Category Archives: Invisible Children



I was living and working in a migrant labor camp in Texas – above are pictures of myself and husband (who I met while serving there). We were VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) Volunteers, part of President Johnson’s war on poverty.  I was just out of college and had such huge dreams of making a difference. 

 Never will I forget the day that Lupe knocked on our door and asked if I would like to accompany her to court.  She was going to court with two boys, both 12 year olds. They had put bricks on the railroad track and derailed a train. 

 I didn’t hesitate – to get out of the heat of the Texas sun and sit idly in the back of an air-conditioned courtroom sounded like an enjoyable afternoon.  LITTLE DID I KNOW WHAT GOD HAD IN STORE FOR ME. As we entered the court I sat in the last row while Lupe went to the front to be with the boys.

The judge came in and asked the two boys to stand in front of him.  Caesar wore a filthy, worn baseball cap. Pedro stood with his head bowed and never looked at the judge.

“Take that cap off!” the judge demanded in a gruff voice.

Pedro and Caesar didn’t move.

“I told you to take that cap off!  Take it off now!.” the judge said in a slow gruff voice.

Again, neither boy moved.

Shouting this time, “Did you hear me?  I told you to take that cap off!  Do so now!”

Again, neither boy moved.

“You, you sitting out there,” the judge shouted pointing at me.  “You’ve come into our small community thinking that you know everything.  You think that you can tell us how to run our community.  Well we’ll see.  We’ll see if you have all the answers or not!  I’m putting these two boys into your custody!

He hit the bench with his gavel.  I sat there not able to move.  What had just happened?  This was supposed to be an easy afternoon, a little time out of the heat.  Now at 21 I had custody of two twelve-year olds.  What do you do with two boys who are about to become teenagers? Were they to live with us?

As we drove back to the Labor Camp Lupe and I talked about the options available to me.  We decided it would be best for the boys to spend nights with their parents and spend days with us.  Joe and Ellen, my two roommates and fellow Vista Volunteers, had a good laugh as I explained what had happened –  that is until they realized how this impacted them too.

One of the first things we learned was that Caesar wouldn’t remove his cap because he had a scalp disease and his hair was all patchy.  Joe took him to town to pick out a new, clean cap.  A daily routine was making sure his head and cap were clean.

We checked with the school to see how they were doing.  Because they were the children of migrant laborers and moved a lot the school was basically warehousing them.  We requested they be tested.  It took a little pressuring but eventually the tests were administered.  Caesar had an IQ of 69, Pedro’s was 48.

Caesar and Pedro had no idea what the consequences would be when they placed those bricks on the railroad track.  They were merely having fun trying to balance the bricks.

For the next few months I worked hard with the school and their parents figuring out what would be best for them.  In the end we were able to get them enrolled in a residential school for mentally challenged children.

I remember the day I took them to the school.  They were excited and I knew that they were going to receive training that would give them skills to function as adults on their own.

As I drove out of the school grounds I had a sense of accomplishment, a sense I had done something good. 

Caesar and Pedro were American invisible children – there was no one in their lives who cared enough or had the sophistication to get them the help they needed.  Little did the judge realize what a blessing it was for those boys when he placed them in my custody.

But as the years have passed I have often felt that those boys may have been left behind. 

Not once did I speak to them about Jesus.

What did I truly give them if I gave them the whole world but they lose their souls?  Mark 8:36

Years later, when I was concerned about the outcome of my own children the Triune God taught me what motivates most of us in what we do as we serve others. Motivation for What We Do   In the years that I served in inner cities I saw this motivation over and over again. Just one example of what I observed.



Church Based After School Ministry: EXCELLENCE


Romans 12:11; II Timothy 2:15

As Christians, we are called to a life of perseverance.  We are to move ahead with careful, steady  effort.  To have an excellent Center, we cannot become sluggish or indifferent.

Mediocrity IS OUR ENEMY

If you are diligent you will:

be   Challenged

get   tired

want to  give up  at times

BUT YOU WILL persevere

I had just begun as Children’s Pastor in a different church and knew that the most excellent Children’s Ministry was achieved when volunteers met monthly for training and evaluation.  For the first few months, only a few people showed up.  The fourth month, only two people were at the meeting.  I was so frustrated I sat with the two who had come and cried.  Everyone told me to give it up.  People were just too busy to come to meetings.

