Luke 18:16, Matthew 19:14 and Mark 10:14 record Jesus’ words, “suffer the little children…” STOP HERE!
The Christian community can’t continue reading and hope to fulfill Jesus’ admonition to let the children “….come unto me” without stopping to recognize the reality of this initial phrase as it stands alone: “Suffer the little children!”
- More than 3 million children or 1 out of every 25 kids in the United States experiences maltreatment.
- For more than 1 million children, the experience of maltreatment results in demonstrable harm.
- In 2010, 1537 children died from maltreatment (more than 3x the number of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan the previous year).
Much work is being done by national organizations and the government to address the issue of child maltreatment so that every child can live in a safe, stable, nurturing environment. Where is the church? Why is the church largely failing to address this issue and establish strategies to prevent children from suffering? This must happen to effectively let kids “come unto [Jesus]”, for it is very difficult to get physically injured, emotionally scarred and physically dead kids to come to Him.
For 11 years, I have been involved professionally with 100s of these kids. In my role as a pediatric and forensic pathologist with specialty focus on child abuse, I regularly evaluate maltreatment that results in non-fatal injuries as well as death. I recognize that there is a usual population of children and caretakers that are “at risk” and usual characteristics of abusive injuries. Recognition is the crucial ingredient needed to protect children and ensure their safety and well-being.
Have you seen this child – this faceless, nameless, injured child?
-in your community?
-in your church?
-maybe even, in your home?
Are we concerned that the injuries may be abusive – non-accidental injuries inflicted by a parent or caretaker? Or do we say, “NO! Not in my community, not in my church, not in my family!” Many people are comfortable shielding themselves from the reality of child abuse. Sadly, many of these people represent the “Church”. It’s time for ALL, not just designated social workers, law enforcement, or medical personnel, to remove the blinders and begin to recognize children, recognize caretakers, and recognize characteristic injuries.
Children who suffer abuse represent every socioeconomic level, every ethnic and cultural group, all religions and all levels of education. It’s infants and toddlers that are recognized as a higher risk population. Statistics reveal that nearly 80% of children that die from abuse are less than 4 years old. Infant crying and toddler tantrums and toilet training issues are particular triggers for physical abuse. The majority of infants who suffer shaking related head trauma are less than 6 months old, and notably males are at greater risk. The ‘difficult’ child for reasons of health, temperament, etc is another factor that impacts the level of risk for maltreatment. In recognizing this high risk population of children, the church community needs to provide education and support to help families cope with the challenges of raising infants and young children.
I’ve read that “ANYONE faced with the challenge of caring for an infant who is crying inconsolably is at risk” for inflicting trauma. The same can be said for the challenge of caring for a ‘terrible’ toddler or turbulent teenager. Yet, statistics and my experience reveal a population of “at-risk” parents/caretakers:
- single or isolated parents
- young parents (particularly teens and young adults with unwanted pregnancies)
- drug and alcohol dependent parents (children are 3 times more likely to be abused)
- unusually tired/frustrated/stressed parents (could be isolated or chronic state)
- poverty-ridden parent
- non-biological parent (particularly boyfriend of mother)
In recognizing the high risk parents/caretakers and the larger population of any parent/caretaker, the church community needs to actively engage in providing services that support nurturing family relationships and environments for children. Is it not expected that the church provide family support, education support, emotional support, addiction support, economic support (Acts 4:32-35)?
Recognize Characteristic Injuries
In considering physical abuse, certain injuries based upon the age of the child, type of injury and location of injury are recognized as highly or definitively characteristic of abusive injuries. A child who sustains an abusive injury is at risk for subsequent abuse, which may lead to death. Anyone who is willing to accept the reality of child abuse can recognize and raise the ‘red flag’ of suspicion for many of these injuries:
- Bruises on babies (particularly ‘non-cruisers’)
- Bruises/marks that leave a pattern of an object (hand print, belt mark, loop/cord mark…)
- Bruises/marks/burns in locations typically protected from routine accidents (ears, neck, armpit, genitals…)
- Excessive number of injuries
- Bruises/marks in locations atypical for discipline and representing obvious great force
Christians clearly have a biblical mandate to protect children from harm (Matthew 18:5-6). Church leaders may also be mandated by their state to report any suspicion of child abuse; failure to do so may be criminal. It’s imperative that the Christian community recognize the reality that children suffer (many at the hands of parents and caretakers) and begin implementing strategies to protect children from physical harm and additional devastating consequences of abuse. Only then, will we effectively be able to let children “…come unto [Jesus]”.
Dr. Lora Darrisaw is an associate medical examiner for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and specializes in pediatric pathology and the evaluation of fatal and non-fatal pediatric injury. Dr. Darrisaw also serves at Calvary Chapel Church in Snellville, GA. and is a friend and supporter of Vision 2 Hear.
I don’t have to really go into all the details about how many people are dying of hunger around the world and even in our own country, do I? I don’t really have to go into detail about how many of those are children, do I? Do I have to go into detail about how much food we waste each year, let alone how much we discard because of the simple blemishes that make them “imperfect” to “sell”? And yet there are so many people that we could help in the smallest of ways that could not only make a difference now but in someone’s future.
Check this link from the Food Network: The Big Waste
The fact of the matter is that we have so much that waste and do so on a daily basis. We have so much that we should be thankful for and yet never really consider the fact we should be thankful: and that is because so many simply do not even have ACCESS to all that we waste!
I know it happens to me a lot and probably to you also. We all pass people on the road holding signs asking for money for food. We see them and the thoughts flood our minds of why they are where they are. Or maybe how we are glad it’s “them” and not us. Or maybe we have some modicum of sympathy or empathy and we stop and give a little “spare” change. What would happen if we took the things we could really “spare” and gave it for a change? What would it be like if we stopped giving to make ourselves feel good and gave until it hurt? Maybe that’s the point….we don’t hurt at all for anything?
This is not a blog meant to try and guilt you into doing something as much as it is to encourage you and spur you on for more good works. It’s meant to remind you that if each of us just did a little more…or if we did a lot more than we are used too, we could make a bigger difference.
Here are a few things to consider:
Start where you are. When you see someone who needs a little help…help! Don’t just drive by. Stop and help. This goes for anything. Make it a practice to be the Good Samaritan. When you see someone who is hungry, don’t just toss a few coins in the cup, buy them some food then and there. Share a meal with them. Buy a gift card so they can have food for the future. Get their names, their stories and pray with them.
Invest by eating less. Eating less is probably not only more “healthy” for most of us but it also allows for less waste. Less waste and “waist”. I couldn’t resist! Take the money you save by simply buying less and give it to a needy country. Buy rice and goats through organizations that will deliver them to needy people around the world.
Teach your kids about hunger and poverty. Don’t let kids throw away their food. Eat what you take and only take what you will eat. Having traveled around the world and staying in many different countries, food is not something we throw away if we don’t like the “taste” or “texture”. It’s food and necessary to have to survive. As my friend Moses says: “In America, you live to eat. In Africa, we eat to live.” Help you kids understand that it’s important to “clean your plate” and finish all the food that’s there. Have a contest to see how little you can waste in a month. Do a new version of the “Biggest Loser” and cut back on the food waste!