Suffer the Little Children…
“Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.” Mark 10:14.
The children have always been one of our concerns here in Honduras. Many of the children lack the love and attention they need from parents, and from early childhood they begin to carry burdens that take away the joy of childhood. This is one of the reasons why, after so many years, I continue to go up to El Cerro del Toro every Sabbath. I know that the children and their poor mothers look forward to that special time when Jesus draws near, and through His word and the songs, the stickers, and the little gifts that we bring to them, they can know that God loves them.
The people in El Cerro del Toro have become very special to me, because I know that they are very special to God. They have such hard lives due to poverty. They truly need to know that there is a God that loves them and wants to help them. When I had first started visiting them, the people would not respond, they would just stare at me. When I tried to hug them they would just stand stiffly. But I continued to visit, always praying that somehow they would recognize that God loved them and that they are not alone in their hard lives.
I had been praying about having a children’s crusade, so I contacted Elsy Jimenez, my adopted daughter, who had done several crusades for children using the Young Disciple Program, and asked if she would come to help us with this project. Without hesitation, she agreed to come and lead out in the children’s crusade.
We set the date, delivered the invitations, and on the opening day, lo and behold, more than 50 children arrived and filled up the church. They looked so beautiful! I don’t know how, but I managed to pick up my children from El Cerro del Toro every day and be at the restaurant as well. God is good and gives us the grace, energy, and all that is necessary to accomplish His work.
My “tribe from El Cerro,” as I called them, were ready and waiting to hop into the old Isuzu each day. They were so excited that they could hardly sleep the night before, thinking about the program. They would practice singing and reciting their memory verses as we bumped down the mountain road. Once we arrived at church, the different “tribes” throughout the village joyfully marched in. What a blessing it was to see their happiness. Thank the Lord for the children!
The crusade ran for two weeks. Word of all the exciting things the children were doing spread far and wide. New children arrived at the church every day. Elsy was surprised they were so well behaved, but this was something we have tried to emphasize: reverence in God’s house.
Elsy did a beautiful job with the children, and all her assistants worked hard day after day for two weeks. They cleaned up the church, pinned name tags on the children, made copies, cut out crafts, collected crayons, and picked up and delivered the children every day. They also made sure that the children learned the important Bible stories, memory verses, and special songs.
See the smiles on their faces? These children rarely smile or show signs of joy and excitement in their regular lives. They have been neglected, living in extreme poverty, with the parents concerning themselves with simply providing for the daily needs, rather than expressing love and attention to their children. Many parents simply do not know how to show love to their children, because they too were victims of emotional neglect when they were children.
Being loved, especially for little children, is a God-given right. And we, as adults and parents should never be found guilty of neglecting God’s little ones. These children had two weeks of happiness; learning how to laugh, work together, be creative, and yes, how to respect and love one another. The experience that these precious children shared will be remembered and last them a lifetime. We know that many will dedicate their lives in service to Jesus, because they have seen His love for them first-hand.
“As the Holy Spirit moves upon the hearts of the children, cooperate with His work. Teach them that the Saviour is calling them, that nothing can give Him greater joy than for them to give themselves to Him in the bloom and freshness of their years. … The Christian worker may be Christ’s agent in drawing these children to the Saviour. By wisdom and tact he may bind them to his heart, he may give them courage and hope, and through the grace of Christ may see them transformed in character, so that of them it may be said, ‘of such is the kingdom of God.’” Desire of Ages, 517.
I want to tell you that my children from El Cerro del Toro did beautifully. I was so proud of them and so happy to see their joyful faces. At first I thought I was being a little partial to my tribe, until several other instructors mentioned that they truly out-shined them all. It was worth bouncing up and down that rough mountain road every day, just to see those smiles.
The last day was graduation day, and there was a lot of excitement in the air—not to mention a lot of work for the volunteers!
Parents were invited to witness what their children had learned, and we wanted them to be there when they received their crowns and diplomas. It was an exciting day. The church was packed and every “tribe” was to recite their scriptures and sing a special song. They looked beautiful with their crowns and happy faces. We gave out 70 diplomas! The children thoroughly enjoyed it and the seed of God’s word was planted in their hearts.
After many years, I have seen the change in the people. I have seen God’s love working in their lives. I see the joy of the children and their desire to learn the scriptures. I also see the promise of Psalm 119:130 being fulfilled: “The entrance of Thy word giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.” The older adults cannot read, but I see them comprehending God’s word and responding to it. They are prepared Sabbath after Sabbath for their little church service, right there on their porch. They know that at that moment, this humble place becomes God’s sanctuary.
Recently I was reminding them of how much God loves them, and Dona Benedicta said, “Yes, God loves us through you.” Brothers and sisters, remember: it is not what we can do, but what God can do with us and through us. The world needs to see the love of God in action. We are the channels through which He wants to pour out His love to others.
By Elsa Willis, Maranatha Medical Ministries, Honduras. Donations can be sent to Maranatha Medical Ministries via Paypal from their website: www.maranathamedical.org.