illustration by travis foster
His name was Buster. Even as a preschooler he often roamed unsupervised in
our neighborhood. And he frequently found his way to our house. He loved
playing with my young son. But sometimes I recoiled from his disruptive
behavior. I didnt grasp the potential I had to touch his life.
That was 19 years ago. Several Busters have come and gone. But God has used
the lesson of the first one and given me opportunities to love children who
seemed unlovable or whose presence inconvenienced me. God calls many of us to
reach out with His love to the needy little ones in our lives.
More moms on mission
Allison was a stay-at-home mom. She filled her station wagon with unchurched
youngsters and took them to church. Because she was a gifted Sunday school
teacher, many of these children found a place in Allisons colorful classroom.
They also found Christ.
Two mothers in a Florida neighborhood take advantage of the Christmas season
to reach out. They throw a Happy Birthday, Jesus party for the children in
their subdivision. They tell the story of Jesus birth, make Christmas crafts
and enjoy birthday cake. Take-home treats from a Christian bookstore complete
Judy and Doris, sensing needs in their neighborhood, asked God, What can we
do? The area was overflowing with children. So, on Wednesdays during the
summer, Judy gathered all the children her car could hold. She brought them to
Doris pool where they swam and heard a Bible lesson. All of the children who
participated in this five-year ministry came to know the Lord.
Who are these children?Some, like Buster, may be
neighborhood children. His mom battled depression, and his dad was an absentee.
Some of our adopted sons have come from the ballpark. One little boy, named
Donald, played baseball on my third sons team for several years. His family
situation was chaotic. We had him for overnights, transported him to ball
practice, and my husband coached him through All-Stars. Donald even joined us
for a family vacation. That meant he also participated in devotions, church and
family prayer times.
Lisa spent lots of time with us during her dads difficult days. She heard
Bible stories, attended church and learned about Jesus.
I sometimes did after-school babysitting to supplement family income. One of
the kids I took care of was Blake. His parents were getting a divorce when he
came to us. He played with my boys and often found freedom to release his anger
or express his confusion about the changes in his life.
David is my new Buster. Hes busy and into everything when he visits. But he
loves to play with my seven-year-old. He is unchurched and sometimes uses
forbidden words. But I know I have the opportunity to pray for this little boy
and perhaps even reach his parents.
Why me?Gods Word calls believers to be servants. And
Jesus made it clear that He loves children. We are strongly cautioned not to
offend a little one. We are also reminded that . . . whoever welcomes a
little child like this in my name, welcomes me (Matthew 18:5).
Author Valorie Bell wrestled with this call and shared it in Kool-Aid
Moms, a booklet that chronicles her eventual acceptance of the role that
God wanted her to play in the lives of the youngsters populating her
neighborhood. I believe Jesus sees a great need among Americas children, writes
Valorie. He needs His family of believers to extend love to even those little
ones who dont bear our family names or resemblances. They were to be welcomed
and received into my heart. I was not to leave them on the porch.
What can I do?Just as each of us has different gifts
and resources, our ministry to children also will be different. We reach out
from our own place of influence. Kool-Aid Moms relates how God
directed Valorie Bell to love and nurture not only one difficult little boy,
but to allow her home to be used as a gathering place for children. Working
through her resistance to the invasion of privacy and her tendency to love
selectively, she writes, I pray for these extra children in my life; I find
myself worrying about them. With a certain amount of amazement, I realize Im
protective of these children who are not of my womb.
Making a difference in a childs life can be as simple as providing a safe,
fun environment in your home. Young children enjoy arts and crafts as well as
watching videos. I always try to have Bible story coloring books on hand and
Christian kid videos for rainy days when we cant get outside and play.
If you are the driver in your neighborhood carpool, why not play Christian
tapes and CDs on the way to school. Or engage your own child in a discussion
about the Bible and let your other passengers listen in and participate.
A lot of times older kids and teens just need to feel accepted and loved
unconditionally. Make sure your teens friends feel welcome in your home. Invite
them to stay for dinner. Encourage them to participate in your familys
activitiesinvite them to church.
Involving unchurched neighborhood children in your familys holiday
traditions, particularly Christmas, can open doors to sharing the gospel.
Will it matter?Sometimes parenting our own children
seems to be an overwhelming task. To extend care to other youngsters certainly
requires supernatural stamina. Could our involvement really make any difference
in their lives? Or anyones life? Yes! The choice to reach out has impacted the
youngsters in our lives, our own children and, most of all, us.
I was surprised to look up in church one Sunday morning and see Lisa walking
toward us with her dad. She had told him that he needed to bring her to church,
not drop her off. And here they were!
In spite of numerous problems at home, Donald gave his life to Christ as a
youngster. He shared his decision with us at the first opportunity.
My own children have learned great lessons in extending welcome and
compassion toward others. One of our sons led three of his elementary
classmates to the Lord. In junior high, he now leads devotions before school,
challenging his peers to service and faithfulness.
Our oldest son (Busters friend) has worked between college semesters as a
summer missionary, discipling children and youth. Our 17-year-old has spent
several summers volunteering in a program for special needs children. And my
seven-year-old continues to befriend David, while we pray and trust God to work
in the life of this little boy and his family.
I cannot undo my early refusal to love and give nurture to Buster, but Im so
thankful God is in the business of redeeming our failures. There are other
children who will remember our home as a place of welcome.
Valorie Bell anticipates that those who have chosen to move beyond our door,
but in our world will one day hear Jesus say, Come you who are blessed by
my Father . . . I was parked on your porch looking for love and you
brought me in . . . I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the
least of these brothers of mine, you did for me (Matthew 25: 40).
Lettie J. Kirkpatrick is a writer living in Cleveland,
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