We Didn’t Know

“Linda, did you see this?” the text read. Underneath my friend’s words was a link to a news’ item.

I clicked on the story. I hadn’t seen it, but the calmness of the afternoon shattered into a million pieces. A man, a deacon in a church, had been arrested for child molestation … something that had gone on for more than 10 years. The article (and all other articles about him) were careful to say that there is no indication that this had anything to do with the church itself, but rather within the man’s family.

I do not attend that church. But I do know the man … and the child.

She was one of our Sparkies.

I have been well-trained in the symptoms of child abuse. Not only have I been through the Awana training and our church’s training many times, but I also directed a preschool where we were required to go through even more intense training. The Sparks secretary (author of the text) has also worked in a school situation and has been well trained.

We didn’t know.

Each week the child and her dad would come a few minutes early. She bounced in the room as happy as you could expect a child to be. Meanwhile her father went into the next room (away from the kids) and would sit down at the piano and play a medley of Christian songs. We liked him doing that. The peppy background music made Sparks Club seem happy and welcoming.

We didn’t know.

The only characteristic that stood out to us was her ability to talk incessantly. But the things she talked about were happy, kid things … school, her puppy, what she got for her birthday. Her words weren’t dark or confusing or secretive. She was a talker and in our fairly well-disciplined group, that stood out. I would sit her between two leaders, but that didn’t quiet her. She would simply talk to the leaders, never pausing to take a breath.

Maybe we should have surmised that the talking was more that the overflow of an exuberant little girl, but we had no hint that we were dealing with more than a child who might someday be a talk show host or politician.

We didn’t know.

Sparks ended. The girl moved.

And now this startling revelation (which the father has admitted).

The truth is, we don’t know. Sometimes we understand that the kids in our club come from difficult situations, but often times we have no clue.

The Psalmist (84) writes that we are to be defenders of the defenseless. Other verses tell us to bear one another’s burdens, to weep with those who weep, to care for the orphans, to …. God’s commands continue throughout His Word.

But we don’t always know who’s defenseless, who has a burden, who is weeping inside, who is an orphan (this girl’s dad was visible, but he certainly wasn’t there for her). We must take our job as children ministry workers seriously, treating each child with respect and kindness and letting them know that we are safe people and they are in a safe place.

Because.

We don’t know.

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