Every week, I have the opportunity to teach a small group of girls about their worth in Christ. When the world tells them that they are too young to fully understand what it means to be a friend of Jesus, these sweet little ones show love in a more beautiful way than anyone I know on this Earth.
In my group of GEMS (Girls Everywhere Meeting the Savior) girls this year, we have been learning about love: how to love and be loved by God, how to love others, and how to love ourselves. I have such a diverse group of girls, not just in race and body type, but also in personality. My girls are from all over the world, and their hearts reflect a multitude of different backgrounds, upbringings, and cultures. I have enjoyed watching them interact with one another and watching them grow closer together.
Unfortunately, because of all that was going on in my personal life this year (ie, planning a wedding, working a full-time job, navigating a new apartment, finding an efficient way to commute to work), it was honestly a struggle for me to make it to GEMS each Monday. On my way to the church, while running at least ten minutes late, I would pray that God would empower me with His strength, because I truly did not have strength on my own for the fifteen energetic girls that wanted nothing more but to tell me every intricate detail of their days. I would drive into a parking spot, take a deep breath, and open my door, unsure of what would happen next.
Most weeks, the girls have so much energy and joy that they cannot sit still. While I try teaching them about respecting one another by listening to one another, they talk over me and make side conversations with other girls. Despite me asking if they understand what I require of them, and they nod, not even a minute later, they begin another side conversation with someone else.
Occasionally, their attention span cannot last the full ninety minutes we meet. We work through a book, and when I explain the Bible story to them, some of them whine, “This is boring! When can we play a game?” Then, when I play a game with them, a clique of girls fold their arms and sit in the corner. “I don’t want to play a game,” they complain, “I just want to sit by myself.”
Sometimes, I wonder if the girls are really learning, since they are not responding in the way that I expect. Other times, God surprises me, and I have no choice but to thank Him for His good work.
Last week represented the growth that God has developed in the group throughout the year. We had a new girl show up, and, knowing my group had been meeting since September, I did not know how the other girls would handle a new person. I was afraid of what would come out of their mouths, or even if she would be ignored.
Before we had snack, I had the girls line up against the wall. I told them that we had a new girl, and I instructed the girls to each introduce themselves. “We have been together for almost a whole year!” I explained after the final girl introduced herself. “This girl seems very nice, but she doesn’t know anyone here. You are all friends now, but she doesn’t have any friends yet. Can you please include her in your games? Can you please make her feel like she is welcome?”
The sweet little girls giggled, looked at each other, and screamed: “WELCOME!” As if on cue, they all walked up to the girl and gave her a group hug! Then, as I escorted the girls to get snack, one of the girls told the new girl that she could sit with her. The new girl was so welcome into the group that she didn’t want to leave when her mother picked her up! What a blessing.
We played some games, but we always close the night with prayer. Obviously, to protect their privacy, I won’t share their specific prayer requests, but I must say that they were real. They were not petty requests that we would expect of children. They were genuine prayers for their families and their schoolwork. I asked if a girl would be willing to pray for everyone. A girl who is very knowledgeable in the Bible but had never prayed in the group before expressed interest. I encouraged her to step out of her comfort zone and pray as she felt led. She remembered everyone’s prayer requests and spoke with such confidence. Since I met her, God has transformed this girl from isolated and insecure to cheerful and sociable. Now, to see her use her cheer and confidence to encourage others was such a blessing. To make it even better, one of the girls who had a prayer request went up to the person who prayed and thanked her for praying for her situation.
As I mentioned in my last post, our church had a women’s conference this weekend. We learned that we can only fully be satisfied in God’s love. We learned that we must filter everything that happens to us through the lens of the truth that God loves us. We learned to encourage one another and fight alongside one another as we face trials and temptations in this life.
After what I saw in my group last week, I am fully convinced that God can teach any child at any age about His incomparable, unfailing love. At age seven (on average), these kids have already begun to understand what it means to fight with one another instead of against one another. These kids have already begun to understand how much God loves them, and how true beauty comes from the heart (thus, that they are extremely beautiful!). These kids have already begun their journey of trusting Christ as their best friend. And I am honored to be a part of it.