I hated to disappoint this little boy. But the only way around it would be to lie to him. And in so doing, I would rob him of the opportunity to grow in compassion. But I knew it was going to suck.

One of the ways we do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God in our kids program is to do what we call a “Service Sunday”. As part of our service, we educate the kids about the people we are serving and why. Awhile back, we assembled gift bags for the African Community Center. As I began to describe to the kids what a “refugee” is, I could see them fiddling with their carpet squares, making faces at the kids across the room, and just generally not paying attention. I needed a different approach. One of the older kids had a backpack on his lap, so I picked it up and said, “Ok, imagine there is a war in our country and your family decides that it is not safe to stay in the U.S. anymore. One of the grown-ups hands you this backpack and says, ‘Everything you want to take has to fit in here.’ What would you take?”

One of the older kids raised her hand and said, “I would take my phone.” “Ok,” I said, “where will you plug it in? You may be traveling, maybe walking a long distance through a desert. Will your phone be useful or fun if it isn’t charged?” She shook her head. Other kids spoke up, saying things like, “ I would take food, I would take water. I would take my favorite book,” and on they went. Eventually, a small boy said, “I would take my dog, Daisy.” This is where the suck comes in. “Hmm, ok, but what if, to get to a safe place, you have to take a boat that only has enough room for people? You would have to leave Daisy behind.” His little eyes got big. The room was quiet. They were getting it.

“So,” I said, “we are fortunate our country is not at war. But for some kids, kids just like you, their countries are not safe. They have to leave their homes, and friends, and sometimes even family members. And often their dogs, like Daisy. Can you imagine what that is like for them? Well, some of these kids end up in Denver at the African Community Center. We have the privilege to welcome them. Maybe, if a little boy who had to leave his dog behind has a stuffed animal to cuddle, he might feel less sad.” The kids nodded soberly and went to work filling the bags with new pajamas, stuffed animals and candy.

If our kids go out into the world remembering the backpack dilemma, and ask themselves, “what does it mean for me to do justice? to love kindness? to walk humbly with God?” then Highlands Church will have done its job well.

Please join us on September 8th as we celebrate 10 years of loving and leading kids into being Micah 6:8 humans.