How does transformation of heart and life happen? How are people made new? Through the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit, faith launches people on the new journey following Jesus Christ. But Danielle and Rachel's stories show that God most often uses the faithful obedience of the community of believers.
The kingdom of God belongs to such as these
Danielle was a painfully shy ten-year-old girl. If you tried to hug her, she would shrink away and cringe. Her mom was a recovering heroin addict, and Danielle had been abused and was scared of men. The first three months I could not get Danielle to talk or even look at me, so I tried to just get her to give me a high five, which she agreed to most of the time. When she attended her first vacation Bible school, she was in my class. I asked, "How many do not feel like you fit in or feel you are not loved at school or home?" Three children raised their hands, including Danielle. I explained that I would teach them about the One who loved them dearly. Over the next year my wife and I ministered to these three. We spent a lot of time with them, teaching them about Christ's love and standing with them through their trials.
The next year at VBS, I asked if any child wanted to receive Jesus as Savior and Lord. Danielle gave her life to Christ. The following week Danielle's mom and boyfriend gave their lives to Christ. Danielle became totally different and embodies 2 Corinthians 5:17: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" She smiles with eyes lit, greets people with a joyful heart, has friends, and attends church every week.
Mark Benedict, pastor at Peace River Wesleyan Church, Port Charlotte, Fla.
Child invites others to be Made New
We don't always get to hear whether our ministry is making an impact. I remember one teaching unit entitled "Becoming the super U God created you to be!" I was excited to share this teaching because it held several take-home elements involving prayer time, Bible reading, application, and follow-up. Many kids were excited and engaged. One Sunday, several kids wanted to share how God was helping them "become the super U He created them to be." Rachel, a second grader, stood up and told how she had to write a school paper that described what she wanted to be when she grew up. Rachel very seriously declared that she wanted to be the "Super U that God created her to be."
She planned to work at Walmart so she had money to buy food and clothes for the homeless, and she would read to old people who were alone. Rachel's mom showed me her paper. As I read this child's sincere love for God and wanting to be all she could for him, I was humbled by my selfish plans for my life. Imagine my surprise when I was introduced to Rachel's teacher, who came to church because Rachel invited her. How amazing that God was able to use Rachel's faith in such a dramatic way! Rachel was being "made new" and inviting others to be as well.
Pastor Nancy Buckingham, children's pastor at Greeley Wesleyan Church, Greeley, Colo.