The People Brought Children to Jesus…
by Kent Annan
They brought children to Jesus hoping he might touch them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus was irate and let them know it: “Don’t push these children away. Don’t ever get between them and me. These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. Mark this: Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.” Then, gathering the children up in his arms, he laid his hands of blessing on them. — Mark 10:13-16, The Message
At the Efez Church in Jacmel, adults and children grow together in their faith. The experience is spiritually enriching, and respect is often deepened between adults and children.
In communities all over Haiti, children are being welcomed into Bible studies that value them and what they say, encourage them to listen, and nurture their spiritual lives. At a recent study in a church on the island of Lagonav, junior high children and teachers spent time together reflecting on the story from Mark 10 printed above. Afterward they shared some of their thoughts:
“These studies seem to unleash the intelligence of the children.”
“It helps us think about how we get along with each other in school and church.” “Each time we do this, it’s as if more light shines into our minds.”
Twelve-year-old Rosemary was part of another study in a different city. She’d always been shy and very quiet in church. The first two times she attended Bible study, she sat seemingly attentive, but didn’t say anything. The third time she spoke up a little. The fourth, fifth, and sixth times she participated with the other kids. The seventh time, she led the Bible study.
Our Living Words Christian education program has printed 5,000 copies of our 12-page children’s Bible study booklet in Creole, and it’s being used in schools and churches in many different cities. As soon as the resources are available, we’ll print another larger quantity. In the past few weeks, several of our trainers went to introduce our materials in an elementary school in a run-down school in Cité Soleil, Haiti’s poorest and most violent slum. These Haitian trainers are well aware of how hard life is in this part of Port-au-Prince, but they were still overwhelmed by the difficult situations of these children, including the problems of education. The kids responded with enthusiasm to the opportunity to take part in the Bible study. The principal saw this and invited our trainers to come back to lead a weekly Bible study with these children—so they can continue to learn and think, and so they’re interacting every week with people who care deeply for them and who provide an activity that lets them know how valuable they are in God’s eyes.
Faith that Arrived in a Child, Now to Move Mountains for Children
“Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
Jesus is not interested in the geographical rearrangement of mountains. It is the societal map of greed, lust, arrogance, fear, racism, domination, oppression, revenge, and injustice that he wants to redraw. He wants his disciples to move mountains of injustice and make new rivers of creativity and compassion flow… It is interesting—astonishing, really—that Jesus doesn’t simply say, “Nothing will be impossible for me,” or “Nothing will be impossible with God.” Instead he says, “Nothing will be impossible for you.” This is our call to action, our invitation to move mountains and so reshape the social and spiritual landscape of our world. Yes, change is impossible through human effort alone. But faith brings God’s creative power into our global crises, so the impossible first becomes possible and then inevitable for those who believe.”
-Brian McLaren, Everything Must Change (Thomas Nelson, 2007)
Saimbert Jesulard is a church pastor and school principal on Lagonav, where he works with many children, including the junior high students quoted at the beginning of this article. Jesulard says this approach to prayer, Scripture, and shared reflection has transformed the way he works with children in his church and school: It showed me how not to ignore the voices of others… I thought I was the boss and the only one who had the right to talk. It showed me how to sit and really listen and share. I’ve taken this study of Scripture into myself, and it’s changed my church, my school, my family. Now [in Sunday School] we sit in circles—kids in one place and adults in another. Then we have a Bible passage that everyone reflects on, following this method. Also, in my elementary school I taught this to the teachers, so now in our school all the teachers do Bible study in their classes every Thursday. As Jesus said, these children are at the very center of the kingdom of God. We can support them as they learn and grow—and we can also keep learning from them.