Cheryl, our instructor, held up two candles: the first had never been used, while the second was half its size, having been used at least once. “When the power goes out,” she said, “which candle is the better investment?” Everyone in the class encouraged her to purchase the unused candle even though it was more expensive because it would last longer. “In the same way,” she said, “investing in the lives of children may seem costly if we only look short-term; however, in the long run, that investment will make a bigger impact because children have their whole lives ahead of them.”
This was only one of the many ways Cheryl encouraged us to value and care about the children around us: those in our homes, in our communities and neighborhoods, and around the world. She encouraged us to see children through God’s eyes. God values children and loves them as much as God loves adults. As the Psalmist says in Psalm 139, each child has been lovingly knit in the womb, known by God even before the child is born. Yet too often churches do not invest in children’s ministries, preferring to invest scarce resources elsewhere. By the end of our five-day training, every one of us had understood and was ready to speak out on behalf of children.
Last week from Jan. 21 to 25, I (Nancy) participated in the One for Fifty training. The goal of 1 for 50 is to train one person for every 50 children so that all the children around the world can hear about Jesus. It was not simply the usual call for evangelism, however. If we see children through the eyes of God, we cannot overlook them or ignore their voices.
- We were encouraged to become children during the different activities of the week in order to remind ourselves how children experience and respond to the world.
- We learned about the needs of children at risk and were called to engage in holistic ministries that meet not just physical needs or not just spiritual needs, but that address all the needs of children.
- As parents, we were encouraged to take seriously our responsibility to nurture the spiritual lives of our children. In a single week, there are 168 hours; only tending to their spiritual needs for one or two hours a week is as ineffective as it would be to feed them only once or twice a week!
- We learned about children’s development and the best way to teach them at every age.
- We learned that we too must become like children if we want to inherit the kingdom of God.
I was grateful for the opportunity to participate in this training along with three other members of the Mennonite Church of Ouagadougou. The church paid for us to attend. In return, we will train others in the Mennonite church and beyond. Victor and Hawa Windinga, also members of the Mennonite Church of Ouagadougou, were part of the organizing committee. Victor is one of three people who will head up the work of 1 for 50 in Burkina Faso. Pray for him and for the committee. In many countries, children make up more than 50% of the population. It is time for us to prioritize children.