A precious reminder of God’s love.
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“See how very much our Father loves us, for He calls us His children, and that is what we are!”
1 John 3:1 New Living Translation
I got off the bus in Tanzania and within a few yards I felt a tiny hand take mine. I looked down. A little boy grinned up at me. I was visiting a Compassion project at a Lutheran church near Arusha with 30 other sponsors/employees. We were there to play with the children, see the programs and help plant trees. At least 100 children were there, crowding around to meet us. In the midst of all the commotion, this little boy found me. Many of the older children knew some English, but the boy was too young. One of those children told me his name was Denis (pronounced dah-NEESE in Swahili.) He was four years old and in the Child Survival Program at the project.
We entered the church for a program and he stayed with me the whole time. He followed me when I went to help plant trees, never letting go of my hand until I needed to water the plants. I played volleyball with some older girls, and Denis waited patiently behind me until I was through, again taking my hand. When we went to visit some children’s homes, he wasn’t allowed to join me. But as soon as I returned he came up behind me and once again took my hand. He never said anything to me until later in the day, when he spoke a few words in Swahili I didn’t understand and raised his arms for me to pick him up. I held him until it was time for our group to leave the project. I found a translator who told Denis we needed to leave, I said my goodbyes, and he followed the bus down the driveway until I was out of sight. He looked sad, but never cried.
I’ve thought about him and prayed for him every day since then. I have no idea why he picked me out of all the others. Or why he never got bored and went on to something or someone else. Or what caused him to trust me to hold him at the end of the day.
But two thoughts have stayed with me:
This is what God’s love is really like. God chose us and holds our hand, never letting go until we do, yet always remaining by our side waiting for us to return to Him. He never gets bored or impatient, never moves on to something else and never leaves us behind. He loves us even though we know very little about Him.
Jesus wants our love. Children don’t have an agenda, they just want love. When Jesus said let the children come to me, I think He was upset with the disciples not only because they denied the children access to Him, but also because He dealt with so many adults who wanted something from Him, not just to BE WITH Him. The children only wanted to sit in His lap, play or get hugs. They knew real love when they saw it. Jesus craved that true affection from those children, as He does from us.
“We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.”
1 John 4:16 New Living Translation
Lord, thanks for the reminder of how much and how deeply you love me. Help me to always know love when I see it, as I saw your love for me in Denis, and help me to give it as you give—freely and abundantly. Amen.
Text and photo copyright Desiree Bustamante