Our big God adventure: episode 30 — ‘Let the little children come to me…’

* John, proudly sporting his cardboard hat creation at an art camp

Missionary Lydia Venter highlights the importance of making time to connect with village children outside of their daily grind

“… and do not hinder them … for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” — Mark 10:13

We are very much aware of the importance of reaching children for Christ and, because of that, we can never claim to pursue holistic transformation if we do not intentionally include them in whatever we feel the Lord is leading us to do. 

We all know that there is a lot of pressure on, especially urban children, these days and we should not be fooled into thinking that kids in an isolated location such as Lomolo Village, are spared such stress. They might not own smart phones or expensive gadgets, but because parents struggle so much financially, children are expected to perform well in school as it is strongly believed that good marks will grant them their “ticket” out of misery.

In addition to that you find a curriculum packed with information, leading to long school hours which again result in little time to play or dream. A vicious cycle, for sure. People in remote locations often rely on farming as their only source of income, so children are expected to help out as much as they can. It’s therefore not strange to find a 4-year-old boy looking after the goats or a 6-year-old girl with a baby sibling on her back.

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Fun group camp activity

Children of Africa are smart and creative. It usually only takes a little spark to create a huge fire inside of most kids, and over the years we’ve seen this over and over again. If teachers are only given half a chance, they can be very instrumental in this process, but because of a huge lack of resources it is often an area that is grossly neglected.

In Lomolo we’ve initiated several reading, art and sport camps over the years and every time we’re blown away by the natural talent of many of the students. I’ll never forget *John with his cardboard hat and *Stanley with his guitar made of a 5 litre container. We’re grateful to so many people and volunteers over the years who have invested resources and time into the kids we reach out to. But images of the children’s raw talent on display despite the lack of grand materials, glitter and fancy colouring pens, are still deeply engraved in our minds.

These camps give us the opportunity to spend time with the kids and learn more about them, their backgrounds and circumstances. Creating moments of fun or creativity, often become the catalyst for something deeper and richer and our talks easily spill over in discussions about God. Talk about art and you’ll have to admit that Jesus IS indeed an “artist extraordinaire!” What an opportunity to share with the kids that ‘we (they!) are indeed God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of life. — Eph 2:10 NJB Talk about sport and you can’t help but remember Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 4:8, talking about the fact that “physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come”.

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Sports camp fun

Many times, we measure success in how many children or people have raised their hands to receive Christ as their personal Saviour. But I am convinced that conversational words spoken during mealtimes, creative activities, gardening, working together, sport practices or over a simple cup of coffee or tea, can have great long-term impact as they are released and received in a natural environment without the pressure to make a decision on the spot. These are often the words one finds oneself pondering upon afterwards — at night or during difficult times when things do not make sense. The Holy Spirit knows how to retrieve such words spoken over us and will always remind us of God’s Word in order to make sure that it never returns to Him void. And sometimes it really does take years for seed sown in our lives to grow, develop, mature and bear fruit. 

I remember my Afrikaans teacher in Laerskool Jongspan in Carletonville, Mr Deon Naude. I recall how his love for Christ reflected through his words and actions in the classroom. Although I only came to know the Lord many years later, I know that God used my teacher to sow a seed in my heart.

I conclude with The Voice Translation of Paul’s wisdom in 1 Corinthians 3:6-8 — “My job was to plant the seed, and Apollos was called to water it. Any growth comes from God, so the ones who water and plant have nothing to brag about. God, who causes the growth, is the only One who matters. The one who plants is no greater than the one who waters; both will be rewarded based on their work.”

* Not their real names

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