She was in my preschool class the first year I taught. From the first moment I saw her, I knew she was different. I had seen her paperwork and I knew that she came from a troubled home. Mom had abandoned her, dad was in prison and her grandparents were raising her. School started and she was the one who came in with cigarette smoke on her clothes and backpack...she was the one with the hesitant look in her eyes, but always a smile, always.
In October our church hosted a "Friend Day" and I invited all my students to come. But guess which one came? She did. She looked so pretty all dressed up in her cousin's dress that day. She went to Sunday School and Children's Church and then enjoyed a big meal in our Family Life Center. She heard more about Jesus and I wondered if any of it would stick with her.
Christmas came. For the Christmas program a few of the teachers got together to be sure she had a pretty dress for the Christmas program at school. This girl had stolen our hearts. She looked so pretty the night of the program and you could tell she felt special in her new dress.
Christmas went. And she didn't show back up for school. One week and I called her grandparents. No answer. Two weeks...no answer. Then one day the grandma showed up at the school. Mom was back in the picture and wanted her back. I was devastated. Grandma knew this was a bad idea, but the girl wanted her momma and after all momma's are important. The girl moved back in with mom a few towns away.
Living in a small town you run into people at the grocery store, gas station, hair salon. I saw Grandma a few weeks after and not to my surprise the girl was back with her. I was so glad. I knew this was the safest place for her. She didn't come back to school but started kindergarten in public school and finished the year in May.
She was walking down the hall at church yesterday when I spotted her. I had to look twice. Was that really her? I saw one of the bus workers walking with her and then, she spotted me. It was like a scene from a movie...we were running towards each other with arms opened wide. This little bit of a girl had been recruited to ride our bus for church. She had even brought her cousin. We took a few minutes to catch up about how kindergarten had gone and how excited she was about first grade and then she went to class. Smiling.
I walked down the hall with a stray tear or two streaming down my face. One more opportunity to minister to a little girl who has had a rough start. One more chance for this body of Christ to embrace a wounded family. One more time to share love with the fatherless. One more story about Jesus for her to hear. One more answered prayer...
I'm thankful for the bus workers who brought her in, for the Sunday School teachers who always have something for the children to eat in class so they aren't hungry, for the Caraway workers who have their lessons prepared and for Jesus, most of all, for Jesus who welcomes little children to come to Him. In a world where there is so much rejection and family heartache, it's good to see God's family reaching out in Jesus' name. Some plant, some water, but God gets the increase.