Eleven-year-old Marcos sat in the small-group meeting with his mother and several other adults. Everyone in church belongs to one of the small groups, Marcos thought. Why can’t we kids have our own small group? The more he thought about it, the more excited he got. There is no reason we can’t have a small group. We just have to form one!
Marcos lives with his parents and four brothers and sisters in a small town in central Brazil. His church is small, and it shares a pastor with nine other congregations. The pastor can’t meet the needs of everyone in the church and still minister to those who don’t know Jesus. So he encourages members to lead church activities and share their faith with others. Marcos asked the pastor how to start a small group for kids his age.
“Just invite your friends to come and plan a program for them,” the pastor said, smiling. He promised to get some materials to help Marcos get started. Soon the materials arrived. As Marcos looked through them, excitement surged through him. With God’s help I can do this! he thought.
Marcos planned the first meeting, which would be held in his parents’ home. He invited the children from church and urged them to invite their friends from school and neighbors living nearby. On the day of the meeting, Marcos double-checked everything to be sure he was ready. Several kids had told him they would come. But would they?
At the sound of a knock at the door, Marcos hurried to answer it.
“Hi, I’m so glad you could come,” he told the girl who entered the room. He gave her a piece of paper on which to write her prayer request while he answered another knock. Soon the room was buzzing with children eager to take part in their own meeting. Marcos welcomed them again and asked them to join him in prayer before the meeting officially began.
The children sang several songs, repeating them so that the new children could learn them. Then he held up a box of balloons and invited each child to take one. “Blow it up big,” he said. Then he gave each child something to use to pop the balloons. “Try to pop someone else’s balloon, but be careful and don’t let anyone pop yours,” he said. Chaos ruled as the children jumped up to pop another child’s balloon while keeping theirs out of reach.
When the activity ended, Marcos explained that the balloons represented us, and the sharp objects were obstacles that we encounter in our lives. “God helps protect us from obstacles in our lives so that we can grow stronger every day,” he said.
The first meeting was a success, and children thanked Marcos for inviting them. Many of the original children still come to the small-group meetings. Marcos makes sure that everyone has a chance to lead out in a whole meeting or a single activity so they can learn leadership skills.
Because Marcos’ church rarely gets to enjoy a sermon by the pastor, the elders ask members to preach most weeks. After seeing Marcos speak at the children’s Week of Prayer, the elders often ask him to preach in church. Marcos feels called to become a pastor and welcomes the opportunity to serve his church by speaking and leading worship services. He often is invited to other churches to preach. And when he goes, he invites others to go with him and help by presenting parts of the worship service.
Marcos has a special burden for his father, who doesn’t attend church regularly. He comes when Marcos preaches, and that makes the boy glad. But he prays that his dad will come to love and serve Jesus. “We must stay faithful in Christ,” Marcos says. “Everyone has difficulties in their lives—sickness, sadness, challenges. We need everyone to know that the church family around the world loves and supports them. We must pray for one another.”
The little church that Marcos attends meets in an open garage. The members are working and saving and praying to build a more permanent place of worship. So far they have enough to build the foundation of a church.
They have just learned that the world church will help them fulfill their dream to have a church where they can invite people to worship God, a place that will draw people to Jesus. They are a vibrant group of believers determined to spread God’s good news. Won’t you support them in their effort with your Thirteenth Sabbath Offering on December 22?