As I was getting ready to move to another country, I found this letter that my youngest daughter wrote to me when she was seven years old. Now, she is 23. What wonderful memories of her childhood!
This letter brought back other memorable moments, like when she was four and said to me, “Jesus is really stretched, isn’t He? He streeeeeetches and streeeeeetches himself.” This was her fist profession of faith! When I asked her why Jesus was stretched, she told me that this is so because he is everywhere.
This was her way of understanding the idea of God’s presence in all of creation.
Girls and boys are a beautiful gift from God. They bring joy, strength, hope – and also big challenges (like how to explain the idea of Jesus always being in our midst to a little girl).
Infants come into our lives like guests that require our attention, care and affection. Like guests, they also leave us and continue on their journey after visiting us in our home.
My daughters no longer live with us, but we continue to talk about faith issues even now that they have gone.
Sometimes, I ask myself whether we would be able to continue these conversations about God now without having had the foundation of these great conversations during their childhood. What would our relationship be like today if they had not felt welcome and safe in our home?
The way that we treat those guests that we call descendants will, in good measure, determine what our relationship will be like with them when they go their own way.
The same thing happens at church. Children’s ministry at each congregation is an important way in which we welcome and bless the girls and boys that come as guests to our communities. The way in which we treat them can have a great effect on how they will relate to the church once they have grown and continue on their journey as adults. Unfortunately, there are many people who have fallen victim to indifference, rejection and even physical and emotional abuse in church contexts.
Children’s ministry has been the focus of this edition of the Courier in the interest of ensuring that our global church continues through the local congregations to be a place of refuge and hospitality for the girls and boys of society. Careful preparation of leaders and teachers, environments free of abuse, and the active participation of children in the life of the church are some of the aspects that this Courier invites us to take into account as we perform this important ministry.
It is my prayer that our congregations continue to be places that bring pleasant recollections to our girls and boys the world over, that they are places where the presence of Jesus is palpable to each guest that we receive.
—César García, MWC general secretary, works out of the general secretariat office in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada.
This article first appeared in Courier/Correo/Courrier April 2019.