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The Smile I Will Never Forget

We worked with a lot of kids on our DTS outreach to Costa Rica. I met some of these kids in orphanages and slums, others in churches and schools. But no matter where I met them, their precious faces linger in my mind long after we said our goodbyes.

I still remember the first kids we met. A group of boys from an orphanage invited us to play soccer with them. And although it was obvious they were better than us, they found a way to handicap their skills to make us look good.

After playing for a while, I took a break on the sidelines. I spotted a storm brewing over the hills and fumbled for my camera in a hurry to capture the thick, dark clouds. An older boy came over and sat beside me. Although he hardly knew any English, nor I Spanish, we still found a way to communicate. He loved watching me take photos and looking at the photos together. I slipped the camera from around my neck and handed it to him.

“Do you want to take a picture?” I said pointing to the camera.

A huge grin spread across his face as he gently took the camera from my hands. He pointed it at the storm clouds and snapped a shot. It was just one little picture. But I could tell it was so much more! It meant trust and honor. It meant friendship.

Playing soccer with orphans in Costa Rica

The next day we helped run a children’s ministry at a church. Dozens of kids swarmed around us and it seemed like they had all just eaten a bunch of candy! They were full of energy, and yet they were very respectful at the same time and listened well to the instructions we gave them. I led the craft time and showed them how to make their paper crowns.

“We’re making crowns because you are royalty to God,” I said. “He loves you and treasures every moment of your life.”

Their creativity was amazing. Every crown was unique, some with racing cars, others with big swirls of glitter and color. The diversity of their art displayed the distinct aspects of God’s image placed within them. It was a special moment when we placed the finished crowns on the kids’ heads. I hope to forever have my final image of these kids stuck in my head — crowns too small for their heads and smiles too large for their faces.

Moments like these show me so much more than just the joy of a child. These moments connect me to the joy and profound love of God. Each child’s smile left an indelible mark on my heart. And I will never be the same.

Craft time creating crowns with the kids

by Emily Parker, January Spark DTS Student from New Zealand

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