Matthew 18 was always going over and over in my mind – I knew God expected me to do everything I could to provide an excellent Children’s Ministry. I REFUSED TO GIVE UP. Slowly the attendance began to grow until there were 20, 30 and even 40 people turning out for these volunteer gatherings.



You will bear fruit if you are excellent.

What may be some of the fruit you will produce if you have an excellent Center?

(Children catching a love for Jesus, parents coming to church, grades improving, behavior improving, life skills learned, etc.)

C.        PROGRESS

There will be continual change and growth in the program.  You will never be content with how things are going now, even if they are pretty good.

You will be growing as an individual, spiritually, emotionally and professionally.  Don’t be satisfied with where you are.  Browse through a book store at least once a month for the latest children’s books, educational books, and craft and recreational books. OR browse through the internet for books, children’s ministry ideas, parenting ideas.

Seek God daily!  Allow God to show you His truth in your innermost being.  Hunger after knowledge about child development, parenting skills and how to motivate children to learn.


D.        POWER

Through God, you can meet whatever is thrown at you.  You know that apart from God you can do nothing.  However, you know in your heart that all things are possible with God.  “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  Philippians 4:13

 E.        ABUNDANCE

You go beyond what you have to do.  You look for what you can do, even if it is tedious or means more work, longer hours, getting dirty, looking ridiculous, or taking risks.

I was leading a vacation Bible school program with hundreds of children.  Each day the children were to bring pennies, which were to go to a missionary.  My son visited the first day and at the end of the day was giving me a critique of what he had observed.

“Mom, you have to give the kids a reason to bring in their pennies that is more concrete than just helping the missionaries,” he challenged.

So I thought about it and the next morning told the kids that if they brought in a certain number of pennies, she would let the interns (six college students hired to run the summer weekday activities) do anything to me that they wanted.

The interns told the kids that at the big closing celebration, they were going to turn me into a hot fudge if enough money was raised.

The week had a new excitement to it.  I egged on the kids telling them there was no way they could raise so much money.  The kids kept saying, “Wait till Friday night.”

Friday evening arrived.  As families began arriving, I was walking around the church dressed in a long black evening dress.  The kids were aghast!  “Wanda, your dress is going to get ruined.”

“No way!  You haven’t raised enough money,” I needled.

One dad came up and told me that he had gone around his office collecting money because this was one event he wanted to make sure happened.

As you might guess, the money was raised.  I changed clothes and was brought out to sit in a wading pool while the interns poured ice cream, whip cream, chocolate syrup, nuts and cherries over me.  The church was packed with children and families.  There was a sense of electricity in the building.

I didn’t have to allow myself  to be made a fool of, but I knew the difference it would make in the week.  What I wasn’t counting on was the lasting effect it had.  Many parents came up afterward and told me how much they appreciated my willingness to go the extra mile so that their kids could be challenged and grow.


Excellence demands a realization that I am responsible for the outcome of what happens at the Center.  It requires awareness that one day, I will stand before the Lord and He will judge the effort I put into my ministry.

Romans 14:9-12


Aim for high quality in all you do.  Continually ask yourself, “Can this be done better?”


Excellence demands that you be honest with yourself.  It is easy to fool oneself because the heart is deceitful beyond all else, Jeremiah 17:9

It is easy to think you are doing something great – when you really aren’t!

The Challenge of the Pedestal


Church Based After School: Opportunity To Learn From A Man Who Once Was An At-Risk Kid


Below is an interview which anyone who serves at-risk kids must listen to.


Rob Bryceson, Pastor of First Covenant Church Spokane, WA interviews a member of his church who grew up an over the top at-risk kid. It is amazing that he is alive today – even more amazing that he walks with God.

You may want to have a Kleenex handy.

We, who serve kids from dysfunctional homes, can learn what not to do from this man’s story. He accepted the Lord as a child, however due to mistakes the church made he walked away from the Lord in the week after entering the Family of God.  

Church Based After School: Teaching Kids To Make Choices Begins With You

When you make a split second choice what is it based on?

Most likely it is based on who you truly are. Not what you live on the outside but who you truly are on the inside. What is most important to you? What do you believe? WHO DO YOU BELIEVE?


If you want to train the kids to make wise choices you must begin
by taking a good look at yourself.

If we attempt to make choices in a vacuum without an awareness of who God is, we are going to be overwhelmed.  We will cower and take the easy way out each time.

 However, if we stop and acknowledge who God is, we will be empowered.  We serve the God of the Universe; He can make the sun stand still; He speaks and the seas are calmed; He can bring a human back to life and He can be everywhere at the same time.  Yet, He loves you so much He sent His only Son to earth to pay the price for your sins.  Almighty God wants to have an intimate relationship with you.

