“He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.’ ” (Mark 9:36-37)
What does Jesus do here? In context, he speaks to his disciples about greatness and serving, but he also attributes high value to children. Jesus challenges us to welcome a child into our lives with the promise that as we welcome a child, we welcome Jesus into our midst, and God as well.
We welcome children by making them feel at home, by getting to know their quirks, by beaming when they walk in the door, by praying for their needs. We welcome them with high fives and hugs, with gifts of time and presence, and with celebration of achievements and birthdays. Most importantly, we welcome children by inviting them to know the One who created them, redeemed them, and loves them more than we ever could.
The children whom we welcome should be our own sons and daughters. They are also those breathless third graders running (even though they shouldn’t) into our classrooms each week. They are the infants, sleeping without a care in the world, in our arms. They are our neighbor’s children, playing with our own in the backyard. They are children living half a world away in poverty.
Jesus asks us to welcome children into our lives – both the children in our midst and the children whom we may never meet this side of heaven. Compassion International is a non-profit organization that gives us the privilege of welcoming children across the barriers of distance and economics, in Jesus’ name. As described on its website, Compassion “exists as a Christian child advocacy ministry that releases children from spiritual, economic, social, and physical poverty.”
For $38 a month, a child in Compassion’s care receives Christian discipleship, educational opportunities, healthcare, social skills, and training. Children are sponsored by individuals and families. They can also be sponsored by Sunday School classes, Youth Groups, Children’s Churches, and Christian school classrooms.
Eight years ago, my husband and I welcomed our first child into the world – a Compassion child named Roberto. Five years ago, our youth group welcomed two more children into our family. Their names are Ruth and Rodean, from Bolivia and the Philippines.
To say that we have welcomed children into our lives is an understatement. We have welcomed strength and courage, beauty and hope, truth and dreams into our lives as well. We have witnessed the power of the gospel unfold in the lives of these children whom we would have never known, if not for Compassion. With such small gifts of money, time, stickers, and letters, we have received the treasures of relationship and the chance to be a part of a bigger story of redemption.
My husband and I love what Compassion is doing around the world. But we also love what Compassion is doing in our own home and youth ministry. Our kids are just little tykes, but they look forward to letters and pictures from their siblings. Our teenagers are learning that life doesn’t revolve around them and that they are blessed to be a blessing. And I think we are all beginning to understand the promise; that to welcome a child is to welcome Jesus and God, into our midst.
How have you welcomed children into your life, your family, or your church? Do you have any stories to share about its affect on you?