The idea that “children are the future” is widespread, but our responsibility as adults in raising children in such a way that they can participate in a bright future is often overlooked in daily life. Educating children, not just in skills that will make them valuable in the workplace, but in virtues that make them valuable in maintaining healthy relationships is central to the presence of God’s kingdom on this earth. The responsibility for educating children lies not only with teachers, but with all those who follow Christ.
In light of this responsibility, the lack of quality activities for children in the developing world lies heavy on my heart as I travel around cities and suburbs in the Philippines. Although there are many centers for youth development, they are often given little funding, have poor resources, and few staff. This combination gives little opportunity for growth and maturation to the children that are present.
Recently, a member of our team, Jason Carpenter, visited a community center in the surrounding area. He found many young and adolescent children, and very little structure to encourage them toward behavior that would benefit their community. He was able to provide a Bible study and character lesson for two of these youth, during which he taught a lesson out of John chapter 6. In the passage, Jesus communicates that it is through each person sharing their limited resources that their community can have enough to sustain itself. As Jesus addresses his audience of 5,000 hungry people, he does not encourage them to rob the rich, nor does he begin a seminar on how to fish, but instead he encourages them to share their limited resources with one another, because it is in doing this that they could all find satisfaction. While the reallocation of resources from the wealthy to the poor and occupational training is not unimportant, it alone cannot sustain the kind of change that the world needs to see. This character lesson, that values giving to those around you rather than taking to meet your needs is so important for the communities in which we serve-- especially the children, as they will grow into tomorrow’s adults.
Our team has had the opportunity to teach other Biblical and character lessons through a weekly Bible School that we have facilitated on Saturdays for the children of those who work for a local health clinic, and other youth in the surrounding area. In these times we have emphasized compassion, kindness, and mercy, in order to communicate the importance of loving your neighbor and the way in which that kind of service changes the environment where it is enacted.
It is education in character development that will make the biggest difference for the quality of the lives of our children as they grow into adults. While all of our efforts to teach workplace skills to the next generation have their place, they alone will not produce a better future. It is our children’s ability to love one another, share what they have with their neighbor, practice and value kindness and service, and participate in the character modeled by Jesus Christ that will make their futures brighter. It is our desire as a group of people committed to serving Christ in the world that we teach children how to live well with one another, both as people of character who can extend kindness, and people who also possess practical skills that can benefit communities around them.