Loving Children… From a Different Perspective

“We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked, and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty”

Mother Theresa

Hello, my name is Shaila Emig. I currently serve with Abogar International Ministries, working alongside Jesse Rivers as his Executive Assistant. As I have had the privilege and blessing to work alongside Abogar in this time, it has increased my love and desire to advocate for God’s children.

Although I work part time with Abogar, as the Executive Assistant to Jesse, I am also a missionary in New Mexico. One ministry that I am involved with, here in New Mexico, is with the youth. The kids I work with don’t live on the streets, nor are they orphaned. However, they deal with their own personal struggles. Most of these kids, ages 5-13, live with their mothers and their mothers’ boyfriends. Most of the mothers, and boyfriends as well, are generally involved with drugs, alcohol, and gang activity. Many of these kids are sent to, or dropped off at, the community center to spend the day; mainly because the parents don’t want to “deal” with the kids, or the kids would rather be on their own at the center.

When I first arrived to Farmington I would go to the community center daily to hang out with the kids and build relationships. As time went on, the kids soon started running outside the building to meet me at my car. I was greeted with hugs and kids running and jumping at me, knowing that I would catch them. It has come to the point that I wouldn’t be able to enter the community center without being greeted by at least three kids.

The more I have grown closer to these kids the more God breaks my heart for them. He shows me the hurt and pain they go through. It’s not just the physical pain that He shows me. He is showing me the emotional pain that they are experiencing. I’ve had a minimum of five different kids make the comment that they wish I would be their mother, or that they could live with me. Now I don’t say all of this to bring glory and praise to myself, but to show the pain of neglect that they experience. When I go to the center I don’t do anything exceptional. I show up with the intentions of just being with, playing with, and showing these kids that someone cares for them. I try to show them the love of Jesus by loving them unconditionally. Sometimes they get in trouble, fight, or say mean and hurtful things, but that doesn’t push me away from loving them, or cause me to see them as a “bad” kid.

The more time I spend with these kids the more I sense God just saying to me “just be present with them”. God isn’t asking me to be a super star, to have it all figured out, or to save them. He is simply asking me to show up. Now as I serve as a missionary with four different ministries, attend school, helping my roommate whom has MS, and having a job it can be challenging to show up every day or even three times a week. I find myself making excuses such as: I’m too busy, I need to do homework, I need to run errands, I just want to relax, etc. But I am informed that on the days I don’t show up to the center that the kids are constantly asking where I am, when I am coming, and they are upset if I don’t show up. What can seem minimal to me of not showing up to the center is a big thing to these kids.

So, as I reflect on what my purpose is with these kids (as I am only in Farmington for a year), I am reminded that as a follower and disciple of Jesus I am constantly asked to put myself last. I am asked to pray for these kids, to shower them with love, and to just be present with them. While it all seems minimal compared to what other missionaries are doing, it has a huge impact on these kids. They desire to be loved, to be paid attention to, and to see and experience that someone is capable of caring for them consistently.

Furthermore, as a follower of Jesus, I am responsible to cultivate the soil and plant seeds for future growth. In order to plant and cultivate I need to be present. So, I would challenge you to reflect on your life and ask yourself “What is God asking of me?”, “Am I present with my family, kids, and community?”, and lastly “What kind of seeds am I planting, and am I cultivating the soil for future generations?”