Tuesday, June 9, 2009


How precious is the joy of a six year old.

I am the intern at Epworth Children’s Home this summer, and I have the privilege of sharing in the often startling joy of displaced children. I say displaced because, for some reason or another, the children at this home are no longer living with their families. Some of the children here are now in the hands of the Department of Social Services, awaiting a foster placement or the age of 18. Other children only know Epworth as their temporary home, longing for the day when they can return to their families. In any case, around eighty children call Epworth their home; and I am blessed to share in their experience this summer.

While some may agree that I am indeed very blessed, others may question my sanity. After all, not everyone would call an outing with nine 4-6 year old boys a dream come true, especially when it involves gobs of candy, go-carts, bumper boats, and an arcade. While such an outing is not usually listed in the stereotypical job description of a “Duke Divinity Intern”, I was elated to find that even it can fit under the umbrella of ministry. In fact (somewhat to my surprise), my presence at the Fun Park did truly minister to the boys' young spirits; and as a result, the exhilarating outing deepened my understanding of ministry.

It all started with the joy of a six year old. Though the boys had already almost killed each other on the junior go-carts and soaked me with water on the bumper boats, they could think of nothing else than the intimidating Drop Zone that beckoned them from the center of the park. Those children who dare to ride the Drop Zone must be brave, for it is a ride that plunges one upward, only to let one free fall just enough for another upward plunge. The boys, however, were not afraid. And as they flew upward and fell downward, all of the adults watched from the bottom, amused by the looks of gleeful terror plastered on the boys' faces. And here is where my learning began, for at the close of the ride one particular child could not contain his excitement. “That was awesome!” was all I could hear from him for a solid two minutes, as he (literally) bounced from adult to adult savoring the smiles and laughter that his glee produced. As I watched him embrace the adult attention, I started to suspect that his excitement was more than a rush of adrenaline. While I am absolutely positive that the free falls of the Drop Zone filled him with energy and excitement, there was more to his joy than just exhilaration. Rather, he was surrounded by grown-ups who cared that he was happy. He knew, as we smiled and laughed at his uncontainable joy, that we cared. Someone else-a grown-up even!-was happy simply because he was happy. And that, for this displaced child, caused his cup to overflow.

How transparent is human nature in children! Aren’t we all like that, in some way or another? Don’t we all ache for love, to know that someone cares enough to rejoice when we are joyful? Don't we all especially long to know that our heavenly Father smiles on us simply because we are His? And so, I learned that though ministry with children may have (in my book) some incredible “benefits” (ahem, go-carts and free pizza), all types of ministry involve an endeavor to address the same need – the need to know and experience the exhilarating love of Christ.

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