There once was a little girl. She lived in a regular-looking home, in a regular-looking neighbourhood, in a regular-looking suburb. She looked like the other little girls in her neighbourhood. She was pretty the way a six-year-old girl should be. She went to school and music lessons like the other regular little girls.
But this little girl did not feel “regular” and she did not think that her home was “regular.” It felt dark and cold. She knew something was not right, but she did not really know what it was. that was not right. Later in life, she would look back and know that her home was dominated by a violent, alcoholic father.
Living on the corner of this little girl’s street was another family. They were the Jonses. This little girl loved goign to the Jones house. What her house was to darkness, this home was to light. Every Sunday, the Jones faily would get all dressed up and go to church. In fact, Mr. Jones sang in the choir. Deep inside, the little girl wished that her family would get all dressed up and go somewhere special on Sunday morning.
But this was not how things were in her home. In her home, when they said “our father,” they had better be speaking about the man who was sitting at the head of the table. They did not ask God to bless their food before they ate. They did not say prayers at night before they went to sleep. And Christmas was about Santa Claus and Easter was about a big bunny. Her father not only did not take his family to church, he let it be known that he was an atheist.
One day, the Jones family invited this little girl to come to church with them. Imagine how excited she was! Here was her chance! She desperately wanted to go, but she knew that if she asked her father, she would never be allowed to go. So, she made a plan. Early Sunday morning, she sneaked out of her house and headed for the Joneses.
That Sunday, when she was just six years-old, she heard a story that she had never heard before. It was a story about Jesus, told – as all Sunday school stories are – with a big picture in the background. It was the story about the children coming to Jesus and how angry Jesus was with the grown-ups who wanted to send the children away.
The picture was of Jesus sitting on a rock with his arms oustretched, saying, “Let the little children come to me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.”
That picture was burned into her mind. She would never forget it or the feeling of awe and wonderment when the teacher said that Jesus loved her. Was that really true? How could Jesus love her? How could he even know her?
There were consequences when the little girl came home that Sunday; it was a very long time before she stepped inside a church again. But something had happened that Sunday which the little girl would never forget – a seed had been planted.
Today, a woman is standing in front of a church, telling a story. In fact, this is “her” church. She and her family get dressed up every Sunday to come here. She does not sing in the choir, but, every Sunday, like clockwork, she gathers her energy and teaching materials and sits down with a class of six-year-old children and tells them stories. Stories about Jesus and how he said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.” And yes, in her classroom, there is a picture of Jesus with his arms outstretched.
Jesus once told a story. It began like this: “Behold, a sower went out to sow…” (Mark 4:3).
[James Toews is pastor of Neighbourhood Church, Nanaimo, B.C. Maggie Cooper teaches Sunday school to the six-year-olds at Neighbourhood Church.