"Let the little children come to me"

(by Jess)

It is a short Bible story that appears in three Gospels, and here is my summary: Adults think that Jesus shouldn't be bothered with kids during his tour of public ministry. But when they try to keep the kids away from him, Jesus becomes angry and says: "Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children."

We read this passage during Tuesday night Bible study recently, and it was a needed reminder to me that God values me and all people, not because of how smart, good, useful, productive or mature we are. Kids are not known for leading the human race in those characteristics.

God loves kids as they are and thinks they are important enough to spend time with them and bless them. One Bible commentary says this about the end of this story in Mark 10:16, "Jesus' loving action vividly illustrated that His blessing is freely given to those who receive it trustingly. The intensive compound verb "blessed" (kateulogei, imperf., occurring only here in the New Testament) emphasizes the warmhearted fervor with which Jesus blessed each child who came to Him."

So Jesus didn't just tolerate the kids; he wholeheartedly, gladly, intentionally blessed each child.

This past year, God has given Matt and I an opportunity to see just how much he loves his kids in Burundi. Because nearly all of our work here has revolved around kids in some way (it just played out that way), we have started to notice how much He is intervening on their behalf to bless them, care for them and remind us all that they are important.

Of course the main project that brought us to Kibuye was the Pediatric Ward at the hospital. When we arrived, I was surprised to see that it was the largest building on the campus, more than twice the size of the next biggest ward. Why? Because almost half of Burundi's population is under the age of 15. And because kids are important to God.

The playground at the Peds ward was completed this week!

Another construction project that Matt immensely enjoyed was the preschool and kindergarten for the local primary school. I loved watching the design evolve to take into account the future users - very short learners! Hence the windows arranged at various heights, the benches built into windows, and the minimal use of steps. We loved seeing kids of all ages who were magnetically drawn to it and intuitively explored it. Hopefully it serves them and their teachers well! (You can see some of the new pre-school students in Jess's blogpost.) Why spend time creating such a beautiful space? Because kids are important to God.

All smiles and giggles!

My roles in Kibuye have gravitated toward serving kids, too. I've already blogged about boiling lots of eggs each week for kids who are supported by the malnutrition program at the hospital. But I also get to jump in on the occasional sickle cell clinic to color with kids. Because playtime is important, too.

Elise and I joined the med students and interns to color with about 50 kids last week. 

I've had fun connecting with the Serge kids, too. I start my weekdays with "read-to-self" time with elementary boys at KHA, and I look forward to spending time with the older girls during our weekly crochet club. 

Our current crochet project is to create a few of these octopuses to give to preemies at the hospital. Apparently the squishy arms remind babies of the umbilical cord and comfort them.

Honestly, I'm not a exactly a "kid-person" who just can't get enough of them, and yet, God is opening my eyes to see what he sees: not just their future potential, but their present value and God's image in them that is worth celebrating, serving and just plain getting to know. I am glad that this Kibuye season turned into a reminder for us of how important these little ones are to Him.

And maybe, keeping these kids in view will make me a little more like them, more ready to notice and receive God's kingdom and the unmerited blessing Jesus offers.

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