As you can tell I have a soft spot in my heart for kids. I have three myself, I babysit two, I tend to have all the neighborhood kids in our house everyday, not to mention the hundreds we work with in schools. Kids are amazing so it breaks my heart to know that innocent children are suffering everyday. They are going hungry, they are being neglected, they are being abused. Meeting Angel has forever changed my life and I will always hold the times I have with him close to my heart. If you are reading this and have not yet read the first blog in this series called “introducing an angel to God for the first time” I would encourage you to go read it first so you know why today was so special! Just a birthday right? For a little boy who had just went through at least three months of horrific abuse, had just learned about God, went to church for the first time and was turning six year old, today was actually his FIRST birthday party. We were not sure if his family would come but they did and his Great Grandmother told me that Angel has never been excited about his birthdays and that she has never seen him so excited.
Here in Murfreesboro we all woke up to lots of snow! For some states maybe it wouldln’t be a lot of snow, but for us it was enough to make people drive with their hazards on while moving at the speed of 5mph. Today was the big day! Our group had planned to host a birthday party for Angel. His life has been full of chaos and evil attacking him but his spirit is so strong. We knew that we were his only hope to have a real birthday and have a chance to just be a kid. I was not sure how many people would show up. We had only one child from his class RSVP and we were not sure if his family could make it. As our volunteers and their children started arriving there was still no sign of Angel, his mother and sister. We set up the party tables with Angry Birds decor and a big birthday cake as I kept trying to call the mother. Almost a half hour passes, many phone calls and txts go unanswered and I am very worried at this point but there he is! Walking through the parking lot with his sister and mother I spot them and walk out to meet them in the parking lot covered in snow. I was so excited to see them I forgot to grab my coat but it didn’t matter. He was so excited even though he was not really sure what to expect. He LOVES Chuck E Cheese so that is where we all gathered to celebrate Angel’s special day. As I introduced him to the volunteers who came to help he ran up and hugged each one even though it was his first time meeting them. He even asked his mother before they came, “They are Christians, right?”. His eyes lite up as he saw a big cake with his name on it. The volunteers and their children filled the table and the end of the table was covered in presents for both Angel and his little sister. I think all of our eyes were welled up with tears as we sang him happy birthday and watched him blow out his candles. What did you wish for young Angel? It’s sad to think that he needs to wish for things that most kids never think about. Maybe he wished that the bad man won’t hurt him anymore. Maybe he wished for a place to stay so he didn’t have to live in a shelter.
After he finished his second helping of chocolate angry bird cake we carried him to the table covered in presents. Him and his sister sat on table top. We could barely see them in the midst of all the big brightly covered bags. We watched as he opened up every present and was so thankful for every little bit. We had several cameras flashing and we all laughed as he would pose and make silly faces. He really liked being center of attention. As adults we were amazed at how this little child was very interested in reading every card and was just as happy for them as he was for the presents. One of the presents he received was a small hand held radio. He looked like he was going to cry as he said, “Ive always wanted one of these!”. He just stared at it and smiled. I think he received more presents, clothes, shoes and snacks then he has ever had in all his years combined. We handed him and his sister a cup full of tokens and watched him as he played, laughed and was able to be a normal kid….it was almost as if, even for just one moment, that nothing bad had happened. Oh how I wish that was true.
I have been told by some people I know that I should be careful how close I get to kids and situations like this and I usually respond by saying that you can never control the adults in a situation like this but the children are the victims and it is our job as Christians to reach out to those who need it and want to be saved. For young children like Angel any moment in their life could be the moment they are saved. Maybe it will be the fist time they go to church or maybe it’s a birthday party hosted by kind strangers. When Angel grows up he will know he has people here at Club YES who care about him and his sister and maybe that will be enough for him to break the cycle in his own life. We can never give up and I will never apologize for being attached to children in these situations. This is what God calls us to do and I am happy to be called.