Of the many things that blessed me this weekend, one was a little more personal and closer to my heart than the others. It had to do with Genevieve. There are 3 things which really stand out with regard to her.
1. The Missionary Kid
The church who hosted the children's ministry retreat we helped with this past weekend is the same church where Genevieve shared the story of David and Goliath in Spanish in front of the who church back in April. If you missed that, you can view the video here.
At the end of the video she says, "No importa si es pequeño porque Dios es grande y nos ayuda." This translates to, "It doesn't matter if you are small because God is big and He helps us." The children's ministry leader was there that morning and heard that mini sermon. She said that she felt like God used that to come up with the motto for the retreat this year, which was, "Soy pequeño pero camino con Jesús." In English this says, "I am small but I walk with Jesus."
Knowing that God used our little 4 year old MK (missionary kid) to speak into the heart of a leader showed/reminded me of something important: a missionary kid is not necessarily simply a kid of a missionary but a missionary who is a kid. When God called our family to Costa Rica, He had Genevieve and Jonah in mind too. They are such a blessing, generally bringing a smile to people's faces but in this case, God used her through her words when she shared. We are so proud of her and humbled by her all at the same time.
2. The Kid
During a special prayer time at the church on the night before the retreat, God really impressed Genevieve on my heart. It struck me that she had such an opportunity to participate as one of the kids. As much as she is a missionary kid, during this retreat she was allowed to just be one of the kids. She was going to be ministered to in the same way the rest of the kids were. The last time she was at this church she shared as a missionary. This time she participated as a kid.
Polly and I were praying that God would do a work in her heart and life this past weekend. We prayed that she would have a genuine encounter with God and be anointed/empowered by the Holy Spirit.
We don't know how much impact the weekend had on her. We know that she listened to at least some of it and that she prayed and that she was prayed over. I believe it was a positive experience for her. We are so grateful that this church thought of her and invited her to be a kid who got to participate.
3. The Big Kid
Genevieve is growing up so fast. The fact that she was comfortable leaving us (even though we were at the same campground) and staying with her group and even sleeping in a room with her friends reminded us how big she's getting. She's not a little baby anymore. We loved watching her having fun and making new friends. We loved watching her take little steps of independence which will serve her well in the future...a LONG, LONG time from now.
Thursday, July 16, 2015
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
I don't remember how old I was when I first felt the call of God on my life. My earliest memory of feeling at least some semblance of that call was from back in the 90s. I believe I was 9 years old, but it's possible I was older. Missionaries Neil & Kathy Vanaria, who are now dear friends, came to my church one night to share about what God was doing in Papua New Guinea. I remember feeling like that's what I wanted to do. Even though I don't remember every specific and detail, the point remains the same: God can/does call children too (see the story of Samuel from 1 Samuel 3)! The theme from the weekend was "I'm small but I walk with Jesus" (I'll share more about that theme tomorrow).
Polly and I had the privilege of leading the teaching about missions/evangelism to all the kids. The leader Adriana put together the lesson but thought it would be nice/fitting for missionaries to teach it. We shared the importance of going and making disciples as mandated in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). After we were finished with the teaching, we had a special time of reflection and prayer. We gave each of the kids an electric candle and shared how we were to carry the light into the darkness.
Adriana had also mentioned the desire for us to have a specific call for those feeling a specific call on their lives, as she was called at the age of 8. After some time of general prayer for all who were ready to bring that light into their world around them, we made that call. Nobody came forward. We just let it be. If nobody was going to respond to that specific call, we were still going to have a nice time of prayer for the general call.
After some time, however, one girl came forward. Our missionary friend Caitlin had already been pouring into that girls life that day so we had her come up and pray over her. Then a group leader grabbed my attention as she came up with 3 little boys who said they were going to be pastors. One in particular seemed very sure about that and was more than ready to pray about it. Finally, Adriana brought me another girl who said she felt God's calling on her life. I prayed over her and really sensed that God had plans for her life.
It was a beautiful time of prayer as we were privileged to have the opportunity to pray over these children responding to the call of God on their lives. How awesome that this church saw the value in this and made it a priority! And we're grateful that they allowed us to be a small part of it.
God has some big plans in store for these kids lives. I can't wait to hear what they're doing years from now.
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
God, Our Heavenly Father
During one of the teachings at the children's ministry retreat we were blessed to participate in this past weekend, Polly and I were asked to go with the 4-6 year olds during the prayer time. The lesson was on fatherhood. There were a number of kids at the retreat without a father so this was a very important and special lesson time. The kids were taught how God is the heavenly father and how He will never leave or abandon them. After the lesson was over, I prayed over a couple kids. I thought we were done, but I was then asked to do the sweetest thing I've ever been asked to do in my life.
A Fatherly Embrace
I was asked to give each precious kid a fatherly hug and pray over them. They brought me the first kid who was clearly touched by the lesson and he clung to me. I clung to him to. I hugged him and prayed over him as he held me tight and wept. I asked God to let him feel the loving embrace of his heavenly Father and that he was always know that God will never abandon him. After a few minutes of hugging and praying over him, the leaders tried to pull him away so they could bring another kid. He wouldn't let go of me. It was one of the most precious experiences of my life.
After that little boy finally let go, I continued to hug and pray over each of the kids, including Genevieve who was with this group. The last kid brought to me was a sweet little 3 (almost 4) year old boy who was brought to the retreat by his aunt and uncle who were helping. As soon as his aunt handed him to me, he clung to me and hugged me tight. I just stood there with him in my arms for a few minutes praying over him. Meanwhile his aunt immediately began to bawl after handing him to me. Polly had the opportunity to pray over her. Afterward I discovered that this adorable little boy was abandoned by his father very early on in life and struggles with it.
While I know that those little kids without fathers still went back to homes without fathers, I was still blessed with the privilege of hugging them as a father would. I didn't deserve that opportunity. More than that, I pray that they had a real encounter with their heavenly Father and that He continues to heal their hurts as they put their trust in Him.
I am thankful that God is our heavenly Father and that He will never abandon us. Even as someone who grew up with my dad, I still need the warm embrace of my heavenly Father. And I need to teach my children the value of the same for their lives.
I am thankful that I have 2 precious little ones who I get to hug and pray over regularly. Reflecting back on this special moment, I am challenged to do this even more and to be the best dad that I can be to my children.
I am thankful that I grew up with both parents and didn't have to go through what so many children go through. I don't want to ever take this blessing for granted.