Children are important to Jesus. Like he said in the Gospels, “Let the little children come to me, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”
In Africa, at least where I will live, the little children are marginalized members of society. It is rare to see a child who is over the age of one with a parent. I jokingly told my co-worker that once a child can walk, he’s on his own. Although I said it in jest, my statement is pretty much true. You either see tiny babies strapped to their mothers’ backs while she works, or little kids running amok throughout the village, with no parental presence anywhere. Bigger kids are in charge of their younger siblings.
In a place where survival is so difficult, there’s not much energy left to show affection to one’s children. When you’re spending all your time simply trying to eke out a living, there is no such thing as “quality time” with the family. Love must be shown to your children by providing food for their hungry tummies.
When you give children even a bit of attention, they go crazy. They are so starved for adult attention, they swarm you in order to get just feel little bit of warmth from you. The instant you show affection to a child, he becomes your perpetual sidekick.
One little boy we saw frequently was a shy little guy who was about seven (although it’s hard to tell a child’s age, since they often look younger due to malnutrition). I couldn’t understand him when I asked his name, as his speech capabilities were severely limited. His friend told us that this boy was named Talata, and it instantly saddened me. See, talata is the word for “three” in their language. It’s as if this little boy’s family was too tired to even muster up the motivation to think of a name for their baby. This is one snapshot to illustrate the value of children in my future home.
Now, while I’m living in Dallas completing my training, I am surrounded by children from many nationalities in my apartment complex. Sitting at the tiny playground, I watch kids from Africa, Asia, and Latin America playing together. I wonder how I can be Jesus to these little children. What will ministry to these children look like? This is something I’m committing to prayer, and I would also be grateful for your input.