With all the resolution a twelve-year-old could muster, she determined she would run away from home. She planned it out as she packed her lunch that morning. An extra sandwich, some fruit and cookies – these would be enough to carry her through the whole day. Slipping out the back door, she made her way through quiet streets in a central Florida town where she lived with relatives. It was an ordinary place absorbed in the latter days of World War II.
All day long, she told no one of her intentions. Finally, the last bell released a noisy stream of fellow students. Giving them no notice, she trudged out of the school building, sweater and book bag over her shoulder, and headed in the opposite direction from her home. Rather than the familiar streets she normally took, she found herself in neighborhoods that were new to her, yet as commonplace as she herself appeared to be.
Lanky and tall for her age, she walked on steadily, enjoying the spring weather, glad for clear skies overhead. Nothing about her called attention to the fact that this was no ordinary trek home from school. Home was behind her, and a whole world of unplanned adventure lay ahead. Before she was even tired from walking, she reached the edge of the huge grounds that surrounded the armory building. A sturdy bench, permanently fixed in its cement base, invited her to rest awhile.
Not a single person who may have walked past her paid her the slightest attention. As the afternoon wore on, she did homework assignments and ate what was left of her lunch. A lone figure in the twilight, she sat with her discontent, fully intending to show up, as usual, for school the next day. She expected that no one would pay the slightest attention to her. Finally she stretched out on the bench, her book bag a pillow, her sweater over her shoulders, and fell asleep.
It was the dew, most likely, that spread its damp fingers over her and woke her in the pre-dawn hours of a chilly morning. Thinking better of her plans to run away from her troubles, she decided to face them head-on and started out again, this time walking home. She was fully convinced the house would be dark, front door unlocked as was the case in those days. She would simply slip in, sleep the remaining hours in her bed before it was time to get up and start another ordinary day. Steadily, she walked along dark streets, unnoticed. Occasionally a car went by – sometimes a police car. None of them stopped.
As she turned the corner onto Central Avenue, surprise and then dread caught up with her. Every light in the house was on! No way could she slip by worried adults for they had sounded the alarm. Relatives – even the authorities – were out looking for her. She endured the scolding which she knew she deserved and gladly retreated to her room to sleep away the hours that remained before it was time to get up and start another day at school. She knew that kids looked at her with some curiosity, but none spoke of her being a runaway. Teachers had warned them before she arrived in class that morning to leave her alone. And, they did.
I tell you this story with many of its details as vivid in my memory as they were seventy years ago to illustrate a point. No child escapes being ‘at risk.’ In my case, I firmly believe, my guardian angel extended protection from predators – human and animal – possibly even granting a kind of invisibility to me, a troubled youngster who just wanted to escape what I considered an unbearable situation. I was convinced that people didn’t care about me. I simply wanted to find a better life on my own.
In today’s world, life is far more dangerous, more complicated than it was then. Kids run away from their troubles even in affluent communities. Eating disorders, addiction to drugs and a social media that lures them to other kinds of negative behavior are common escape routes they take. Misinterpreting the cues adults send them, they believe they are unloved, unwanted, unnoticed. You may have some such youngsters in your life.
And none of this is new. The Bible is full of examples. Take baby Moses in his flimsy floating cradle, or the boy, David, with only a leather strip and a few smooth stones. Consider Samuel struggling to make sense of God’s voice in the middle of the night, or the toddler Jesus learning to walk on African soil, far from His birthplace. All the way to present days, our great Enemy seeks to thwart God’s plan that one generation would live long enough to spread the good news of God’s character and mighty acts to the next in an unbroken cord of generational faithfulness. (Psalm 145)
This is why I pay attention to the international focus of prayer for children at risk each June. Every child on this earth is ‘at risk’ in one way or another. Intercessory prayer, by some mysterious plan of God, does make a difference in young lives. Our faithfulness, our obedience to join with thousands of others all over the world, beseeching God for the deliverance of precious lives, does move Heaven’s resources to do our Father’s bidding.
Please carve out some time during June and spend it on your knees – literally or figuratively – praying for kids by their names. Extend your intercession to include kids whose names you don’t know and whose circumstances you cannot even imagine.
Take God up on His promise that ‘the earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results.’ (James 5:16 NLT) As it has been for a number of years, the first full weekend in June is designated as the Worldwide Weekend of Prayer for Children at Risk. Please join in. Share this with others.
NOTE: Since you’re reading this after June 7, please remember, you can pray for Kids at Risk any day of the year. I doubt if God has a calendar that looks anything like ours!