What happens when an inner-city mission reaches out to hurting kids in some of the hardest places? Here’s what one children’s ministry leader has to share about lessons learned when working with unchurched, forgotten children.
“Shut up! I’m just a bad kid!” He screamed, beginning to cuss, as he hit the walls surrounding the “time out space.” I had to hold his arms down so that he wouldn’t hit me, meanwhile positioning my body in such a way to avoid his kicks as well. He had lashed out in anger and hit another child, resulting in me sitting with him as he continued the angry outburst.
The situation wasn’t new to me. In fact, it happened a couple times a week while I was his teacher this year. Although it was challenging to deal with, I couldn’t say I blamed him. You see, this little 5-year old doesn’t believe anyone loves him. He was separated from his mother for the first few years of his life. His father is in jail most of the time. He’d rather not see his father anyway since “he’s really mean.” Because he doesn’t have these normal attachments, his brain didn’t develop the way it was supposed to during the first few years of his life. He doesn’t seek comfort like most kids when they’re hurting. He’s often violent and irritable. He’s been told that he’s a bad kid, and now he believes that he’ll never change. He’s angry, and he doesn’t know how to verbalize his hurt and pain.
My initial reaction was to be angry and irritated whenever he would act out, run around the room, rip up classroom materials, stab me with a pencil, head butt and punch me. However, I started asking Jesus to give me His heart for this child. I asked Him to show me how He sees this little boy (as well as all the children I teach at school and disciple in the Section 8 outreach ministry I lead). Jesus revealed several things to me.
Love without reserve. Be willing to let your heart break. For a long time, I’ve had a tendency to hold back a little in my relationships with people, even children. I’m afraid of getting hurt so I try to not get too attached, especially if I’m not sure how long someone will be in my life. However, Jesus’ love demonstrates a different pattern. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:15, “I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.”
Kids who have been through a lot of trauma and have never truly experienced unconditional love probably won’t know how to love you. They may be affectionate toward you one moment and the next moment try to beat you up. Be willing to love them no matter what. Their situations will probably break your heart. You may get attached to them and then have to say goodbye. Don’t hold back because you’re afraid of getting hurt. Even though it may be painful, they’re worth every ounce of that pain.
Visit our blog next week for part two and learn about five ways to reach the hearts of hurting kids in your hometown.