So how are the children? Many of them are not doing so well and I’m asking that all of us as United Methodists in the Northern Illinois Conference make the children in our communities a priority. Whether you have children in your church or not! There are children in your community and they need your help just as this woman’s child needed the help of Jesus.
Some children in our communities suffer from the demons of poverty and poverty-related issues, such as hunger, even violence, and drugs and addiction—their own and that of their parents; sexual and domestic abuse; the lack of quality education; and neglect, including spiritual neglect. Like the child in this story about Jesus, they may be silently, invisibly, terribly suffering…but like Jesus we are called to reach out, heal, educate, love, and give hope to the children in all our communities.
I’m asking that every church have a Child Advocate who will raise the concerns for mercy and justice for the children in the community who have no voice. Part of that includes the children of poverty but Mother Teresa used to say that there are many kinds of poverty. In the West, she said, poverty isn’t just about hunger but it’s a poverty of love and care. It’s a spiritual poverty. The children need our help and it’s a calling to the elderly, to UMM, and UMW (who have traditionally raised concerns for children). All are needed to work for the well-being of the children.
I encourage every congregation to talk to the principal of the local school to find out how you can help the school educate and care for the children. There’s no school system in Illinois that’s doing so well that it doesn’t need a little help. But you need to listen to what they need. For instance, the CPS needs mentors for all its students; mentors, not mittens. Don’t bring mittens, bring mentors! Partner with the school according to their needs.
Some children need Safe Havens; places they can go when school isn’t in session: after school, during breaks and vacations. They need to be somewhere they can get something to eat, continue to learn, and again, be loved. Many districts may have funds that you don’t know about that can help support these programs; it’s worth finding out about them!
Will we as the church be the advocate for the children in our communities? And will we advocate within our churches so that children find a home with us.
… I have a dream that we will keep our focus on the mission that includes the children of our communities, giving ourselves to them so as to give them hope for a future! … I have a dream.
Excerpt from Bishop Sally Dyck’s Episcopal Address to the Northern Illinois Conference at St. Charles, IL on June 8, 2014