Why Ministry to Children Matters!
Imagine for just a moment that you are a child in a foreign land where Christianity is not practiced; where 95% of the people practice a mix of Buddhism and spirit worship. Every day that you go to school, your teachers lead you through the Buddhist rituals as the normal part of your accepted and expected culture. Imagine that in your home, your mother tucks you into bed while performing incantations and other animistic rituals. Imagine that your entire family is Buddhist and that your communal life together is spent at the temple, the center of every big holiday and community event. Imagine that you don’t know a single Christian and that even when you go shopping at the mall, the first thing you see is the Buddhist statue and the first thing you smell is the burning of incense.
Your imagination has just transported you to Thailand.
This is Lek’s* memory of her childhood. But at a very young age, something amazingly disruptive happened in Lek’s life that would change her forever. When Lek was only 7 years old she saw a Saturday morning TV program that was about the Bible. Every Saturday, even though none of her sisters and none of her friends were watching, Lek would watch the Bible stories acted out in this program. She even wrote away to get a manual of questions that accompanied the Saturday cartoon and faithfully mailed in her answers every week. And she did this for several years when unexpectedly the program was taken off the airways. Suddenly cut off from the only Christian influence she had, how would Lek ever come to know the Creator and Savior that loved her?
But seeds had been planted and faith was already taking root. Around the age of 9, whenever Lek’s mom would take her to the temple, Lek would come home and she would not be able to sleep. She began to have bad dreams that deeply disturbed her - nightmares of evil pursuing her. Her mom decided to try and help her by increasing their nighttime rituals and donning her daughter with extra amulets. The nightmares increased and became night terrors.
Finally, at the age of 9 or 10, young Lek had the wisdom and strength to tell her mother that she believed it was the amulets and rituals that were giving her nightmares. As troubling as this thought would be to a Buddhist mother, Lek’s mom received it and took all of the amulets off of her daughter. She even stopped the rituals. The nightmares went away and, in time, Lek was no longer required to visit the temple at all. Nor was she expected to participate in any of the rituals her family performed. It’s an amazing story, and yet Lek still did not become a Christian. To do so at that age would have dishonored her family. Plus, everything she knew about the Bible had been taken away when the Bible TV program she had been watching was taken off the air. She didn’t have any Christian influence in her life after that for a very long time.
Fifteen years later, Lek attended graduate school in Bangkok. While she studied at the University, Lek became friends with a group of Christians. She began going to church. Everything she learned as a child started coming back to her, and her passion for God and His word burned in her heart. One day she realized she desperately wanted a relationship with Jesus, the God who had revealed Himself to her as a child and protected her from nightmares. She prayed and told God, “If my mom disapproves then I will not become a Christian. But if my mom approves, I will commit my whole life to you.” She then called her mom, nervously explaining that she wanted to become a Christian and anticipating her mother’s disappointment. Instead she got this reply, “Well, I suppose you were always meant to be a Christian.” God had, once again, protected His work in her and paved the way for her faith despite the cultural oppositions that she faced.
Lek became a Christian that very night. She’s been walking with Jesus for over 15 years now. In 2018, Lek volunteered over 90 hours of her time to mentor kids and teach them the Bible in one of the low-income communities Friends of the City works in. Lek, of all people, understands how important it is that these kids hear the Bible now and believes that God’s word never returns to Him empty. She taught me that God protects His work; our place is to trust and obey.
Lek’s story is unique in many ways, but it is also familiar in many ways. Time and time again I hear testimonies from Thais who became Christians as adults who can trace the hand of God working in their life back to their childhood. It’s usually a teaching or an experience that indelibly impacts their heart and sets them on a course that is counter to everything their culture teaches them and leads them to conclude, “Well, I guess I was always meant to be a Christian.” The fruit is not usually seen until adulthood, when they’ve reached an age that it is culturally acceptable for them to make their own decision about their faith. But the seed is planted in childhood, and it cannot help but flourish.
Take a look at the following statistics taken from www.ministry-to-children.com
This is why Friends of the City takes the time to invest in the spiritual lives of children. We walk alongside of children and whole families to plant the seeds now that will bear fruit a decade from now. We take the time to build relationships with parents, so that when those seeds do flourish, moms and dads will not resist.
Pray for the children and youth in all of our programs. Right now, over 20 children and youth in low-income communities in the inner city of Bangkok hear the Bible every week. We watch and celebrate as seeds are planted and hearts begin to open up little by little. But ultimately we entrust their growing faith to a faithful God who will nurture and protect them in ways we don’t even understand. Much like the parable of the growing seed in Mark 4, we know that a harvest will come. Good seed cannot help but produce good fruit!
*Names have been changed