It’s that time of year. The time that you pack away all the clothes your child has outgrown, lug down a box from the attic, and refill drawers with old hand me downs. I dread this time. Getting organized is just not my thing. My mom passed those genes on to my sister, leaving no organizational inclination for me.
But thanks to the dreaded clothes swap I stumbled upon a box of little treasures from India (and accordingly, the box of clothes was neglected and still remains in the middle of the floor).
Looking at these precious gifts flooded my mind with memories. Today, I want to share with you about these dear children who I was so blessed to know. I hope you will benefit from their example, as I have, of what it means to joyfully live for Christ.
I’ve been to India three times. The longest stretch was 2 months when I was 18 years old. I volunteered with a wonderful organization that, among many endeavors, runs a children’s home. Some of the children have parents unable to provide for them, and some are orphaned. At the home they receive excellent care. They are loved, have plenty to eat, receive quality education, and are faithfully discipled to know and follow Jesus. To see the fruit of that last point was an astounding privilege. A number of these children had such deep devotion to Christ that it would put many of us to shame. There were 3 ways this particularly stood out.
The first quality that stood out was their joy. I don’t want to make them out to be little saints, because they’re sinners just like the rest us. But they truly had joy unlike any kids I’ve ever known. They worshipped with great passion, smiles almost constantly dressed their faces, and laughter marked their play. They were just so happy. A truly humbling example for someone like me, who bases so much of my happiness on circumstances. These were children facing poverty, living in a large children’s home (again, an outstanding one, but still) either away from their families or without family at all. Where my joy quickly fades, theirs was fervent. Where mine rises and falls based on circumstance, theirs was consistent.
The second quality that marked them was their generosity. While it’s true that all of their basic needs were well tended to, these children had little to nothing to call their own. They each had two uniforms for school, sometimes a “nice” outfit for special occasions, and a pair of play clothes. The way I remembered their names was by pairing it with the clothes I saw them in everyday after school. I still remember.
Suneetha wore the green dress and orange earrings.
Priyanka wore the pink skirt and fuchsia shirt.
Bujji wore the light brown dress with white piping.
If they were lucky, they might have a few hair clips or colored pencils to call their own. Yet despite the fact that they owned practically nothing, I experienced astounding generosity. No time was this more evident than the day I was getting ready to leave. I received dozens of pictures with messages carefully written in English. Some little girls pulled hairclips from their head and placed them on mine, one boy gave me a piece of candy (a rare commodity), another girl gave me her half used notebook and pencil. Their love was overwhelming. I can honestly say I’ve never cried so long and hard as I did the day I said goodbye.
And perhaps, the most meaningful gift I’ve ever received in my entire life, was given by a little boy we’d nicknamed “Superman.” Art was his passion, and Superman his most common muse. Anytime I saw him he’d greet me with a huge smile and arms outstretched as if he were flying. During play time he’d eagerly work with a small set of markers, a little notebook, and proudly show off his (pretty impressive) renditions of Superman. The day that I left, he walked over to me and placed his set of markers, quite literally his most treasured earthly possession, into my hand. I gasped and immediately told him I couldn’t accept. It was too big. Too extravagant. But he joyfully insisted. He showed me, more than anyone else I’ve ever witnessed, what it means to be a “cheerful giver.”
The final way that they stood out, was in their mission-mindedness. They were just children, but they had big dreams for the Kingdom. And these dreams weren’t rooted in a romanticized view of what it means to follow Christ. Many of them knew first hand that hardship and persecution would await them. They knew pastors who had been beaten or killed for the faith. They knew churches that’d been burnt down and converts who’d been disowned by their families. But still. Even though this reality reached so close to home, I heard countless children share:
“I want to be a pastor so I can teach others to follow Jesus.” (often even naming areas where they knew persecution was most common)
“I want to be a missionary to villages that have never heard of Jesus.”
“I want to move to Madagascar as a teacher, because the children there are very poor.”
It’s one thing to hear these kind of sentiments from youth on highs from missions trips (which is still great, by the way). It’s an entirely different thing to hear them from young children who are actually close to poverty and persecution. Their deep, deep love for Jesus and passion to spread His fame was compelling.
Jesus says to “become like children” to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:2). Yet too often many twist the meaning of this verse, using the term “childlike faith” in such a way that excuses immature and shallow faith. But I think this is what He was talking about. “Childlike faith” is finding joy in all circumstances because you’re so happy to know the Father. “Childlike faith” is cheerfully opening your hands in generosity, excitedly offering all that you have for the love of God and others. “Childlike faith” is boldly following the Great Commission, even when you know it will demand much sacrifice, because you have such great trust in your King. “Childlike faith” is being so wrapped up in love for Jesus that you just can’t imagine dedicating your dreams and life to anything else.
Forever grateful for the group of children who exemplified the real meaning of “childlike faith.”