Imagine you are a newspaper editor. You have five reporters assigned to send in stories from their respective locations. Here is what you might receive:
Dateline: BRAZIL. I had a pleasant visit with a family recently. They invited me to their regular weekend movie night. Mom provided a great big bowl of popcorn, and their son took his turn picking a video to watch. Everyone settled in for the show but not before they had a prayer time for kids in their neighborhood who go hungry. Dad pointed to a pile of sandwich-sized, plastic bags, each one plump with popcorn and carefully tied with a twist tie. He explained, “We know hungry kids go through our garbage can, and they will find the popcorn and have something that’s safe to eat.”
Dateline: East Asia. I’ve been here nearly a week now, and in all my many miles of travel I haven’t seen a single church. My host tells me that Christians meet in secret. I am not welcome because it might give the authorities a clue as to where the service is held. It’s illegal for parents to teach their kids religion here, an unpopular law that is not always enforced. Most children, I’m told, grow up never reading a Bible, going to Sunday School, or hearing about Jesus’ love for them.
Dateline: Mongolia. It’s still pretty chilly in the capital city. My host took me to a restaurant for breakfast. Afterwards, we prayer-walked some city streets. I noticed a large, round opening. The manhole’s cover had been pulled aside. My host moved closer and pointed down, under the street. There several children huddled together for warmth, wearing very little clothing. I’m told that life in their homes is so miserable they run away. One is chosen to take sweaters or jackets from the others and to bundle up to keep warm. He was somewhere around, begging or picking pockets. Maybe the police will come soon and take these kids back to their homes. But they may run away again
Dateline: Sierra Leone. I was invited to a youth group that meets in my host’s home every Friday. Young people – even some older kids – gathered for snacks and a Bible study. Most of them seemed pretty typical, laughing and interacting freely. One fellow just sat quietly in a corner, not entering into any of the activities or discussion. He seemed a little older than the rest of the kids. My host noticed my interest and explained. “That’s Ibrahim. When he was nine years old, he was forced to join the army during the war. It was a terrible experience; he still has nightmares. But, praise God, he survived the fighting. He comes regularly and wants to know more about Jesus. The others are afraid of him. They know what he did and they don’t like him for it.”
Dateline: Liberia. I visited a hospital today where the one remaining Ebola patient is being cared for. The nurse explained that whole families died in the epidemic. It was especially hard to watch the children suffer who came down with the disease. She explained that many kids were orphaned when both parents died. Most people don’t want to care for them for fear that they carry the sickness. Many other children suffer from malaria and diseases that come from drinking dirty water. It is hard for them to get treatment because so many of the doctors and nurses caring for Ebola patients caught the disease from them and died. These children in West Africa need help in so many ways.
A FINAL WORD: I hope you’ll share these vignettes with your kids. Let older ones do research on their own and report back. Journal your findings and turn it all to intercession. Some of the ways children suffer today are too brutal to talk about, especially with younger kids. Be careful to end your discussions on a hopeful note. Remind your kids that God is aware of the suffering in the world. He works through people to make a difference. He promises that, one day, evil will be done away with. Encourage your kids to listen to God’s promptings to their hearts and help them respond appropriately. More about that next time.