“My mom died when I was 3 and a half” a nine-year old girl told me.
“Do you remember your mom?,” I asked.
“No, not really,” she replied.
Another child her age, a boy, chimed in and said, “My dad left when I was four.”
Twenty minutes later a fresh round of kids arrived, this time fifth graders. A boy said to me, “My dad died while fishing. He went into the water after his pole and drowned because stuff isn’t supposed to be in your lungs and if it gets in your lungs you die.”
Kids shared all sorts of things as I lead them in games at our church’s Vacation Bible School (VBS) last week. Our theme was “Sky” VBS, complete with games like ‘Jet Scream.’ By the end of the week I had led more than 50 games for over 100 kids.
At first, I was reluctant to be the game leader. I had never done so before, and I’ve never considered myself to be great with kids. But that’s where I was needed, so I took it on. By the third day my back and hips were killing me. It dawned on me the reason: I was playing so hard with the kids I needed a reminder that I had entered my forties.
The most rewarding part of the week was when the children shared their lives. In between sets of games for each round of kids, I would gather them in a circle sitting down. I ran through the Bible point and Bible story for that particular day. The Bible stories touched something in the kids that made them want to open up. Like the Roman centurion who asked Jesus to heal his paralytic servant, or Lazarus dead in the tomb for four days, some children had already faced major life challenges—dealing with death, for one.
I explained to the kids that Jesus performed grand miracles like healing a paralytic man in distress and resurrecting a dead man.
Then I asked, “What happens if Jesus doesn’t heal or answer your prayers in the way you want? Then what do you do?”
The kids said, “I feel sad.”
I learned some profound lessons from the children. One minute they would open up about some tragedy; the next they would be playing and running around. How quickly they bounce back to laughter, I thought.
Also, when I was honest and real with them, they were honest and real back. Some even tested the boundaries of how honest we humans should be.
Consider one little boy who said, “I kick and punch my brother, and on purpose.” Then he laughed.