My husband and I have worked with a Wednesday night youth program at our church for several years now. We help with kids in 3rd to 5th grade. We’ve been the “red team” for a while now, and each year we get a new batch of kids. It’s a fun time (usually 🙂 ) and we enjoy it.
There are four teams, and when it’s game time, it’s helpful to have an equal number of kids on a team. About a year and a half ago, there was a night where we were short on leaders and kids and we moved to the yellow team for the night. It was a chance to get to know a few new kids, including a girl I’ll call Andrea.
And if you judge a book by its cover, Andrea’s blond hair was in need of a wash, she carries a few extra pounds on her 10-year-old frame, and her initial response to “hello!” is to cross her hands over her chest and give a look that says, “Don’t mess with me.”
The following week, Andrea was moved to the red team for the night, and it seemed as though we had broken through some barriers the week before, because she was fairly friendly and talkative.
Her stories and questions spoke volumes.
“My mom just had a baby two weeks ago,” she said. “His name is John.”
“Oh yeah?” I said.
“John is the dad’s name, too.”
Not my dad, or even my mom’s boyfriend. Just the dad.
A few minutes later she looked across the table at my husband and asked, “Is he your boyfriend?”
I had to chuckle. I mean, it’s been a while since he was my boyfriend. It was actually kind of fun to think of him in that way again.
“No,” I said in reply, “he’s my husband.”
Andrea gave me a blank stare. My smile quickly faded.
I couldn’t help but wonder if she even knew what the word “husband” means.
We carried on with our night, but I couldn’t stop thinking about Andrea. Here’s a little girl with no idea what a dad is supposed to be. Possibly no idea what the word husband even means.
Through no choice of her own and no fault of her own, Andrea does not know what it means to have a father.
As I wrestled with sleep that night, I kept thinking about Andrea. Little did she know that our conversation was keeping me awake. It was a conversation that changed me and changed my view of volunteering for our little Wednesday night program.
God brought this verse to my mind:
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me … ” Mark 10:14
I can’t give Andrea a father. I can’t fix her family. But, for 90 minutes on Wednesday nights, I can give her Jesus.
The truth is, I wish I had been a bit more bold in developing a relationship with Andrea. I met her towards the end of the year, just before the program took a break for the summer. She returned the following year, but was on another team and only came for a couple weeks. I don’t know her last name or how to get a hold of her. I ran into her once at school, when I was volunteering in my son’s classroom. She has been on my mind lately, and I am praying that we cross paths sometime again.
Even if I don’t see her again, I will always remember her. I hope I continue to remember that many kids have tough lives, and their rough edges and tough exteriors are really defensive walls protecting their hurting hearts. I hope I can remember that those kids need Jesus, even the ones that dress weird, have strange hair cuts and bad language. I hope I can remember that every one needs to see Jesus, and I might be the only one who shows Him to them.