by Lygia Lovelace
When it was her time
to choose a card and read it, Lacole looked at me simply
and said, "I don't know how to read."
The other eleven and twelve-year-old
kids stared at her. They began making fun of her.
"What?! You can't READ!?
What's wrong with you?"
I quickly hushed them, and
we took turns reading for her. She seemed unmoved by the
disapproving looks the other children were giving her. My
heart went out to her. She was obviously accustomed to the
scorn and the comments.
Several weeks ago, a team from
our church went to East St. Louis to do ministry. While
some of our church family repaired damages to a Christian
center there, others of us played basketball with the teens,
while still more of us taught Bible school to the children.
It was quite an experience!
There were so many teen-agers and children! It wasn't always
fun, and often it was chaotic. On the first day that we
were there, the children, especially, would not even make
eye contact with us. Attitude was thicker than the air.
We were discouraged! They were unruly throughout the day
-- not listening to instructions or to the Bible stories.
We prayed. We prayed a lot!
"Father, you closed the
mouths of the lions for Daniel…please close these mouths
so they can hear Your Word!
"Help us to see them as
You see them, Father."
He did, and He did.
The next day, during the Bible
story, there was complete silence -- even among the older
kids! As I taught the preteen kids from the Word, I looked
around at them, really seeing them.
Tears filled my eyes as I noticed
that almost all of them, while they were listening, were
sucking their thumbs. So much insecurity, so much need.
So much hunger -- for love,
Thank God we have a Savior
who can meet all of their needs -- who will hear and respond
to all of their heart cries!
After a few short days there,
we began to see the walls crumble, as the walls of Jericho
did on that day long ago. Oh, it didn't take marching or
trumpets to break down the walls this time…what it took
was much prayer, and love. It took God's love.
And as they got to know us,
they wanted to be held and hugged. They talked to us, they
fought to be near us, and questions began to fall like rain…
All of you are white…why are
you here? Was Jesus a white man?
What if I am afraid of God?
If I did something REALLY bad would God still love me?
Why didn't Jesus just fight
back when he got arrested?
What about murderers? Does
God love them? Is it a sin to shoot somebody?
How many times do I have to
forgive people I don't like?
As we taught them more and
more about Jesus, we began role-playing tough situations
-- situations that these kids might encounter on a daily
basis: what to do if someone picks a fight with you, what
to do if you are tempted to steal, what to do if someone
hurts your friend.
"What would Jesus
do?" we asked them repeatedly, as we acted out these
encounters. In one such situation, a boy pretended to stumble
and fall. This particular day, we had already done these
role-plays in the other classes, and each time, when a child
would pretend to fall, the other children would merely laugh,
never even considering helping him up.
One child was even so bold
as to say, "Ha! Jesus might help him, but I sure wouldn't!"
Lacole's class would be no
different…except for Lacole.
Randomly, I picked her as part
of the group who would respond to the child doing the role-play.
I chose a boy from the class to pretend to stumble and fall.
There were a lot of children in this particular group, and
with all of the noise and confusion, I'm not sure that the
other children were even grasping what we were doing.
But when Lacole saw the boy
stumble and fall -- even though he was pretending, and before
I could even address the situation -- she responded. As
a natural reaction, she went over to him and reached for
his hand. Rudely, he yelled, "Don't touch me!"
So then, she stooped over to pick up the books he had pretended
to drop when he fell. Gently she handed them back to him.
No one noticed except me --
and the Father. I put my arms around Lacole. A passage of
Scripture immediately came to mind:
think of what you were when you were called. Not many of
you were wise by human standards; not many were influential;
not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish
things of the world to shame the wise;
God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.
He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised
and the things that are not -- to nullify the things that
are, so that no one may boast before Him…
I Corinthians 1:26-29
By Thursday, it was time. All
week long, we had told them about Jesus -- of His birth,
His growing up years, His ministry on earth, and of the
many changed lives that came as a result of knowing Him.
It was time to tell of Jesus' sacrifice. We talked about
the beatings, the imprisonment, the injustice, and Jesus'
willingness to die -- for each of us. We carried a cross,
feeling its heaviness -- its oppression. We talked about
Jesus' death and we wrapped one of the children from head
to toe, demonstrating the burial preparation of that day.
We spoke of the sorrow of His followers and the despair
they felt, placing Jesus in a dark tomb -- the prison of
Ken then spoke to each group
of older children, sharing the plan of salvation with them:
on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved…
the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal
life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself
and take up his cross daily and follow Me.
"Those of you who would
like to make that important decision today of asking Jesus
to become your Lord and Savior can pray silently after me…"
he told them.
As he began to pray with these
older kids, most of them startled us by praying out loud.
Many of them stood, repeating Ken's prayer. They boldly
asked for forgiveness, they boldly proclaimed Christ's Lordship,
they boldly took the first steps in a relationship with
their heavenly Father.
The angels in heaven were indeed
rejoicing on Thursday! We rejoiced on Friday, too, as we
proclaimed from the rooftops of East St. Louis,
not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus,
who was crucified.
He is not here, He has risen, just as He said!
Lacole wasn't there that day
-- she was only able to come for a few days. But I will
not forget her. She is just a little girl: not very educated,
nor outwardly beautiful, nor outgoing -- not even liked.
But in the midst of hundreds of poor children of that neighborhood,
among the slums of East St. Louis, among the danger and
depression of the area…the Father knows where she is, and
He sees her heart. Lacole is truly a child after God's own
And don't you know? All of
them who accepted Him that day -- all who truly walk with
the Father -- now walk in royalty!
He has created them for noble
purposes, to confound the wise.
Copyright © 2010. Faith Matters by Lygia Lovelace.
All rights reserved. KenLovelaceMinistries.com