Raise your hand if your parents taught you never to talk to strangers. I know parents intend to keep us safe but sometimes I wonder what kind of adults it made us? In protecting us from the bad, did they also teach us to ignore the good?
I grew up SHY. I was rarely, if ever, the first to talk to anyone. Imagine my reluctance when I become a believer and realized that we are called to talk to strangers, go to new places, step out of our comfort zone and be the ones to REACH OUT. Now, “never talk to strangers” seems counterproductive. As a kid, “never talk to strangers” was to keep my photograph off of the milk carton but these days I ask, “What opportunities am I MISSING?”
Even though I’m learning to reach out more, it is STILL a difficult principal to practice. There is an aggressive internal argument every time the opportunity presents itself! And nothing presents you with more opportunities to have that argument like going to a foreign country on a mission trip.
In foreign lands, EVERYBODY and everything is strange (no offense strangers!). Every sight, sound, smell and interaction is out of place. In Haiti…nothing was familiar. Street signs were unreadable. The smell of burning trash filled the city air. The language was beautiful but I couldn’t understand a thing. The weather was sticky and the people…well…they looked at US like WE were the strangers! Some people were glad to see us because we represented opportunity. Some people were not so glad to see us because we represented exploitation. Some were neutral. And some just didn’t care. Like the kids. The first ones to break the barrier of awkwardness were always the kids. I guess their moms didn’t teach them NOT to talk to strangers. Lol
Some hovered with a leery eye nearby while others waltzed right up to us with a smile and took our hand. “My missionary,” they said with their eyes as they beamed up at us. Soon, we were surrounded by an army of tiny people, all fighting to be near us, touching us, playing with our hair, begging to be held and soaking up as much attention as they could (which seems endless)!
Those kids! In minutes, strangers they were NO MORE: they became family, loved ones, little sisters and brothers and it baffles you how much you could love someone you just met. These little strangers quickly became…familiar. I’ll never forget those brown innocent eyes peering into mine as they reached up for my hand and take hold of my heart. I was powerless to resist them!
It dawns on me that this is how God feels about us. In Jesus we are innocent and we are children of God. How irresistible are we to Him?! It is no wonder Jesus pointed to the kids and said the Kingdom of God was like these (Matt 18:3, Luke 18:16). They cross all language and cultural barriers and demonstrate the simplicity of faith by simply wanting to be near you. They are unconditional and reckless in their ability to love and trust and they break down everything negative with their grateful smiles and belly laughs.
The kids were the first to reach out unabashed and deem the strange new people “safe.” So it should have come to no surprise when after giving an entire church an invitation to prayer, the kids came up first. But it did surprise me. One little boy had courage like I’ve never seen before. After asking if anyone wanted prayer, he bravely stood up and asked for healing because he was “leaking.” The entire crowd of kids surrounding him laughed and snickered but did he waiver? NO! He kept his eyes forward, stood up a little taller and proceeded to ask for prayer. And God touched Him because I believe God just couldn’t resist a faith like that!
Even more surprising to me was when we asked children what we could pray for them. The majority smiled confidently and said, “Jezi!” (JESUS!). Through the interpreter we learned they wanted to know Jesus and many, who already knew Him, wanted more of Him.
—–I just need to pause for a second here and point out that my mouth was usually GAPPING open at these requests. These are kids. KIDS! Aren’t they supposed to be less wise than adults? They could have asked for anything…things, food, answers to provision and needs that we knew they needed. But no…they asked for the ONE THING that is eternal and everlasting. Now THAT’S WISDOM!!!! It was very humbling to realize these little 7 and 8 year olds seemed to see more and know more about what mattered than the adults (including me)!
Oh, to be like these! I prayed with more kids in Haiti to meet and know Jesus than adults. These were the most amazing and miraculous moments to me: even next to the actual miracles we witnessed. Nothing brought me more joy or fulfillment than praying with children to know God.
Once the children created the bridge, the adults followed and we were able to minister to the needs of many. I soon become keenly aware of the need to pay attention to the “strangers” around me and see them as opportunities to bless them or learn from them. And the more my eyes were opened, the more opportunities seemed to appear! What would I have missed if the kids didn’t show me the way?! Thanks to the children of Haiti, I see new opportunities in strange places with strange people in a whole new light. I still have that internal battle to be the first to reach out…but it’s getting easier and easier each time I do it.
Strangers are hidden opportunities for great encounters, healings, new relationships and a chance to expand the Kingdom. All I know is this: “the Kingdom of God is likened unto these [children]” and I want to be like “these!” Thank you to all the beautiful young ones of Haiti for helping this believer love like a child!