I scrambled out of the back of Pastor Modesto Martinez's red, roll-barred puck-up, along with most of Luz's family and half a dozen others that had hopped in along the way. I raced up the stone stairs to change into some less disheveled clothes. To give you a taste of the morning, imagine being coated in sunscreen, dipped in extra-strength insect repellent, and rolled in dust!
It had fallen to me to direct the show...to be the ringmaster...of this VBS at the little church in Villa Verde. A church this size in the US might, on a great day, attract 15-20 kids for VBS. As I choked down the lunch prepared for us by the women of the church, I noted that this church, with no banners, advertisements, radio ads, or decorations, had drawn around 250.
The bug spray, the sunscreen, the bumpy ride in the trunk bed from Luz's house, and the swallowed lunch swam sickeningly in my throat as I joined the rest of our group at the table of honor prepared for us in front of the crowd. Swarms of children began assembling in tiny plastic chairs--the plastic chairs soon stacked to the side as it became clear that the number of children exceeded the number of chairs! Mothers nursed their babies in the back.
300 pairs of brown eyes stared back at me.
Each pair of eyes represented a life. A life so precious, so valuable to God. And in a rush I knew what I was doing again. These little children, little lives, had grown up in the lie of poverty, the lie that tells them every day that they don't matter. The lie is perpetuated when they are hungry and can't eat, sick and can't get help, abused and left to fend for themselves.
Suddenly, it all made sense--the suitcases full of random items (like jumbo marshmallows and coffee filters), my unaccountable willingness to sing and dance like a crazy person in front of 300+ people--
This week of Vacation Bible School was about telling kids that they matter...to God and to us as sponsors.
We dove in head first. It was a crazy experience...there were so few of us and so many of them...but we did the best job we could do..
We delighted in their art projects.
When is the last time you took a moment to pour this kind of encouragement on someone in your life? Who needs to hear words of affirmation breathed over their existence? I challenge you to seek out someone...or lots of someones...and share a word of kindness...because the "you don't matter lie" is not just for the poor. It hits us all hard. We all need to know that we matter.
I am thankful to these precious children for reminding me of this truth...blessed by their hunger to receive the small gifts that we offered. Somehow, I like to think of myself reflected in their beautiful brown eyes.