“I want a biscuit!”
The very sincere pout-whimper combo came from the corner where stood a troubled child who did more to sanctify me in a week than a whole semester of college. We’ll call him Vytek.
Eileen, the lovely woman running the nursery program for English Camp in the šumava mountains, would wrap Vytek in her arms and instruct him, “Say, ‘I don’t want to obey, but Jesus will help me obey.’ Jesus will help us to obey.”
“I want to be obeyed,” was his opinionated reply.
Vytek is four years old and though I don’t like to diagnose children with disorders, I think it’s accurate to say he has more difficulty sitting still than the average munchkin. He also speaks very good English. British English.
It took me, Eileen and our translator Pavlina about an hour to figure out that “biscuit” means “cookie.” It did not take us long to figure out that this little shish-ka-bob also spoke very good Czech (like most kids with at least one Czech parent…). He’d switch in between the two languages like gears in a car so that even Pavlina could not keep up.
I’m not especially great with kids. That is to say, I don’t mind watching 0-4 year olds play for 45 minutes during church service but working an organized program for 3 hours where the children are supposed to listen, learn and occasionally sit still is more than I tend to have the patience for. I regret to say my attitude at the beginning of that very long week may not have been entirely Christ-like even if I managed to fake it pretty passably.
“Sit still,” I’d whisper to Vytek, feeling like a total hypocrite because I had a lot more ants in my pants than he did.
“I just want my helicopter,” he’d whimper back in his British accent. He was like mini-Oliver Twist asking, “Please sir, can I have some more?”
Eileen would look up from the colors or numbers lesson and say, “The helicopter is getting repaired right now! It’s away!”
In retaliation, Vytek would stick a finger in his nose and pull out a glump of I-don’t-want-to-know-what and stick it in his mouth (I nearly gagged the first time I saw him do this, but was so accustomed to it by the end of the week that my only thought when he plucked something from under his toe and flicked it onto his tongue was, “Well, that’s a new one…”).
I loved the children but I was glad when the week was over. I was looking forward to the Christian Counseling Conference the next week when I would get to help with the older children. I was grateful that God was only going to test my patience for a week.
So when Kathleen asked me if I could take care of the 0-3 year olds (last minute change) for the conference I felt my gut sink through the floor. Torn between the desire to be helpful and the desire to tie my limbs to the legs of several elephants and produce a mouse, I said, “Yes, of course!”
Then I climbed five flights of stairs to our hotel room and sat on my bed to pout. I don’t listen very well. I don’t learn very fast. And I can only play with playdough for so long before my fingers start to feel like undercooked hotdogs.
Sometimes I wonder why God continues to try to teach me things. Really, what I should be wondering is how long it will take me to learn the lessons.
I ended up not having to run the nursery – though I have been subjected to several extended playdough sessions. My nomadic wanderings have taken me from the bowels of the hotel where the 10-12 year olds have class to the airy rooms where music and crafts take place on the first floor looking for places to be useful.
So many happy kids (a few not-so-happy). So much work to do. So many ways to serve.
And I am reminded of my dear friend Lydia who quoted the hymn “Father, I know that all my life” on our very first trip to Prague in 2010.
“Content to fill a little space, if Thou be glorified.”
I want to be content to be used by God in whatever way He asks. Every fiber of my sinful being pleads, “Nothing that requires continuous hand-sanitation!” but my renewed heart is learning to bow to His will. My guess is that this will be a lesson I keep learning.
Vytek did get better. He sat still longer during Bible lessons at the end of the week and he only took his pants off once the last day.
“It’s amazing how much he really understands,” Eileen said to Pavlina as he played in the other room.
“That’s because I speak very good English!” he shouted back at us – apparently able to hear our conversation.
“Yes, you do,” she said. “But you have very selective hearing, don’t you?”
He didn’t answer. He wasn’t listening. He had already gone back to playing with his helicopter.