Is there hope?

Im sitting here this morning praying for Sara.

Sara is 11 years old. There are a lot of reasons why Sara's life should be without hope.
She lives in a small shack with a dirt floor, a straw mattress and one blanket to share with her mom, and her 14 and 2 year old sisters.
She is sullen and downcast, too timid to make eye contact for long.
She has been forced by her mom to exchange sexual favors for food.
She recently started showing symptoms of hepatitis.
She has no money to go to the hospital, and has no birth certificate to apply for the free insurance.

Yet I believe there is hope for Sara.
Despite all her wounds and pain Sara comes every week to "Children of Jesus" the children's ministry of her local church, seeking relief and a short escape. The EGM-trained children's worker there knows her, loves her, knows her life circumstances and can help.

I dont know in what way God will lead His people in that church to act; I don't know how long Sara will live in the valley of the shadow of death or if she will climb out of her pain, her suffering, her poverty or her illness. But I know that there is a glorious future that is only being glimpsed now. Glimpsed when her church leader holds her hand, when she stays up all night searching for the best solution to Sara's medical needs, and when the women of the community gather to strategize a plan and to pray.

Psalm 6:2-4
Have mercy on me, LORD, for I am faint; heal me, LORD, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in deep anguish. How long, LORD, how long? Turn, LORD, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love.

*Names are always changed out of respect for those mentioned.

Where's the Beef?

What's the goal of children's ministry?

Most children's workers here in Latin America would not understand the question because it would be assumed that the entire point is to transmit information about the bible to a child so it will serve them later in life, or in order to gradually form "Christian character."

Recently I was assisting our Peruvian team in a training, teaching on the part of the lesson in which children actually RESPOND to the word of God. Suzanna asked why this is never included in her "teacher manuals." She showed me the one she was using. It included: a title, a bible passage, a narration of the passage, and a closing prayer. She explained that in an effort to be concise, people usually cut a lesson down to "the meat."

Unfortunately, the children present at that church service 1) will have no way to bring their real life into what they're hearing, 2) will have no way to bring what they learned mentally down into their heart and 3) will not be given an opportunity to respond to the word of God they have heard.

If your goal is to give data that will help a child in the future, by all means - cut it down and don't forget the beef.
But if your goal is to see real-life transformation for each child - now, while she is still a child - children's ministry cannot be about information.

EGM shows children's workers a way of ministering to children that:
Connects to real-life EXPERIENCE
Teaches the TRUTH of God's word
Uses DISCUSSION to connect real life to the truth, and
Culminates with a RESPONSE.

That's some tasty beef.

Relational Ministry

Education in Peru is really traditional. When we searched for a school for Eliana's first grade, we had very few expectations - we simply wanted a school that did not lecture at her for 6 straight hours and then send home 2 hours of homework.

Unfortunately, as the name implies, "Sunday School" is often the same. People are creatures of habit, so when a church member is given the responsibility to lead a group of children, they do what was done with them. What results? A Sunday school class-room where the teacher lectures, children listen, information about the Bible gets memorized, and efforts are made to diminish the inevitable boredom.

EGM shows children's workers a different way. A way that is evidenced in scripture and practiced by Jesus himself. A way that results not so much in the transmission of information, but in the transformation of a child's life.

It all starts with Relationship.

EGM shows children's workers in every country where we serve that the foundation of all ministry is relationship. 1)our relationship with God 2)our relationship with the child. If a child doesn't feel loved and accepted by his leader, nothing the leader does can break through to him. If a child doesn't respect and admire her leader, nothing the leader does can make her want to follow that example.

An EGM-trained children's worker was at church one Sunday and 8-year-old Sebastian didn't want to go in. He pouted, refused and defied his parents. Finally he entered, but only to dramatically throw his bible to the ground every 5-10 minutes. Every time, the children's worker picked it up and calmly returned it saying, "Here you go, buddy. You must have dropped this." And every time the leader squeezed his shoulder or showed him some affection and said, "Im so glad you're here today." Time after time this was repeated. By the end of the service, Sebastian was smiling, participating in class and hugging his leader goodbye.

What changed? Relational ministry teaches us that love breaks through to people. Not information. Not stories. Sebastian was given the opportunity that day to hear from the word of God, apply it to his life and respond to Him - because his leader thought that loving him was more important than anything else she was doing.

This idea is new to a lot of children's workers here in Peru and throughout South America. But every time we see that lightbulb go on in the eyes of a children's worker, we know that more children are about to experience Christ's love. More children are about to have the opportunity to really hear the word of God and be changed by it.


In a taxi last night the talk radio was discussing the Peruvian reality that more homes than not are fatherless. Divorce, abandonment, rape, poor working conditions... too many factors that lead to children never knowing the love of a daddy.

One EGM-trained children's worker tells of a poor mother and her two-year-old daughter, Mariela. When asked about Mariela's father, she averts eye contact and states, "She has no father." Rumors in the town spread that this mom prostituted herself in exchange for a small shack to live in, and 9 months later Mariela arrived.

Gratefully, this EGM-trained children's worker knows that what the mom said is not true. Mariela has a heavenly father who is longing to embrace, love and care for her.

So in His name, this children's worker is doing so. Mariela may never have a father who pays the bills, puts her to bed at night and buys her a teddy bear for Christmas; but she has something greater.

Thanks to this EGM-trained children's worker, she'll know Him. She'll be loved by Him. And her life will be different because of it.