Have you ever read Too Small to Ignore by Wess Stafford? If not, you must. One really important point that he makes is how trusting children are of adults, and the important responsibility we have to care the children and NOT to break their trust.
I was reminded of that time and again this week when I was a Crew Leader at Vacation Bible School for a group of five-year-olds. Another lady and I had twelve of those sweet children in our care. What amazed me is that they immediately trusted us. They had never seen me before in their lives, but I suddenly had all the answers and the power to protect them.
Our theme was PandaMania, which I loved because it had a tropical flavor to it. One young man dressed in a panda suit and walked around the church. Most of the children loved him and ran to hug him whenever they saw him. I had one little girl in my group named Whitney who was scared to death of the panda. Every time we saw him, she said, "Oh no! The panda!" and clung to me while she either buried her face in my legs or covered her eyes with her hand.
One day our Bible story was about Peter's denial of Christ. First we heard about some of Jesus' miracles while we were sitting in our normal story room. Then we had to pretend that we were followers of Jesus after He was crucified, and we had to find a secret place to meet. As we walked through the hallway, we had to plaster ourselves against the wall if we saw a Roman soldier or a Jewish religious leader (just robes hanging on the wall, but it was pretend, you know). Whitney and another girl were terrified. Each girl had to hold my hand, and when we saw a robe hanging on the wall, they pulled me into a corner.
And then don't you know . . . the Panda showed up!
When we finally made it to the secret (rather dark) room, the girls were still petrified, and then Peter showed up. They kept saying, "I'm really scared" as they clung to me with grips of steel.
I felt so bad for them because their fear was real. They were so very afraid. I felt quite heroic being able to hold and protect them. I hope I made a difference.
The thing that struck me the most is that they trusted me to protect them from those very scary situations . . . and they didn't know me until a few days before.
I've always been angered by child abuse. If I ever were given free reign to mete out justice on someone guilty of child abuse, I wouldn't stop. Just thinking about it angers me. When I looked at the sweet faces of those trusting 5-year-olds (okay, I know they're not perfect; I saw that, too), I can't imagine how anyone could ever, ever hurt a child.
I thought of the Compassion children I sponsor and the scary things they face each day -- much scarier than a pretend panda and robes hanging on the wall. I can't be there with them, not like I was with the children last week, but they still trust me. They trust me to pray for them, to care for them financially, and to be their friend, to develop that friendship through writing.
Every time I looked at those children in VBS, I thought of my Compassion children, and I remembered that they are trusting us, that their need is so great, and that Jesus has commanded us to care for them.
I am so grateful for those children who trusted me and allowed me to care for them. And I am grateful for what I have learned from them.