The life circumstances of millions of children—around the world and around the corner—place them in the at-risk category. They are at-risk of illness, trafficking, substance abuse and violence. How do we speak hope into their lives? By offering them the light of Christ. And by teaching them healthy character qualities and necessary life skills, taught from the firm foundation of biblical truth.

A young girl pointed at a boy in her class and yelled, “You can’t love Jesus. You worship the devil!”

“Is this true?” the teacher asked the accused boy.

The boy nodded. “On Saturdays my father takes us to a building downtown where we bow down to the devil.”

This is just one of many challenges Reverend Margaret Kimuyu faces as she ministers to children in the Kibera slum on the outskirts of Nairobi. She is a one-woman whirlwind, caring for 350 children and always praying to help more. Each day these children are exposed to violence, substance abuse, poor nutrition and emotional neglect, making them vulnerable to trafficking, abusive relationships and criminal behavior.

These children—and millions like them around the world and around the corner—have deep emotional, social and spiritual needs. What can be done to help these at-risk children? How can you begin to speak into their wounded lives?

By introducing them to God.

When you guide their spiritual formation, children begin to understand that they are precious and loved by their Creator. When you give them biblical teaching on character qualities and life skills, they begin to see that God’s plan is to give them hope and a future. And when you make Jesus central to how and what you teach, children’s lives are transformed. This is particularly true for vulnerable children.

What does this look like? Instead of simply teaching your students that integrity is important, help them to understand that integrity is part of the character of God. Show them that God empowers them through the Holy Spirit to live as people of integrity. Let the truth and character of God inform all that you teach children.

But reaching vulnerable and wounded children is about so much more than the content you teach. It is also about the relationships you build with them. Godly, caring relationships help these children understand that not only are they truly loved, but they are worthy of that love. They begin to realize that there are trustworthy adults in the world—adults who care about them and their lives.

Forming relationships with at-risk children can be difficult. They are often reluctant to trust those around them, afraid of being hurt yet again. They may behave in ways that keep others at a safe distance. But, with care and patience, you can create caring relationships with them. Here are some things to consider when working with at-risk children:

  • Look beyond the behavior to see the individual. This includes being aware of their background and the wounds that they carry.
  • Be patient with them. They not only suffer because of what was done to them, but also because of what they never received.
  • Use interactive teaching methods. Play with them, use drama and art, ask questions and encourage their creativity.
  • Enjoy them and allow them to be children. Laughter heals. And who isn’t blessed by the smile of a child?

Slowly, as you show them the love of Jesus, they will begin to trust and care for you—and they will begin to heal.

This is what happened with Reverend Kimuyu’s children after she began to use the Life on Life curriculum. When you visit Kibera, you will still find a slum filled with rutted dirt, dilapidated shacks and unpleasant odors. You will notice a malaise of hopelessness in the air. But in the middle of all this, you will see a dirty, noisy home that radiates hope. This is Reverend Kimuyu’s oasis—and it is filled with the laughter of children whose lives have been changed.

“We thirst for this teaching. It is an answer to many prayers. The children love it.”

The child whose family worships Satan still attends the meetings. “He listens and learns,” his teacher says. “I can hardly imagine the battle going on inside of him. Will the young child follow the power of Satan? Or will he choose to follow the God of love?”

Please pray for this young boy—and for Reverend Kimuyu and her team as they speak God’s power and life into these precious children. And take the time to share God’s love with the vulnerable and at-risk children in your community. They are worth your time and love.

Susan Thielker

Author Susan Thielker

Susan is an editor with David C Cook Global Initiatives. She is honored to partner with believers around the world to see children's lives transformed by the light and life of Jesus.

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