"Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom belongs to such as these."
As a rec leader, I see wonderful things throughout a normal day of camp. I see students, who have never been included, win the game for their family group, suddenly finding the confidence they've been missing for 13 years. I see homecoming queens and football stars break down under the weight of their sin, letting God renew and rebuild them. I see youth ministers, thrown into the job a week before they came, find purpose and meaning in a group of lost middle schoolers, and I see walls crumble and pain healed. God moves every single day in the lives of those students fortunate enough to come to camp. Unfortunately, as a rec leader what I don't see comes from a different camp perspective.
Today the rec leaders had the opportunity to go with two mission site coordinators to a local Youth program. Now, for me, this was my first encounter EVER with missions camp, but I didn't realize the difference between missions and rec. During the day, they go play with kids in the community. During the day, I go play with kids at camp. Pretty similar, right? Wrong! What I saw might have changed the course of my life; at-least according to my plans.
We entered into a middle school turned inner-city youth outreach shelter, and as I entered the doors I was overwhelmed. Dozens of dirty little children lined the walls. They were sitting against the wall, waiting for their turn at the water fountain. They were small; probably three or four years old. They were dirty and tired, but when I bent over and said, "Hey there!", their eyes lit up and immediately I was caught up in a fit of hugs and high fives. They wanted to blow my blue whistle and see my watch light up. They wanted to sit in my lap and ride on my back. They wanted to be held and talked to. All the love and affection and attention they never get at home, they saw in my eyes. Now, this might not be the case for them. They might have seen my bright blue whistle and shiny white watch, and thought nothing more of me, but God was using these children to get my attention.
These kids didn't know me, but in my friendly "hello" and nervous smile, they didn't see a stranger. They saw a hug and another hand to hold. They saw a girl who was too in love with their sweet faces to be mean and a strong set of shoulders to climb on- literally! It was a beautiful picture of what Christ should look like to us. We should hear his word and jump immediately into his arms. We should see his love and trust him. We should know his intentions and hold our arms out to him. We should lean on his strong shoulders and trust him to carry us. We should not question his motives and our faith in him should be unwavering. I held out my arms and those children reached up to me. Jesus holds out his arms EVERY second, and we are so cautious to reach. So scared of what we might lose or give up if we reach out to him. Why though? What have we to lose, and why can we not have the faith of a child and trust his heart and his word? Why can we not let him be our hope and our joy, and why can we not let him carry us when we're tired and weak? I don't know either.
My heart broke for these children. I looked at them and I looked at the neighborhood they lived in and the neglect on their faces, and the helplessness I felt was overwhelming. The thought of the futures they might live crushed me, but the thing is, these kids aren't thinking about the neglect or where they live or what they lack. They aren't thinking about how they might end up, or what might happen to them. They are thinking about the girl in front of them who obviously loves them and wants to be there for them. They are thinking about the fun they had coloring, or even playing on the floor in the hall way. That's it. With Christ, we don't need to be concerned about our futures or what we lack. We need to enjoy him and bask in his word and in the love he has for us. We need to be filled up in him, and we need to let him take care of us and plan out our futures.
These kids did not know me, but they didn't question my motives when I smiled and held out my hand. They took to me and trusted me. They let me be a part of their joy and happiness. Even though these children probably won't remember me tomorrow, they allowed me to be a piece of hope for them, and they will forever be on my heart.
I don't know what God has in store for Corey and me, but I do know that his arms are reached out and I am jumping in. I am going to soak up his love and live in joy for what he has planned next.