Change (Mar/Apr 2023 Update)
Something I've been praying for a long time now: change. But not a ministry change. I know that things in ministry are at the point they need to be at in this moment. Big changes will start to come to the ministry soon (more about that in a future update), but even better changes have already come in the lives of the kids.
Leonel is one of my kids that's involved in everything we do: soccer, the kids praise team, Saturday Kids Church, Sunday Church, and our kids discipleship program. It was one kids discipleship night back in February where Leonel had this huge heart and mind change. During worship, Leonel just randomly burst into tears. He told me that he felt something, and that thing made him cry. "I just kept crying and crying, and I don't know why," he told me. I told him, "God's calling you back to Him. He's drawing you to Him." He asked me how I knew this, and I told him because that's happened to me before. God began to speak to Leonel through me, telling him that he's been going away from Him and wants him back. Leonel began to tell me that he knows that he hasn't been behaving the best that he can lately, and that he has been acting up with another friend of his in his class. He told me that he's trying to be better, but it's hard. I told him that if we do it alone, it's hard, but if we do it with Jesus, it's a whole lot easier. I felt God put on my heart to ask him if he really had asked Jesus to be the Lord of his life, for Jesus to really take the reigns and be the One who was in control (because that's what making Jesus your Lord means), and he told me no, that he hadn't really done it for real. It threw me off a bit because that was something I had prayed with him before, and to hear that kind of shocked me. I explained to him what making Jesus the Lord of his life really meant and that God gives us a new life through Jesus when we ask Him to forgive us of our sins. I asked him if he wanted to do it for real, and he said yes. But he said it so genuinely, like he really understood what all of it meant. Then I told him, "Ok, then you need to do that. Ask God to be the Lord of your life. Ask Him to help you to be better. Ask Him to be the One in charge and to help you do what you need to do." And he, all by himself, at 9 years old, began to just pour out his heart to God. He began to confess his sins (1 John 1:9) and ask Jesus to "take control of [his] body and of [his] mind," (his actual words). He completely surrendered to Jesus. Then I told him that part of that new life that God gives us, He gives us His Holy Spirit, that same spirit that was with Jesus when He walked this earth. I explained to him that it's through the power of the Holy Spirit that helps us overcome the chains of sin so that we can really be free from it and not have those desires to do it again. I asked him if he wanted to receive the Holy Spirit, and he said yes. I began to pray for him to be filled the Holy Spirit, and it was while I was praying that the atmosphere completely changed. When I finished praying, Leonel genuinely seemed like a new person. There was a change in his face like something had really changed inside of him. He really had been born again.
Since then, there has been a noticeable change in Leonel. He's looking to God like never before during worship time. There has been a noticeable change in his behavior, when before I would scold him several times for acting up, and now, that has gone down substantially. He's not a perfect kid by any means (nor is anyone for that matter), but you can really tell that he is actually trying. And God is so pleased with him (God's words that He gave to me to give to Leonel last Friday night during discipleship). Please keep Leonel in your prayers, that God continues to make Leonel even more like Him and that the desire and passion in Leonel's heart for Jesus continues to grow even more.
Miguel is one of my kids that has had his ups and downs. Recently, it hasn't just been ups and downs with him, but ups and downs at home, too. He told me in tears at Kids Discipleship one night that his dad wasn't spending much time with him anymore and that his dad wasn't home very often like he used to be, and he mentioned that he didn't feel that his dad loved him anymore. I told him that the only thing we can really do in these moments is 1) try and tell your dad how you feel, and 2) pray. We can do all the things in the world to help someone change, but God is the only one who can do the change in his dad. We prayed together, and then I told Miguel, "Now, you keep
praying. Don't stop. Keep asking God to change your dad, and He will." I told him about the parable of the persistent widow, how she went and asked for justice every day to that evil judge, and how that judge finally gave in to her demands. "If that evil judge gave the widow what she wanted," I told Miguel, "then how much more will God, our Heavenly Father, Who is perfect and wants to helps us, give us what we ask Him if we keep looking to Him?" He nodded, showing that he understood, and went to be with the rest of the kids.
About three weeks later, Miguel asked to speak to me during hangout time at Kids Discipleship, and he told me some amazing news. "You remember how I told you about my dad, and how you told me that I needed to keep praying and asking God to help him every day? Well, I did every day, and now my dad is home more!" I was so happy for him that I started to tear up along with him, and I told him, "You see? Never lose faith in God. God always answers us," to which he looked up at me with tears in his eyes and nodded his head.
Miguel's mom started going to church recently with us, and she's really been looking to God a whole lot these past few months. God has most definitely moved in her heart, and changes are starting to be made in her life. Things are still getting better at home for Miguel, but it's a work in progress. Please keep Miguel, his mom, his dad, and his little sister in your prayers. Pray that God moves even more in Miguel's dad's life and brings Miguel, his mom, and his little sister even closer to Him.
José has been struggling a lot lately with his behavior. He's been acting up a whole lot and has been copying some of the other not-so well-behaved kids that come to Saturday Kids Church. When he would come on Sundays, he would sit next to his friends (José and said friends come alone without their parents) and talk, goof off, and not pay attention the whole service when he used to be one of the only kids who actually paid attention. One day, I sad enough was enough and separated the misbehaving kids throughout the sanctuary with different families so that they would be quieter and possibly pay attention. After service, José walked over to me and asked me, "Dani, how do you know when God speaks to you?" This is something I've explained to the kids before, but I reassured him again that God speaks to everyone in several ways, one of them being that you can have "like a thought in your head (or heart, like with the prophet Nehemiah) like you thought it, but you know that it wasn't you. You'll have a sure peace about it, knowing that it's God, no doubt." He then told me that he heard God say to him during service, "Hey, pay attention. Listen," but he didn't listen to the service. He then said that during the altar call, he started to think about that again and had to ask me. He told me that he felt bad for not listening and that he should have. It was such a relief to me that, not only did José realize that he needed to change this part of him, but that God spoke to him. It was such a joyous moment for me to hear that one of my kids heard God speak to him. I told him "Now do you see why I separated you from your friends? It's not to be mean, but it's so that you actually learn in service and have moments with God just like you did." Please lift José in prayer, that God speaks to him even more and continues to work on his behavior and heart even more, bringing José back to God like he once used to be.
(slideshow of photos from Kids Day)
One more thing to mention: we had an amazing Kids Day on April 30th! Around 150 kids came out, heard the gospel, and received a gift through the Samaritan's Purse Discipleship Program! It was a way bigger turnout than we expected! Today at Saturday Kids Church, a few kids came back, along with some new ones and our regular ones, and we had a total of 38 kids! We went from only barely having 20 kids on Saturday to 38 kids. It's so amazing to be able to bless so many more kids now, not just with games and songs and food, but with the amazing gift of eternal life with Jesus. Around 25 kids came up today to ask Jesus to be the Lord of their lives and to be forgiven of their sins. God is doing such an amazing work at our Saturday Kids Church! Please pray that the kids keep coming back so that they can complete the discipleship program and be changed even more through Jesus.
On a personal note, thank you so much for making it to the end. This was a more longer update than normal, but I felt that it was really important to share the testimonies of the kids and what changes God is making in them. I want to announce that I will be doing a Charity Live Stream May 29th at 12pm pst to raise money for our Annual Kids Camp! There will be fun and wacky incentives for every $200 raised! If you can't show up but are interested in donating to camp, you can do so here! $50 sends a kid to camp this year! We're doing even bigger and better things for camp this year, and we can't wait to share with you that amazing testimonies that are going to come from camp!
(Johan, Alexis, and me)
"And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." - Philippians 1:6