Do you believe God can overcome any obstacle in your life?  Do you believe He will do for you what you need done?

Think back over the past year; how have your beliefs affected the choices you have made?  Have you walked by faith or by sight?  Do your choices clearly tell the world who your God is?

This week you will guide the kids in discovering who the false gods are in their lives.  But they must first know who the one true God is.  Who/what are the false gods in your life?  Ask the Lord to show you.

Church Based After School: Walking Through Life With Kids

In 2012 how will you walk through life with the kids God has placed in your ministry?

Take some time to write out a plan for each kid for whom you are responsible. It is important that you minister to the whole child – address each area below for each kid.






I would love to hear how you do. If you need some help with brainstorming write me at

Church Based After School Programs: SERVING TRAUMATIZED CHILDREN

The young couple came into the home excited to share their gifts with the boys. The foster parents called the boys into the living room to meet Dawn and Greg; one look at this young couple and the boys went wild running out of the room.

I immediately had a thought and leaned over to Ellen, the foster mom, and asked, “How did you first meet the boys? Was it just like this in the last foster home?” The light went on in Ellen’s eyes and she made the suggestion to her husband.

Antone, the foster dad, called the boys back and sat them on his lap, “These are our friends who wanted to meet you. I work with Dawn. You are not going anywhere; you are staying here with us.”

You could see the silent sigh as the boys relaxed.

As we serve traumatized kids, and if you are serving in an after school program you more than likely have a few who are, we must be continually aware of things we consider “normal” that may bring fear rushing into their little beings.

After an amazing Christmas Eve celebration at church, dinner with family and the opening of gifts it was time for bed. The boys didn’t want to go to bed, “Our gifts will leave.” They are still learning that they can trust in this home.

As you serve remember that even though a child may be 10 or 11 he still may be stuck emotionally in his first year of life where he never learned to trust. Kids who haven’t learned to trust need adults who are willing to walk through “hell” with them to bring them to a place of trust.

It is as though the child has built a brick wall of protection around himself. When you begin to get close, when the child thinks he just might be able to trust you, fear drives him to do something to make you angry, to get you to react.  You see, you are getting close to taking out a brick, or maybe you have removed several bricks and the wall is getting wobbly.

The child’s protection is that wall — he has to act out so the wall will stay standing. In his subconscious, he is now back in control, he is the one who made you angry — on purpose. If you reject him it won’t hurt as much because, in his faulty reasoning, he is the one who made you reject him.

This is why it is so important that those who serve traumatized children don’t ever give up. You must be willing to go through the same acting out over and over and over again until the child has proven to himself that it is safe to allow ALL the bricks to fall down.

PRAY, PRAY, PRAY —  for wisdom and strength to follow through on the wisdom the child’s Creator gives you.

Church Based After School Programs: Decorating for Christmas

Have the kids decorate your center for Christmas.

MATERIALS: Popcorn Garland: popcorn, needles, thread/dental floss; Window Paint: powdered paint, dish soap, bowls, brushes; Christmas Ornaments: flour, water, salt, holiday themed cookie cutters, wax paper, pencils, brushes, tempera paint;Christmas Chain: red and green construction paper, scissors, glue; Christmas Snowflakes: white paper, scissors; Crèche: three recipes of art dough, yellow paper, butter or cream cheese box, two cereal boxes, stones/dirt, brown construction paper, crayolas, sheet of cardboard, glue, tooth picks, scissors,

(The directions below were taken from the Kidtrek Life Skills Curriculum)


  • Plan to continue this activity in your craft time – there are no other craft suggestions this week
  • Split your Life Skills/Craft time to have one day be the making (crafts) of the decorations and one day be the decorating of the KidTrek Center(Life Skills)
  • This week you will have the kids decorate your center
  • A survey was once taken of elementary kids.  The question was, “What do you most like about Christmas?”  The overwhelming response was, “Decorating the house.”  Decorating the house was overwhelmingly more popular than opening gifts
  • Today you may want to spend the majority of your time planning
  • This is a great activity to do as a KidTrek Center family – thus there are no directions for teens.  Have everyone participate together if possible
  • If your teens meet at a different time than the younger kids, have all the ornaments made one day, then during a Family Time that week have a celebration decorating the center
  • Be flexible with your scheduling this month – it is a month of celebration
  • Decide which decorations will be made
  •   As a group decide how you will work the day
  • It will run most smoothly if an adult is responsible to oversee the making of each decoration
  • The greatest Life Skills lesson the kids will learn may be how the Secondary Nurturers deal with the need to be flexible; how do the Secondary Nurturers deal with organized chaos?

