The Gift of Children
Christmas being just around the corner, our thoughts of gifts grow stronger. Gifts we should give, and gifts we would like to receive.
We know that the greatest gift ever given and ever received is the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. We should delight in His salvation and take every opportunity to share it with others. But how?
During the recent EMF field conference we treasured the fellowship with other missionaries. Among many encouraging conversations, the one with José Rodrigues stuck in our minds. José, who has been a missionary and pastor in Portugal for nearly 40 years, said that he found the best way to evangelise people is to organize family events. Let’s have a look at a few EMF-supported churches to see how children are treasured and taught there.
“Children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward.” Psalm 127:3
We delight in gifts; they bring joy into our lives. Children are no exception. When a baby is born, all the family rejoice and give thanks to God for His blessing. As they grow they bring light into our lives and in church they put a smile on our faces.
I asked Anna Borzási and Napsugár Kelemen, EMF missionaries in Romania, about the joys of children’s ministry. Anna said the greatest privilege is to teach them the Word of God and see it bear fruit in their lives. But the results are not always immediate. Napsugár was called to ministry among children even before she had family of her own. She was greatly influenced by her godly mother, Anna, who taught children for many decades. Anna is now 76, and it is not uncommon for middle aged people to thank her for her ministry all those years ago. They share how the memory verses and children’s songs come back to them, and tell how God uses the teachings received long ago to strengthen them in times of trouble or bring them back to the flock when they have fallen away. What a great testimony to the truth in Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
The Responsibility, the Challenge and the Promise
“Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” Luke 18:16
Gifts come with responsibilities too. Bringing up children and teaching them are two of the greatest responsibilities ever. As Sunday school teachers, it is a great challenge for us to present the gospel through clear and doctrinally-sound teaching in an age-appropriate way. Anna Borzási testifies that it is best to teach small children with simple statements, lots of visuals and hands-on activities, while older children can be invited to ask questions and think for themselves.
Let us be honest and admit that children do come with a set of great challenges, too! They can be noisy and naughty; they can be annoying and even disrupt services. This must have been why the disciples wanted to turn them away from their Master. How differently Jesus saw that most probably unruly, dusty, and smelly bunch of kids! He saw them as belonging in the Kingdom of God!
THE WORK-IN THE FAMILY AND THE CHURCH
“You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Deuteronomy 6:7
That command in Deuteronomy means hard work. When they are young this is constant. Day and night. In the home and outside. They have more energy in an hour than we have in a day, and their questions are unceasing. We teach our children and grandchildren with our words and our example, and in the process they teach us patience and insight; we are changed and blessed.
In our church we always put the emphasis on Bible teaching. We make sure that teachers are well-prepared, that materials are of good quality and that songs are Scripture-filled. However, we also want to make sure children have fun outside lessons too. A “baby room” full of toys, a bouncy castle, table tennis, and table football are all part of our activities that eventually make children bring their parents to church.
Children of those in ministry
What about parents in ministry? Are our own children a hindrance or a help in our ministry?
Yes, when they were small they took up a lot of my time and some of Istvan’s too, even when it was inconvenient. But they also helped us connect with families, understand the struggles of parents, and advise them from experience. Not to mention that our children make us understand how God may see us as His children, and how frustrated he must be with our stubborn ways. Ultimately,our children will be our greatest critics, and they will be the first to point out any discrepancies between what we preach and what we live out.
Napsugár joins me in praising her children. Not only do they bring their friends to church, but as they are growing up, they are a great help in the Sunday School, take photos at church events, play music at services, and even join her in prayer before a kids’ session. Anna’s children play music, help with technology, and befriend teenagers.
The church needs all the generations. We learn from each other and guide each other.
Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their fathers. Proverbs 17:6
Written by Tunde Salanki, married to Istvan, mother of four, EMF missionary in London