This summer at the age of 20 I lead a short term missions trip to a poor community in the deserts of Mexico. The entire journey, from asking my pastor to lead a trip, to crying all the way back to our home airport was the most difficult and beautiful experience I’ve ever had. First struggling to work with the authorities of different churches, and then being with the children of this village brought a life perspective that I would have never opened my eyes to in my safe suburban US life.
Singing songs, playing games, handing out food, and teaching God’s love were all a part of our agenda with the children of Las Ladrilleras, a poor brickmaking village about 15 miles into the desert outside of Chihuahua City, Mexico. Pats on the back, hugs, piggy-back rides, countless up-close photos, and many, many kisses on the tops of dirty little heads, however, snuck their way into every piece of our agenda. We could barely help ourselves to not take every pair of big brown eyes home with us! I can almost hear Jesus saying, “Silly little Christians, THIS is how you show my love.”
On the third day of our trip, we received a call that set my brain and heart in motion. Linda, a mother of 3 and head of the church of Las Ladrilleras called to say, “Gracias, gracias, gracias.” Linda was overwhelmed by the love that flowed through us. She explained that so many of the kids are dirty, diseased, bug infested, all things that anyone could see, but honestly, I hadn’t really noticed. Linda told us that so many people are too worried about contracting these illnesses to even lay a hand on these beautiful kids. This news brought joy at what we were doing, sadness knowing the previous treatment of these kids, and even pleasure knowing we were truly demonstrating the type of complete love that Jesus called us to share.
I was reminded of this scripture.
“13 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.”
I tried to picture the scene, Jesus standing and teaching, people crowded around him. It was probably difficult to hear him speak, not to mention those pesky kids in the back. There’s that baby who won’t stop crying, the little boy who’s trying to play tag, and the little girl who keeps pushing through the skirts of people to see what all the fuss is about. These children, like many children were probably sticky from their last meal, dirty from playing and falling, and altogether disruptive to those trying to “follow Jesus”. So what did the disciples do? They shooed them away. They tried to quiet the scene. They were trying to be respectable people. But Jesus not only called these children to him, he laid his hands on them, blessed them, and told them that the kingdom of God belonged to them!
In our time with the children, we had laid hands on them and tried our very best to bless them, but I didn’t quite understand why or how the Kingdom of God belonged to them. The next few days I did my best to observe the children; their attitudes, their words, I wanted to understand what it meant to receive the kingdom “like a child”. Through the rest of our trip, God showed me three ways in which we are to be like children.
1) Be real and raw with God.
When you have a scraped knee as a child, you run to your parents and cry and sob until it’s all better. When you are happy, you sing, laugh, jump, dance, even to the point of annoyance. God wants us to come to Him with whatever we are feeling. He wants us to be open, without reservation, and show Him exactly what is on our hearts. During the week, one of my favorite little girls fell and hit her head. I scooped her in my arms and she clung to me. She cried, not caring what the other kids thought of her, but she cried until I wooed her back to normalcy. A few minutes later we were laughing and playing. But the point is she came to me with what she was feeling and because of her honesty, our relationship grew.
2) Totally rely on God to provide.
As a child you are entirely reliant on people to provide you with clothes, a place to stay, and even to provide food for you. You understand that you are dependent and that you can’t do everything by yourself. You need help. As we grow up we seem to forget our dependency on God for every breath and we find ourselves trying to do everything on our own. The kids in Las Ladrilleras not only depended on their parents for such things, they depended on volunteers like us as well. They relied on our timing, our schedule during the day told them when and where to go. They depended on us for knowledge, purpose, care, and love. Just as we should rely on God for knowledge, for purpose, for care, and for His love.
3) Finally, come when God calls you, despite what anyone else says.
We all know that we will encounter obstacles when following God’s call for our life. But what God really spoke to me throughout this journey was that there are going to be some people who tell you, you can’t do it. Some “disciples” might even tell you that you’re not ready, that you’re too young, or that your hopes and dreams of walking something out with Jesus are a bother. I’m sure the disciples in the story were annoyed, I’m sure they thought they were saving Jesus some time when they hushed the little children trying to seek Him. But Jesus knew the beauty of His relationship with each of His children. Disciples, pastors, parents, friends, even mentors may try to deter you from your call. But Jesus called you. And you come when He calls.