Originally published August 18, 2014
The children seem to come from nowhere and everywhere. Even before one of the team members took the first soccer ball from his pack, there were curious children coming through the gate into the scrub-covered field outside of the health clinic where we were set up for the morning.
First there were two or three and then four or five. When the first soccer ball — covered in scripture written in the Creole language — came out of the pack, it was as if the Pied Piper had sounded his flute, and soon we had more than a dozen kids sitting on the concrete steps of the clinic while we took turns describing God’s plan for man’s salvation as revealed from Genesis to Revelation. Even as the presentation continued and it became clear to other kids in the Mango District of Montrouis, Haiti, that what we were offering wasn’t specifically about soccer (OK, futbol), more youngsters continued to join the group.
It has been that way all over Montrouis. On the hillside community where we spent Friday morning with an organization called Empowering Haitian Moms, there were probably 40 or more kids running around with duct-tape hackeysacks made by members of our group. Bubbles and Frisbee discs floated and flew through the air.
Everywhere we’ve been to share the Gospel, there’s been the sound of children laughing and playing.
I wonder if that’s what it was like for the disciples of Jesus Christ.
Scripture tells us that there was at least one point at which his followers tried to insulate Him from the children who sought to get near Him. “But Jesus said, ‘Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’ (Matthew 19:14) And this: “And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3)
Clearly children saw something in Jesus that many adults didn’t recognize. Their simple faith and their understanding that He brought everything to their relationship and they brought nothing are both reasonable explanations I’ve heard for Jesus’ comment about becoming like children.
But what occurs to me as I think about the children surrounding a group of short-term missionaries here in Haiti is that there’s something even more basic that Jesus was getting at. The kids His disciples had tried to shoo away had come seeking Him. Maybe they weren’t quite sure what to expect, but the word had gotten out that there was a Man nearby who was something special, and they wanted to see Him for themselves.
Two thousand years later and a hemisphere away from where Jesus conducted his three-year ministry, a small group of Americans found itself surrounded by Haitian children on Saturday. Many — perhaps even most — of those chilrene are fatherless. All of them are poor on a scale that’s unimaginable to most Americans.
But they all have a Heavenly Father who loves them and has promised them riches in Heaven for a faith so simple that His Son described it as childlike.
UPDATE: I wrote the previous words on the evening of Aug. 17, but had no Internet availability to post them until late the following evening. The afternoon of Aug. 18 found our group back at the site where we’d done the soccer ball ministry, this time conducting a first aid clinic for the “Fishing Village” community in that vicinity.
We had barely piled out of the Range Rover (10 of us packed inside it for the trip over) when one little boy of 4 years old or so had come over and grabbed my hand. He remembered me from our Saturday visit, and soon another I recognized from that earlier visit joined us in the field, stretching his arms up for me to pick him up.
For the next three hours, I hardly spent a moment without a child or two in my arms. And one of my little friends thought so much of me that he took me across the alleyway to visit his home and introduce me to his mother.
I can never recall being so proud and humbled at the same time in my entire life.
— R.E. Spears III