June 5, 2012

Post-Kenya Notebook: What About These Kids?

This post is about stewarding what ya got. I thought I'd give you a heads up.

I'm not a big fan of the word 'crusade;' for obvious reasons. Dictionary.com spells out my reasoning in three definitions, each just as pleasant as the last.

1. Any of the military expeditions undertaken by the Christians of Europe in the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries for the recovery of the Holy Land from the Muslims.

2. Any war carried on under papal sanction.

3. Any vigorous, aggressive movement for the defense or advancement of an idea, cause, etc.

Whoever thought (thinks) that 'crusade' was (is) a brilliant, catchy name for anything Christian was (still is) sadly mistaken. Alas, this is what we called, following our fierce Kenyan leaders, the evening evangelistic meetings we participated in. I want to say there were nine in total, five in Naro Moru and four in another town. I can't remember the name.

Basically, every service in Kenya is, by American standards (which I'm not saying are right—they are just what I've been shaped by), long! Being an American in Kenya means you practice patience. You don't have an option, sorry.

This was the crusades. Typically, there would be a sea of kids awaiting our arrival in our white 15ish passenger vans. They would point, jumping up and down, as if on command, with utter thrill. Some dressed in what we would use for rags, maybe. If their clothes had words, more often than not they were English. If I found myself surrounded by a crowd of children and didn't know what to do, since they just stare at you waiting to be entertained, often I would point and say the words on their clothing.

Vanessa and I were usually the only ones who didn't have kids hanging all over our bodies, using our limbs as embodied playgrounds. I don't mind kids, but I'm not a big fan and having a hundred pat my head and caress my hand. Although, sometimes I did give in. How could I resist a girl who, with the most sincere look on her face, simply grabs my hand to hold, as if it's completely normal to hold a strange man's hand? You can't.

The crusades were always days in a row, so more and more kids would come each night. And each night we would be a little more tired than the night before.

By the third crusade I started noticing something strange; tons of kids (heaps and piles of them) and hardly any adults. Many of the pastors attempted to bring the few adults scattered along the margins in by asking them to come closer all the while needy, dirty kids were bountiful. Yet, we continued to address only the adults, catering the program and messages to them.

It got particularly noticeable and noticeably peculiar when a local preacher with a boomingly deep voice made an alter call of sorts as the final piece to a much overdue ending to one of the crusades. His words were convincing and when he asked people who wanted to know Jesus to raise their hand and come forward, without any hesitation, a number of kids did just that.

It was twilight now, so their arms started blending into the falling darkness. But I saw them. They were right there in front of the preacher listening intently. The team and I were standing with our backs to the stage waiting to pray for people. But I was upset. This guy overlooked the kids—a perfect negligence—with not a tinge of guilt in his voice, not even realizing his crime. He was focused only on the adults responding. I contemplated giving him a piece of my mind afterwards. I didn't. I talked to him the next night though. I didn't tell him what I thought the night before. I was out of line though I still thought I was right. Besides, he was a good man with a gracious heart and listening ear. I respected that.

For me, this situation came down to stewardship. What had God given us? Well, not much; a cheap PA system, failing generator, lopsided stage, a few adults and a multitude of children. It would be devastating to realize we wasted what we had, like the foolish servant of the master in Jesus' parables. Remember? He dug a hole.

Thankfully, redemption found us. That same night, I told Dan about my concern with the kids. He felt the same. And so a week later, at the second location, he told me that I was going to preach and it was going to be for the kids. All right! I was honored with a great privilege of preaching to the children about Samuel, when he heard the voice of the Lord and anointed David as king. This second story was so fitting. David was overlooked by his own family like the kids with the preacher.

I told them God doesn't overlook. In fact, he underlooks. The ones that get overlooked are seen by God because, well, he sees the heart, that which is underneath and hidden. If dirty, needy, street kids want to be set apart for God like Samuel, then, gosh darn it, no man should get in the way! So move!