By: Bailey Johnson, Go Now missionary and student at Hardin-Simmons University
It was Christmas morning. There were 10 of us crowded into my grandmother’s toasty living room. The torn wrapping paper was piled high and the folded gift bags were stacked neatly to return to the box for next year. The smell of bacon and sausage filled the air and each of us sifted back through our hauls to see just how good Santa was this year. Just like every year, I was surrounded by the people I loved most in the world to celebrate the baby boy that came and changed our lives. Just like every year, we got what we wished for and more. Just like every year, I knew the day would bring an endless flow of every kind of sweet I could imagine. But something about this year was not like every other year.
Sitting on the floor of my grandmother’s living room, I was not filled with endless amounts of joy and I did not feel this overwhelming gratitude that Christmas usually brings. Instead my mind, and a piece of my heart, was more than 6,000 miles away with 10,000 beautiful children. These were children that probably didn’t get to have a Christmas that’s anywhere close to mine.
I’ve always known that there were kids out there with no presents to open and no family to love them on Christmas morning. But this year, it became real to me. I witnessed hundreds of children that didn’t know the joys of Christmas, or the peace that the Lord brings. I saw them, talked to them, held their hands in mine, and I have to say, it was more heartbreaking than I could have imagined.
When I was preparing to go to Moldova to fit boots on children, I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. I didn’t know that their faces would show so much joy and gratitude just from getting a piece of candy and a simple pair of boots. I didn’t know that the reason why the majority of Moldovan children were in the Child Protection System was because of poverty. I didn’t know that so many of them would look at me with a blank expression when I asked if they wanted a Bible to take home. But thankfully, my God did know these things, and equipped the CERI team to handle these challenges.
I think that what’s so incredible about the CERI mission is that we didn’t just pass out 10,000 pairs of boots to needy kids and go on our way. We showed those kids, their parents, their social workers and the whole country what it means to know Jesus. Some people were overjoyed by our gifts, some grateful and some just plain confused, but because of the work we did, they now all have seeds planted in their hearts. Seeds that will hopefully lead them to find Jesus, to experience Him again and again.
This morning, as I think about those precious children that may not have ever had a happy Christmas morning, I can have a peace of mind knowing that something that I contributed to is the seed that may grow infinitely more for them and help them experience a gift far greater than the winter boots some strangers gifted them years ago. That knowledge, that hope, even stacked next to some of my most longed for gifts, is the best thing I received this year: the hope that someday, those children will all join me at the feet of Jesus.