorry! I know you are so worried about your Grandpa. C: And guess what else, he had ammonia and was in the hospital but he’s better from that now. Me: Well, that’s good, at least. How is your family holding up? C: Oh, and also his pee burned him so he had an infection. Me: I’ve had one of those before. I know how much they hurt. C: And he doesn’t live with us so my family has to drive to check on him. ALL THE TIME. (He sighs dramatically.)
M (a boy): Our mama rabbit escaped her cage and now we don’t know if her babies will live. Me: Is there anything you can do? M: No, they’ll probably just die like all my others. We had two roosters die and my cat and some more died. Me: That’s terrible! M: Yeah, and there was a raccoon with some baby raccoons and one of them was born with a hole in its head (he says this with delight and fascination). Me: mouth hanging a bit open, no words. Then I shake it off, and we bow our heads to pray.
These little ones have already been exposed to so much of life and death. What a comfort to know that Christ cares uniquely for children, as revealed in Mark 10:14-16. Jesus asked that children be brought to him, not kept away, as if he were too busy or too important. Then, the Scriptures say,
Jesus took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.
I wish I could have been there to see Jesus hugging and blessing those children. Imagine that! I’ll bet they never forgot the experience.
That’s my prayer for each child in my class, and why I regularly teach about salvation and Christ’s love: that they will know that they are cherished by their Savior. It’s a comfort to know, too, that we adults are called his children. We can seek his fatherly comfort and know that he will give it abundantly.