The week we had all been anticipating finally came. From 3:00pm - 8:00pm, we were on outreach to refugee children from all over the world in Shadow Tree Apartments near Denver.
Danni (from Australia) getting swarmed by the kids.
We piled out of our white van, and soon enough children were climbing all over us or playing games. They were so precious. It wasn't long before some of our team's girls were rocking funky hairstyles (designed by the kids of course), and some of the guys were giving children rides on their shoulders. Some of the older kids watched from a distance with unsure eyes.
I quickly befriended a five-year old named Tony. He was very intent on knowing everyone's name, but would forget only minutes after.
When he asked, his face would scrunch up with curiosity, squinting one eye, his mouth hanging slightly open, revealing the metal caps on his teeth... it melted my heart.
He must have asked me what my name was at least ten times that day.
This went on for a couple of days, and it began to pain me every time he asked. He had such a bright and observant mind - he remembered all of our Bible stories and skits, and retained a general meaning of them.
"Will he remember any of this after we leave?" I thought to myself.
My and Mischu's renditioning of Sin Chair, a funny skit for kids about sin and the power of prayer.
I hung out with Tony all the time - even if I got involved in another game or activity with other kids, I would keep an eye on where he was. If I lost sight of him, it wouldn't be long before he'd come running back and grab a hold of my hand.
Every once in a while, when he asked me what my name was, I would ask him back, "What do you think it is?" He would stare off into the distance, nibbling on his finger. Sometimes he wouldn't have any clue. Other times he'd guess another DTS'ers name.
Wednesday afternoon, I got to read him children's Bible stories, and he soaked them all in with intense interest. Stirring in my heart was now an urgency, "Lord, he's got such a bright mind and he's taking all of this in... he needs to remember!"
Towards the end of that day, I asked him if he had anything he'd like prayer for. When I asked him these kinds of questions about prayer and God he would often get quiet, lost in deep thought about these things, but unsure how to answer.
So I prayed for him anyways, thanking the Lord and asking him to restore his memory in Jesus' name.
I wasn't eagerly anticipating whether or not God would do something miraculous - my heart was desperate to see Tony's life be changed for the better, specifically in the area of his mind. I wanted him to remember the name of Jesus and to never let go of it.
Shortly after, Tony asked me my name again. "What do you think it is?" I asked. He looked down again, biting his lip. My small group leader was nearby and whispered "Daniel" into his ear.
But he continued to look puzzled. Suddenly he looked up and exclaimed "Dan! Your name's not Daniel it's Dan."
("Dan" was the response I would gave him when he forgot my name).
Later that evening, when we were back at the base, Jeff (another student) and I were praying together. I told him about Tony, and we prayed for his memory to be fully restored.
The following morning, I woke up early as usual and sat by the lake, asking God to restore his memory a third time.
Thursday afternoon, when I got out of the van, he was waiting for me. "Hey Tony! Do you remember my name?" I asked.
Without moment's notice he said, "Dan!"
From that point on, he never forgot my name, and he continued to recall all of the Bible stories and dramas that we had acted out. I am confident that he will remember the name of Jesus.
My only regret is that I didn't get to say goodbye. He disappeared for the later half of our last day at Shadow Tree. I am hoping we will get to go there one more time before we go on outreach overseas, so that I can see how he is doing and pray for him again.
There are many amazing testimonies from this week we've had with those precious children, but that was my biggest highlight.
The most impactful stories seemed to come from personal relationships developed over the week. Sophie, who had studied multiple religions before committing her life to Christ, got to know a few of the muslim girls and share Jesus with them.
Our dramas were not only great attention-grabbers for the kids, but they proved to be memorable. They were also helpful in conversing more deeply with the kids about who Jesus was.
One of our dramas: Forgiveness
As a team, we are much more confident in being able to simply be flexible to the Holy Spirit and live out love in a variety of ways. We've learned our individual strengths and weaknesses, and we've learned how to work together and organize things well. We finished out the week pretty exhausted, but even more excited for what God has done and will do.
What an amazing week!
As I am increasingly aware of how little time we have left, I've been doing what I can to make the most of the great state of Colorado on the weekends. Getting out into God's living artwork of nature can be physically exhausting, but so spiritually refreshing.
This weekend, Mischu (from Switzerland) and I hiked up Mt. Elbert, the tallest mountain in Colorado.
"Now you get on my shoulders." ~ Mischu, on the summit of Mt. Elbert.
The weekend ended with a new awareness that, in the past two weeks of external activities such as practicing skits and playing with children, I have not balanced my "internal" life well. Sunday night, Jeff and I prayed together again.
My prayer request: to renew in me a fervent urgency in pursuing the person of Jesus.
Happy 4th of July!