It was on an ordinary day at an ordinary chapel where Lisa* learned about the importance of sharing. Several Oakwood University students, who volunteer with NAPS (National Association for the Prevention of Starvation), stopped by the Berea Academy in Mattapan, Massachusetts, to share stories with the children about their mission trips. They spoke about their mission in Africa and how they fed the hungry and brought smiles to the faces of the children.
The NAPS students showed a video about hungry children whose stomachs were distended because of the lack of food and how sharing a simple meal made a difference and brought a smile to crying and sad children. They explained to the children how such simple things as prayer, a hug, and showing that they cared made a difference. At the end of their presentation, the students made a call to the children to find ways to help others.
The children were told that they were not too small to help. The students from NAPS spoke with passion, conviction, purpose, and intentionality. The children listened intently. Chapel was dismissed and the children went to lunch.
Four-year old Lisa was so moved by what she had seen and heard from the representatives of NAPS that she decided she was going to make a difference. She thought she and her friends had enough to eat and that they could share with the kids in the video who were crying and had nothing to eat. She determined in her heart that not only was she going to take a stand, but her classmates were going to do the same. At that point a young leader emerged.
It is often said that the youth are the church of tomorrow, but the youth, starting with the little ones, can follow the example of older leaders and make a difference in their own way, today. Little children are not too young to make a difference. The Bible shows many examples of little ones such as the little maid who served in Naaman’s house, the little lad who shared his fish and loaves, making it possible for Jesus and the disciples to feed thousands, Jesus, who taught the Rabbis in the temple, Samuel, who was called by God for service, Josiah, who was a young ruler, and others who made a difference.
The children of today are eager to do their part to share God’s love with others. What they need are people who are willing to be intentional teachers like Jesus, teaching them to be change-agents like Jesus. The children are looking for teachers, leaders, and church members who will show them how to love in the true meaning of the word. They need to look up and see the church loving the unlovable, making sacrifices while expecting nothing in return. They need to see Jesus reflected in our actions and our deeds.
The beginning of the year is a time when we make resolutions to change our lives, our attitudes, and our way of doing things so that we can be better. Jesus is looking for leaders who can show the way to the younger members of the church by following the precepts found in Deuteronomy 11:18-21, NIV: “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.”
Marlene Alvarez is the Atlantic Union Conference early childhood education and care assistant director and the certification registrar.
*Not her real name