Today I had a wonderful opportunity to minister and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
I was invited to lead a childrenís evangelistic meeting by Pastor Mario Dominguez with his mother Thelma. Not long ago Mario held an open-air crusade in a basketball court in the heart of San Miguel, Caledonia, which is in the center of Panamá City.
More than 40 people accepted Jesus at that campaign. As usual, many children came along with the adults. Now he is holding Saturday afternoon meetings for the kids and youth and will begin Sunday services for all in a couple weeks.
Mario was a student of mine in Bible School. Now he feels called to this street corner to minister to these people. I rejoiced in seeing the passion of his heart for these lost and needy souls, talking with me before we got there and while he ministered and prayed with them.
Let me try paint a picture of the setting. Seating was on a concrete ledge. We stood in front of the line of 20 or so kids/youth. At the end of the row was a cooler full of liquor. Every once in awhile the owner came by to take some more out for he and his buddies who were "sharing" their music with us (and half of Panamá City). (aside: I left with half a voice. I hope those children make good use of the other half I left there!)
Behind us was the local "mini-super" where people buy necessities. It had a lot of foot traffic. Then there were the taxis passing by on both streets that formed our corner. The custom is to honk to attract customers. It appeared that most of them were empty. All this scene was nestled within the run-down apartment buildings that characterize much of downtown Panamá City.
The first guy to meet me was 7 or 8 year old "Watson." He didnít get my joke about Sherlock Holmes. He was all over the place: verbally and literally. Pastor Mario told me that the first day there he began to sweep up, but Watson took the broom away and has done the cleaning for him ever since. As I was leaving, Watson told me that he didnít get any of the candy I handed out because he was handing out the tracts for me. OK, so I gave him more. Then he came back in two minutes and said he had given all that candy away too. So I asked him again and he insisted he had none, while jamming his hands deep into his pockets. Checking his pockets produced the "loot" so I left, grinning at this mischievous kid.
My audience was about half youth and half primary age children. All paid attention very well. Better than many "church" kids. That indicated to me a real hunger for something more in life. It reflected something I had read recently in our family devotional guide. The author said that Jesus told His disciples to "let" the children come to him (Mark 10:14) instead of "compel" them as He commanded to do with adults (Luke 14:23).
I wonder if the reason for that is because children are much more easily drawn to Jesus than adults. Thatís what I observed in the faces and attitudes of these kids. Sure they were a little hard and looked street tough. But it was clear that they all just wanted somebody to care about them. Thatís the message in words and actions we conveyed: Jesus and we love you.
Itís obvious their only prior religious background was a nominal introduction to the traditional church. A lot of them responded with answers about God, confessional, and evil but rarely did any of them talk about Jesus personally as Godís Son and our Savior.
I used several object lessons to keep the teaching very visual. A couple of the simple gospel "illusions" had them murmuring "howíd he do that?" After the Bible memory verse and the five finger gospel message (similar to the colored gospel glove) we rewarded the kids who could say it on their own. Of course with candy! What else do you motivate kids with? ;-D
On the candy, I asked them to please pick up the wrappers and throw it all away in a grocery sack-and they did! Itís a sad commentary that most people donít pick up their own litter. They say that it would be taking away the job of the sanitation ladies (a government welfare-type program).
The response in prayer at the end was terrific. As is custom, they all prayed out loud with me, but I stressed what counts most is what they mean in their hearts to the Lord. After praying, I asked "where is Jesus right now?" As always, most said, "in heaven." But one little girl piped up "in my heart!" I assured them that Jesus is a gentleman and if they invited Him to come in, then He is in. And the angels in heaven are having a party. So we had a little clapping party of our own to close the meeting.
Thanks for praying with me for Pastor Mario Dominguez, his mother Thelma, and the kids/youth of San Miguel, Caledonia. We trust God will raise up His Church in that community.
Yours for Them,
Kirk Antonio Jones
Saturday, April 15, 2000