While living in Papua New Guinea, I was blessed with the opportunity to volunteer at a crisis center for children. The children varied in age from newborn to 18-years old and came from all kinds of backgrounds. Here, I saw heartbreak after heartbreak, but was reminded that Jesus must shed many tears, as he certainly sees the way that children are abused and mistreated here in Papua New Guinea, and on earth.
At the crisis center, there was a boy of about ten or eleven who was sexually abused by a male security guard while living on the streets, and as a result could no longer control his bowel movements and was therefore excluded from school. There was the teenage girl who suffered fainting episodes when she recalled the rape and other abuses she suffered at the hands of relatives after her parents died. There was the boy who was brought to the crisis center by his father because his new stepmother did not want him and was neglecting and abusing him. There was the girl whose mother died in childbirth and was taken in by a great aunt who never showed her love: When the girl was thirteen, the aunt tried to force her into marriage to collect her bride price. There was the new baby whose mother had schizophrenia, had been impregnated by a security guard, and then actively tried to give away her baby—refusing to breastfeed her.
In the midst of such pain, I can only look to Christ. There is nowhere else I can find answers. But we know from the Scriptures that Jesus regards children highly and loves them very much:
“Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.’ And he laid his hands on them and went away” (Matthew 19:13–15 ESV).
This is one of my favorite stories: The care and attention Jesus showed must have given the mothers of those precious children much hope and encouragement as they continued day by day in the invaluable role of motherhood.
We find yet another encounter between Jesus and a child in the previous chapter, Matthew 18. The chapter opens with the disciples asking Jesus who would be greatest in his kingdom. Jesus’ response must have surprised them. Beckoning a little child to come join their group, he replies, “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Becoming a child is something to aspire to—to be humble, innocent, teachable, and dependent on those in authority. Jesus goes on to say, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me” (Matthew 18:5 ESV).
Here I think is the key to what Jesus would have us do in response to the atrocities committed against children globally. With childlike humility, without any desire for praise or selfish gain, we are to meet the needs of children in the name of Jesus Christ, our example and source of strength.
Perhaps God is calling you to provide financial assistance to an orphanage or crisis center for children. Perhaps God is calling you to offer intercessory prayer on behalf of abused and neglected children. Perhaps God is calling you to open your home to adopt or foster a child. Perhaps God is calling you to mentor your child’s friends. Perhaps God is calling you to bring the children in your neighborhood to church, so that they can learn of the love of God. So many children in the world—and perhaps even in our community or neighborhood—are crying out for help. And every one of us is capable of helping in one way or another.
They might only be small, and they might not have much voice or power, but children are precious to God, and should be precious to us. Protecting and nurturing them, and providing opportunities for their futures, especially their eternal futures, ought to be dear to the hearts of each of us.
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