DURBAN, South Africa (BP)–When people think of a mistake, it’s usually a regrettable decision or action. Few people, however, think of a child as a mistake.
At a Holiday Bible Club while school was out of session in South Africa during the World Cup games, youth pastor Tyronne Eilenberg of Pinetown Baptist Church in Durban realized that some of the children had never been told the words “I love you.” Some had even been told by their parents they were a mistake from birth.
As the club was coming to an end, the children played harder and the sound of their laughter grew louder, as their troubled homes had left them responsive to the love of God as they struggled to understand why they were ever born.
At the close of the final day, Eilenberg offered the simplest demonstration of love — a hug.
He affirmed the children by telling them how much God loves them. At first many of the children were shy when asked if they wanted a hug, but when Eilenberg asked them to bow their heads and close their eyes, child after child came to the front to receive the love entailed in a simple hug. The difference a hug can make was seen on the beaming faces of the children as they walked away from the encounter.
Eilenberg then pointed the children to Jesus and His endless love for them. With their heads still bowed and eyes closed, Eilenberg asked children who wanted prayer to raise their hands where they were seated. Hand after hand was raised in testimony to how many of them had lived unloved.
During a sermon the Sunday morning after the Holiday Bible Club, Eilenberg told of one young boy who was kicking a ball and it bounced over a wall. Eilenberg jokingly told the child to go get the ball, and the boy’s response was to look at his feet and say, “Please don’t hurt me.”
Eilenberg’s passion is to have hurting children continue to come to Pinetown Baptist where they can begin to know how beautiful and cherished they are to God and to the people of the church. He has a vision of going into local primary schools to minister to the children while encouraging them to come to church. Describing this vision as in the beginning stages, Eilenberg hopes to continue training youth leaders at Pinetown to extend the love of Christ to the children throughout its Durban-area community.
Evelyn Adamson is an intern writer for the International Mission Board’s global communication team on assignment in South Africa covering the events, matches and ministries related to the World Cup.