Looking out the window of the bus, I was overwhelmed with what my eyes were drawn to. What seemed like a sea of children were walking towards us. They all had the same, sorrowful look in their eyes. We had not yet approached the clearing, yet they were walking towards us, anticipating our arrival. Later estimates would place the number of people to be around 50,000 that gathered that day. As the bus came to a stop, I quietly spoke a prayer. I recognized how ill-equipped I was. In my ignorance, my 500 balloons and two bottles of bubbles felt like good preparation. In reality, I had no concept of what this moment would be like. Anything that I had hoped to do, as we ministered to these children was now a foolish proof of my ignorance. I looked out the window again, and I could sense God gently pushed me.
Just love them. Like I do.
The words felt inadequate, that they somehow weren’t enough.
Lord, don’t you see how many of them there are? Don’t you see how ill-equipped I am? There is no way I can do this. Many of these children did not even speak English. I had no translator, no microphone, no music. This was not the kind of Children’s Ministry that Bible College had prepared me for.
I chose you for this.
The words hit me in a place of knowing. This moment. This moment was why I was halfway across the world, covered in bug spray, sunburned, and exhausted by the flipping of my days and nights. Taking a deep breath, I stepped off the bus. Immediately, I was greeted by smiles so large that I felt myself smiling in response.
As I stepped toward the smaller children, a circle formed around me as the children stepped back. Curious but cautious. My skin was a different color than they had ever seen. My hair, just as foreign. My colorful clothes, the sound of my voice. Everything about me felt like a warning to them, yet they longed to be close enough to me so that they could figure it out. Trying to introduce myself, they stared at me blankly, not understanding a word. Again praying, I looked to the Lord for direction. Suddenly, I remembered the small bottle of bubbles that were in my pocket. Taking them out, I slowly started to blow them into the air. Immediately, joy sprang forth as the children started to laugh, to squeal, to talk to each other, and point at the bubbles. I can still remember the looks on their faces, as their caution melted away and they drew closer, motioning for me to repeat this same amazing thing I had just done. The small bottle of bubbles was empty after about twenty minutes. But in that twenty minutes, I had formed around me a group of children so large that the others in my group had started to navigate towards me to make sure I was ok. At that moment, I wondered if perhaps the bubbles had been a mistake. One little girl started fiercely shouting something to the other children. I watched them jump back and was surprised to see she held in her hand a rudimentary can opener. She was using the circular blade as a weapon, her back towards me, pointed out towards them.
Surprised by the sound of my name, I looked to my right and saw a young boy.
“She is trying to protect you.”
I had not realized what was going on until that very second but was so moved that this little one was rising up to fight for me. Placing a gentle hand on her shoulder, I was able to look her in the eyes, and somehow explain to her that I was ok. As she softened, she lowered her head, eyes toward the ground.
“She wants you to bless her.” Barnabas, my new-found interpreter, explained to me that the children considered it an honor to be blessed, by having the tops of their heads touched. I looked down at this little one, fierce and strong and brave. I was overcome by how much she must have gone through in her little life. Placing both hands on her head, I spoke a prayer of blessing over her little life. She could not even understand the words I was speaking. Most of them could not. Barnabas explained to me that the children in this area spoke Swahili and another tribal language, but not English. They could not understand what I was saying, but watching me bless that little girl, they now understood why I had come. They had heard of missionaries, and they realized that I was here for the same reason. Almost immediately, I was overcome with children. Heads bowed, waiting for their blessing. These children didn’t want money. They didn’t want food. They wanted to be touched. I didn’t have money. I didn’t have food. But I did have the capacity to lay my hands on them and pray a blessing over them. So that’s what we did. My entire team, now at my side, joined me in blessing the children, speaking love over them as we made our way through the enormous crowd. As many as we could in the hours we had, we simply touched them and blessed them.
This experience was unlike anything I had ever witnessed in my entire ministry career, both locally and globally. Yet it revealed something so powerful.
The desire to be touched. We all have this desire to be touched, in an appropriate, healthy, and honoring way. A desire so strong that we seek it out in ways that are inappropriate, unhealthy, and dishonoring if we can’t get it.
We can see the way that Jesus recognizes this in the Scriptures.
While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him. Luke 5:12-14
Did you catch that? Jesus reached out His hand and touched the man. Leprosy was a disease that formed crusts and scabs on the skin, visible to others. In Jesus’ time, leprosy was looked upon as a spiritual condition, caused by sinful thoughts or actions. Lepers had to be separated from the rest of the community to keep others from being contaminated, both physically and spiritually. Leprosy was an isolating disease keeping people from their jobs, their places of worship, and their families. Touching a leper was forbidden by Jewish law. Yet how do we see Jesus respond?
He reached out His hand and touched the man. Before He healed him, He touched him. Jesus could have healed him with a word, a look, a thought. Instead, He reached out and touched a man that others were forbidden to touch. Jesus knows our need and meets us there. He recognized that the man’s need to be touched was just as important as his need to be healed.
And friend, it’s the same for us. Jesus recognizes our need to be touched. Maybe that comes in the form of the blessing in an appropriate, loving touch from someone else. Or perhaps it comes as Jesus meets that need by touching our hearts in a way that only we can understand. This week, my prayer is that you would recognize ways that Jesus has touched your life, your spirit, your heart. We know that He is the same today as He was yesterday and the same as He will be tomorrow. Through His Spirit, He can reach into those broken and hurting places to make them new. If only we bow our heads and allow Him to bless us with His touch.
Praying you feel Him this week, sis,
Things to ponder:
In what ways have you allowed yourself to be touched? Have they been healthy and appropriate? If not, have you ever made the connection between this desire and your actions? What are some ways you can meet this need for others in a safe and healthy way?
Things to pray:
As the Lord brings various parts of your heart to mind, what areas do you need Him to touch? Have you asked Him? Spend some time this week, head bowed, allowing Him to bless you in a way that only He can do. He is willing, sis.