(I changed the girl’s name to Laura for anonymity)
During Kid’s Club, a girl named Laura, ran up to one of the team leaders and said, “Hey I remember you, you were here last year!” And then she excitedly said, “I also remember the Bible Verse!” The previous year, that team had the kids work on memorizing one Bible verse throughout the week, and everyone who remembered it (and those who couldn’t) received a small gift at the end of the week. Laura had memorized the verse but missed the last day and also missed out on the gift, BUT she had still remembered the verse. A year later, and God’s word was still imprinted on her mind. It’s one of those stories that sticks with you, that gives you hope for Laura; hope that God’s working in her heart, that no matter what happens to her and what we see, God has put His word in her heart and it will have an impact. Maybe not right away, but soon, and we hope and we pray Laura will remain in Church and keep growing in faith.
It’s a great story, like many we’ve held onto and maybe told supporters. It’s the kernel of faith we hold out for the lost and desperate child. It’s also a story that happened six years ago when I was a summer Intern. Since then, Laura remained part of youth group and a discipleship group for two or three years. For the past three years, she’s been nearly completely absent from Youth Group or Church. And over the past four years, Laura has lived a rough life. She used to be regularly involved in Church and Youth Group, but over the past four years, she has been partying with a bad crowd, was in several major car wrecks, has been involved in several fights, and last year was in a fight that left her brain damaged. To hear her family story and her story from those that know her is neither encouraging nor hopeful.
So anyway, this past Tuesday, Laura came to Youth Group! It’s an exceedingly small thing, but it gave me great joy to see her and great hope for her. You see, I had kind of forgotten about her, thinking things like: “We tried and it didn’t work,” “She’s just too far gone,” or “We have enough regular kids to worry about.” But when I saw her Tuesday, I was reminded: “There’s still hope for her!” “God has not forgotten her.” “God might be working still.” All things that are obvious and basics of the faith, but things we must be reminded of and things that are crucial to working out here.
Over a typical year, we interact with hundreds of children and teenagers. Some come every Sunday. Some strike us in a certain way and we remember them and their signs of faith. But many, in fact very many of the kids we have, disappear: they move (often abruptly and with little notice), become less interested, start running with gangsters, start drinking and drugging, and “fall away.” But maybe after a year, or five, we bump into them again, and I think the question is: Will we see them as God sees them: a beloved child with a mountain of baggage and trouble, someone crowned with glory and honor, broken by the fall and in need of eyes that communicate love and hope and not judgment and disappointment. Will our eyes show the welcoming love of God?
We do not know the final story or where “our” kids will land. Some will come to faith now and be leaders in the Church. Others will come to faith now but fall away for a time. Others will come to faith in twenty or forty years, after a lifetime of heartache. And there will be some who will never come to faith. We do not know how it ends, but we do know how we are called to act! Jesus calls us to “stop doubting and believe!” He calls us to step out in faith, hoping God’s promises are true for this one in front of us. This one who comes, again wearing the same dirty clothes and a dirty face. This one who is ashamed of how she’s been living. This one who is a wanna be gangster. And this one, who’s had everyone in their life say: “You’re less than nothing and there’s no hope and it’s too late for you, so just throw in the towel.” If His blood can make the foulest clean. His blood availed for me, then there’s hope for Laura and dozens like her. Pray that God gives us the eyes to see those in need and the faith to believe in His promises for the lost. And thanks be to God who give us little moments that remind us what faith looks like in the midst of a broken situation.