by Dr. Lorie Lee
Let me be transparent. When I heard that I was meeting a little eight-year old girl, named Audrey Mae, I immediately had a stereotype in my mind. She would be super cute, have perfectly straight hair with perhaps a ribbon or bow in it and very southern. I am originally from the south and it is very common for little girls to have two names—Jeri Sue, Maddie Grace, Sue Ellen, Katie Beth, John David (I know one of all of these), and yes, me too—I was Lorie Beth before I married.
When I meet Audrey Mae, she is super cute with a glittery little top hat barrette, dark straight hair and…is…Filipino.
She is unbelievably cute, isn’t she? Audrey Mae lives in the city Payatas, on the island of Luzon, in the Philippines. That is a mouthful. The Philippines is comprised of 7,641 islands but only approximately 2,000 are inhabited. Audrey Mae lives with her grandmother, little brother, mom, and dad (who are teenagers). Her house is small with a tin roof and dirt floors. She is dressed in her school uniform and appears to be pristine. Just looking at her, you would never know that she lives in abject poverty. But, she does.
What I learned from this little girl shook me to the core and this is how she impacted my thinking about Kidmin.
Calling Is Core
Calling is the core of who we are. Working for Compassion International, I knew that children, no matter where they live (in poverty or in plenty), are one of the most vulnerable groups of people. Each child needs to feel loved, known, and protected. Children in poverty are especially susceptible because it has a lingering affect on the soul of a child. Poverty whispers to a young, impressionable mind, “You are worthless, you will never become anything good, and there is no hope.” Audrey Mae literally lives beside a trash dump and the smell is enough to make you nauseated. She doesn’t seem to even notice the stench or the trash around; but sometimes she hears the whispers in her mind and heart that she is trash. Thankfully, she knows this is a lie. Her local church and Compassion project workers remind her on a daily basis that she is a child of the most High God. She has worth because He uniquely created her and He has a special plan for her life.
I began to think about the children God has entrusted me with. I have to remember that each child that I come in contact with on a daily basis comes from either a positive or negative family situation. These children may not live beside a trash dump, but inside their homes they may experience things that will whisper the same types of lies to them. As a Kidmin leader, I can speak God’s truth to them and remind them who they are in Christ. Every moment with these precious children count. We are battling the whispers of the great deceiver.
Community Is Critical
Audrey Mae helps provide for her family by scavenging through the dump to find recyclables and discarded food to sell. Audrey Mae wakes up early, around 4 AM, to meet the local dump trucks disposing of the “new” trash into the landfill. Audrey and her family play a part in finding the best “trash” so they can sell in order to buy food and necessities. It is hot, noisy, smelly work but very few other jobs exist. Ok, I need to stop right here. This precious little girl gets up at 4 AM (before school) to help dig through trash to help her family. This is gut- wrenching, but you would never know this from her demeanor. Audrey Mae is proud to help her family because she knows that community is critical for survival.
Audrey Mae has an important role in her family; she has a job that helps her family survive. If every member of the family doesn’t contribute, survival is compromised. I am reminded that, as a Kidmin leader, your role is critical as it contributes to long-term spiritual survival of these kiddos.
It is important that parents have ownership in their child’s spiritual growth. As you know, they should be the primary disciple-makers in their home. As a Kidmin leader, I know this is an unwritten part of your job description too. It was for me. Parents need resources and coaches to help them understand that we give children too little credit. They are smart, capable and want to have ownership in their spirituality and serving. It is our job to help parents unlock the incredible potential for their children to lead in their family, community, and church. Your role is to provide coaching and resources to help parents see the potential their children have in the spiritual formation of the family: in prayer, outreach, and Bible study.
Caring for Others Is a Command
Lastly, Audrey Mae reminded me that caring for others is a command not an option. Audrey Mae would like to be a doctor and help the sick people in her village. She is only eight years old but knows that she can play a role in caring for others both now and in the future. Helping others is at the core of what Audrey Mae thinks about, even as an eight-year-old.
When we help others, we are showing they are worth being loved. The children you are entrusted to care for may not come from physically impoverished homes, but the consequences of spiritual poverty in the home could be great nonetheless. Your loving actions toward the children you serve are powerful illustrations of God’s love for them—especially those living in dark circumstances. Audrey Mae lives in the Philippines. Physically she has not been entrusted to your care. But there are many “Audrey Maes” or “John Davids” around the world who need care, and they can be a part of your Kidmin community through sponsorship with Compassion International. Our loving actions toward these children are equally powerful to demonstrate God’s love for them and foster a missional mindset in our children’s ministry.
As Kidmin leaders, I am reminded that the impact we have on children is eternal. Children can step into an incredible role in the kingdom of God through embracing their calling, creating community, and caring for others.
Take your church on a walk of discipleship. Compassion’s Step Into My Shoes Philippines experience is designed to build spiritual formation and help families put faith into action. To learn more, download your FREE Leader’s Guide now.
Dr. Lorie Lee is passionate about raising up a generation of missional kids that will have lasting faith and change the world for good. She has worked with children for over 20 years, as both an educator and children and youth ministry leader. She currently works at Compassion International and loves sharing hands-on ways to engage families in God’s mission around the world.