Media outlets continue to report the terrible news of more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria in mid-April. The leaders of the African country and several other nations, including ours, are working to free them. The abductions have sparked protests around the world, as they should. Each of these girls (and the boys also previously abducted in that country) is created in the image of God. Unfortunately, this kind of event happens too often in too many places in the world.
We grieve the violence committed. We pray that the victims be protected. We pray that they and their families be comforted as they are torn away from their school and familiar surroundings. We pray for transformation in the hearts of their captors. And we pray that we would be vessels of hope and peace, seeking to end all types of hate and oppression of children around the world, be they across the ocean or right in our neighborhood.
Over the next year, our conference mission leaders will focus on children. We will seek to find and promote ways to help children reach their full potential—the opposite of oppression, if you will. We will intentionally strive to see the beauty in all children, to help them learn and play and dance, to help them feel loved, and to imagine their futures full of possibility.
One dream is that every local United Methodist church in Minnesota will partner with a local school and minister to its students’ tangible physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs. This could be done by collecting backpacks and school supplies, tutoring, offering meals for those who are hungry, working to prevent abuse, starting a pre-school, or simply praying for them on a daily basis.
Another dream is that every church will partner in some way with a school not in its community, be it in another part of the state, the country, or the world. There are many connections that can be made.
As we celebrate graduations of all kinds during this time of year, we give thanks for the amazing girls and boys, young men and women who are taking the next step in their journey. May we make it our commitment to ensure that they know they are loved by God and us and have every opportunity to succeed and be fulfilled in our world.
In the future, we will collect some best practices to pass along to you that will provide inspiration and ideas and hopefully lead to effective ways to reach out to children. I invite your suggestions, comments, and partnership. (E-mail me anytime: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Jesus told us he loved the children and said, “Let the children come unto me.” Let’s all work together with Him to support and care for the girls and boys of every nation.
Lyndy Zabel is director of missional impact for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church