Child soldiers. For many people their mental image of Africa is lost-eyed boys, dressed in rags and strapped with automatic weapons. These nameless boys pass from birth to death unnoticed by the wider world as they scar the face of our continent. How do we even begin to respond?
This month our night guard Ibrahima* came up to me, weak-voiced and sunken eyed. As we stood together in the soft glow of a single lightbulb above our door he shared with me that his nephew had passed away. Living in Senegal the plight of child soldiers is not a reality we struggle with, but infant mortality still is. We stood there somber and broken at the loss of life. In shock. A child, made in the image of God. A child whose small chest no longer shrinks and grows with breath.
Our guard made his preparations to return to his village and mourn with his sister grieving the loss of her son, weep with his family at the loss of their child. Before I got up early the next morning the day guard had arrived and Ibrahima was gone. In my shock I’d missed my chance to pray with him.
The next evening came and we were introduced to our replacement guard. I went back inside and still felt the grief weighing on my chest. As the night fell our doorbell rang. I looked outside to find our regular guard standing by our kitchen window. I thought he had already left for the village, but there he stood. As I came out the door he folded his arms around me. He came to let me know he was going. This time I wouldn’t miss the moment, my second chance. I prayed over him, for his travel. I prayed for his family with him folded in my arm. We stood together as I sought to love him in love of Jesus.
As I walked back inside my heart and mind were suddenly flooded with the names and faces of boys from Trinity AG in Lanham, Maryland. This may seem an odd jump but those boys are part of a Royal Rangers troop who have chosen to pray faithfully this past year for Ibrahima. He was never far from their hearts and this evening was a fulfillment of another step toward the throne of God. Some day I pray Ibrahima will accept Jesus as his savior believing one day he will stand before the Jesus surrounded by these young men, with the hearts of warriors, who have made intercession for his soul.
It is time we transform the image of the child soldier. Not an African child abused of life and love, but young men from around the world burdened with the children of Africa to be dressed in the robes of glory, embraced in the Life and Love of Jesus. It’s time we sent our children into the battlefields of prayer for the dying before the day is gone.