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Heart Matters: Found Faithful

My confidence was shattered as a minister to children; I felt as though I was riding a merry-go-round that had spun out of control. Gossip, pettiness, and misunderstanding swirled within our church family. And though I wasn't the target of the dissension, I had seen enough of it up close that for me ministry became strained and dysfunctional. Finally, I knew I couldn't take it any more.

My heart grieved for my conflicted church and its children as I headed toward the door on my last day. I remember, through a fog of sadness, seeing Jamie playing in a carpeted stairwell­ -- a favorite spot for bored kids to hang out while they waited for their parents. I stopped on my way out for a bit of small talk with him. Quiet and thoughtful, Jamie had been a regular in my classes. He'd slip into the room, Bible in hand, impeccably dressed in pressed slacks and a matching shirt. Deep blue eyes framed his elfin face, and his reddish blond hair was always gelled perfectly in place. Jamie behaved and did what was expected…but he showed no real passion. I never felt that he and I had truly connected. And that last day I wondered if I'd had any influence at all on Jamie.

I said goodbye to him and exited the church building, awash in sadness and feelings of failure. If I'd failed Jamie, how many others had I failed along with him? Maybe I was kidding myself by thinking I could impact kids for Jesus.

I wanted to give up. Quit. And right at that moment I had my way out…out of a church mired in conflict. Out of a ministry that suddenly felt ineffective. And so I did. I took my box of supplies and my faith and I left.

But over time, God's multi-dimensional love reached into my heart and set me back in a firm place. Before long I was once again immersed in children's ministry, this time at a healthy, thriving church.

A few years later on a Sunday morning before Christmas, my class was wired with holiday anticipation. Later that morning a singing group from a nearby Christian school would perform a 19th century English Christmas recital in full costume.

As I bent over a puzzle with one of my excited kids, an unfamiliar voice interrupted us. I looked up to find a lanky teenager dressed in an Old English costume. He gripped the lapels of his tailed, black coat with white-gloved hands. Strawberry blond hair peeked from under the edges of a top hat. I studied his face, familiar but not immediately identifiable, noting his bemused expression.

Finally I had it: "Jamie!" I exclaimed.

Jamie was extremely pleased that he'd had me stumped. I stopped what I was doing for a bit of small talk with him. I learned how proud he was to be part of the singing group performing that morning, how passionate he was about singing. He gave me a brief hug, and then he was gone.

As I made my way to the auditorium for the recital, it occurred to me that Jamie had to have negotiated our church's labyrinth of hallways to find me in my portable classroom. Finding me had been important to him. He'd discovered his passion in music, and he cared that I knew. So, even I had to admit, I had connected with him in ways only God understood.

And how glad I was that when Jamie found me, I had been busy in a classroom filled with kids. Jamie had found me faithful. If ever my heart is bruised again, may God find me faithful, too.

Debbie Granberry is a children's minister in Alvin, Texas.

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