As a children’s church teacher I never gave an “altar call” when presenting Bible stories. Rather, I preferred planting spiritual seeds. Once, however, thanks to five-year-old Angela and seven-year-old Ben Feazel, my children responded to a story in a way I had not intended. It turned out to be the best timing.
Brought to church by a neighbor, little Angela, with wavy brown hair and blue eyes, came only occasionally to Bible club. There was nothing outstanding about her. She was quiet, and therefore, didn’t get extra attention, good or bad.
Like the other 50 pairs of eyes watching me that night, her gaze seemed curious about my story-telling props: a plastic town, bucket of mud, bowl of water and two little plastic people.
“Hey, are you going to play with those toys?” inquired a boy with a toothless grin.
“Yup,” I replied, as I picked up the figurines. That brought howls of laughter. Then I added, “But I’m also going to tell you a story.”
Holding the toys, I told the kids their names were Adam and Eve Wanna Bees, and they lived long ago in the village Eden. Because they disobeyed God, they became very dirty.
“After that,” I said, “All the Wanna Bees were dirty, and they didn’t even realize it.”
From the muddy bucket I pulled a dozen plastic figures.
There were more groans.
“Then one day someone came to the village. His name was ‘Clean-As-He-Can-Be.’ He looked at the dirty Wanna Bees and declared, ‘I know the way to make you clean.’
“Some Wanna Bees were insulted, ‘How dare you accuse us of being dirty!’ they snarled.
“Others thought he was crazy.
“‘Come with me, and I will show you how to be clean,’ he urged.
“‘Maybe another day,’ a few said.
“Some, however, said, ‘Okay, let’s go!’
“Clean-as He-Can-Be led them to a beautiful pond and told them to jump in. Since they couldn’t swim, he caught them.”
Into my water pitcher went a few Wanna Bees. I wiped them clean with a towel.
“Oh!” sighed a number of kids, including Angela.
“Can you imagine how good that first bath felt?”
Angela nodded. I continued.
“The Clean-as-They-Can-Be-Wanna-Bees shouted, ‘We must go tell the others!’
“‘Yes!’ said Clean-As-He-Can-Be. ‘I will stay here and wash the Wanna Bees when they come to the pond.’
“So the clean Wanna Bees ran to the village. Some thought they were crazy, and others didn’t care. But some Wanna Bees believed and they, too, became clean.”
The children knew I was almost done with the story. “Wash them all,” they pleaded. “Wash them all.”
So I did, telling them that Jesus was like Clean-As-He-Can-Be.
Then I said, “And just like some people didn’t want to follow Clean-As-He-Can-Be, some people today don’t want to follow Jesus.”
I opened my mouth to give a final thought when little, quiet Angela jumped up and shouted, “I’ll follow Jesus!”
Before I could respond, Ben Feazel stood up, “I’ll follow Jesus!” Then there was another child standing, and another. They each declared, “I’ll follow Jesus!”
It was a powerful moment. Flabbergasted, I mumbled a closing prayer that the children would make this story their own.
I planned to speak with Angela the following week, but a few days later, Angela’s neighbor called and told me Angela had collapsed in her mother’s arms at a recreational swimming pool. Her defective heart, unknown to us, was a condition she had lived with since birth.
The second child to stand that evening, Ben Feazel, died at age 18. A car ran a stop sign and hit him on his motorcycle. He was wearing his helmet. Ben was a few weeks short of high school graduation and Marine boot camp.
Whenever I think of Angela and Ben I see them determinedly standing before me declaring, “I’ll follow Jesus!” Indeed they had.
These children taught me at least two lessons: 1) that we should not take any encounter for granted, and 2) God moves mightily among the youngest of us.