 Popcorn Garland

  • Have a volunteer pop popcorn – make enough to eat too
  • Thread needles with thread or dental floss
  • Make a sample  (Directions on page 23  )

Window Paint

  • Gather needed materials  (Recipe in PDF below )

Christmas Ornaments

  •  Have a volunteer make the dough and samples (Recipe in PDF below  )

Christmas Chain

  • Make a sample  (Directions below  )

Christmas Snowflakes

  • Have a volunteer make circle patterns
  • Make a sample (Directions in PDF below  )


  •   Have a volunteer make a sample
  • Gather all the materials  (Directions in PDF below  )

Guided Conversation

  1. What is Christmas?
    It is the celebrations of Christ – the celebration of Jesus the Messiah coming to pay the price for our sins
  2. In everything we do at Christmas it is important for us to remember why we are celebrating.  Our decorations can be a message to others of what Jesus means to us.  As we plan our decoration today lets remember we want to bring honor and glory to Jesus.

The Activity

  • Listed below are several different types of decorations that the kids can make and then put up in the center
  • Before you begin show the kids the possible decorations they can make
  • Give time for each Trek Team to come up with three suggestions of
    how the KidTrek Center should be decorated
  • They are also to tell how this will bring honor and glory to Jesus
  • Each Trek Team appoints a spokesperson to share their three
    suggestions to the group
  • Have butcher paper/black board or white board on which you can write the suggestions and how the suggestion will bring glory to Jesus
  • When you have put down all the suggestions discuss which ones are possible
  • Remind the kids that after Christmas they will also have to take the decorations down and clean up everything
  • If you are able, and the kids want to, let them make extra decorations that they can take home and decorate their own homes

Popcorn Garlands

  • This may be an activity only for the older kids
  • Show them how to use the needle and thread to string the popcorn together
  • You can also alternate different colored jelly beans, jujubes, or cranberries to add color to your garland
  • Let the kids decide where they want to drape their garlands

Christmas Windows

  • Mix together the paint powder and dishwashing soap
  • Experiment with amounts to get the consistency you desire
  • Discuss with the kids what kinds of painting they would like to do on the windows
  • How might the pictures share Christ with people who drive or walk past?
  • After Christmas the pictures will wipe off easily with a wet rag

Dough Christmas Ornaments

  • Show the kids the various cookie cutters from which they can
  • Show the kids how to cut out designs using the cookie cutters
  • Use a pencil to poke holes in the top of each ornament
  • Paint the ornaments as desired
  • Tie a colored ribbon through the hole in the ornament and hang
    on the Christmas tree
  • The kids can also make free form decorations
  • The Art Dough will dry over night

Christmas Chain

  • Cut strips (across the width of paper, 1 inch thick) of red and green
    construction paper
  • Take one end and glue to opposite end
  • The second strip loop through the first – and so forth
  • Have the kids connect their chains
  • Let the kids decide where they want their chains to be hung

Christmas Snowflakes

  • Cut out a circle of white paper
  • You can have cardboard shapes for them to trace
  • OR let them cut the circles free hand (it will make them even more creative
  • Fold in half, then in half again and for a third time in half
  • Cut triangles, squares, etc. out of each side, being careful not to cut completely across
  • Each one will open to being a unique snowflake

(There is a second Creche in the PDF below)

  • The crèche can be as large or as small as you desire
  • CHARACTERS: Using Art Dough make images of Mary,
    Joseph, Jesus as a baby (make sure the kids understand
    Jesus is no longer a baby), shepherds, three wise men, camels,
    donkeys, cows, lambs,
  • STRAW: Cut thin strips of yellow paper for the straw
  • CRADLE: use a butter box or cream cheese box, cut off the top; glue toothpicks on the box; let dry then paint brown; add “straw” to the “cradle”
  • BARN: two identical cereal boxes, put stones or dirt in boxes so they will stand, cover boxes with brown construction paper – color paper to look like wood; stand boxes apart from each other distance will depend on size of art dough characters;  large sheet of cardboard folded to make shape of roof, cover with
    ”straw”; place straw on floor of manger
  • Put baby Jesus in cradle and place in barn, place all the other art
    dough characters in the manger