Our church ministers to inner city kids all
year long, and Christmas is a special time for the kids in our
ministry. Most don't lead easy lives; the thought of receiving
gifts, candy, and special attention is incredibly exciting. They
absolutely love Christmas.
I'm in charge of our Christmas Angel Tree. We ask kids to write
the name of a toy they'd like for Christmas on an angel. Then we
attach kids' pictures to the angels and hang them on the tree.
Church members select an angel, purchase a gift, and pray for the
One year, I'd gathered the kids' angels and, after church, skimmed
through their requests, smiling at the simple desires. Then I came
across Makayla's wish.
Makayla was a firecracker of a girl; she talked so fast it was
hard to keep up, and she was always smiling. She'd come to church
for about a month, bringing with her laughter and grins. Yet right
there in bright big red letters, Makayla had written: "All I want
for Christmas is someone to love me."
I was shocked; Makayla seemed full of joy and exuberance -- how
could she feel unloved? My heart broke for her; I never would've
guessed she carried such great sadness. Here was a little girl who
didn't ask for toys, clothes, or candy; she only wanted love.
Behind a vivacious smile and bright blue eyes was a child hurting
deeply. I knew her mom and dad were divorced and that there were
family problems, but I couldn't comprehend how alone she must have
felt inside to think that no one loved her.
During the next few weeks, I told Makayla our church family and I
loved her and, more than anything, Jesus loved her. She said she
knew that; she only wished for a momma and daddy who loved her. I
prayed for her home and I prayed for God to provide me words to
The night of our Christmas party arrived, and torn wrapping paper
and children's laughter filled the room. I watched Makayla gently
open the gift I'd given her. It was a stuffed bear with the words
"Jesus loves you so much!" on the front. I wanted her to have
something tangible she could hold to remind her she wasn't alone.
I'll always treasure her bright smile as she held onto that
The next week Makayla's seat was empty. After class, I learned her
mom had packed them up and moved. I felt an incredible sadness that
lingers today, knowing I wouldn't see her again. I pray for and
think about her often, especially at Christmas. I hope her
Christmas wish she so desperately longed for came true.
Sometimes behind the brightest grin and the loudest laughter, a
child's hurting heart is crying out. Ever since Makayla, I've never
missed an opportunity to hug every child leaving my class and say,
"Jesus loves you, and I love you too."
Cheryl Russell is a children's pastor in Henderson,
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