Imagine a child, living in fear of his parents' rage, abuse and neglect; not knowing when he will eat again, or if there will be enough food to fill his empty stomach.
Imagine a child, living in fear that her mother will never wake up from her drunken sleep, no matter how much she shakes her and tries to wake her up.
Imagine a child, cowering in the corner of his room afraid that relative will come in and touch him and hurt him again; just like that person has done so many times before.
Imagine a child, wearing ill-fitting worn out shoes, her little feet crammed into them; her clothes dirty and ragged. No one seems to care whether she is clean or not.
Then imagine someone coming to help that child, to take them to a safe place, a place where he or she will have a nice bed to sleep in, clean clothes to wear, and a place where they will have plenty of good food to eat.
The caring person tries to assure the frightened child that everything will be okay, that they will be taken care of, that they won't be hurt again.
Since the early nineties, I have served on the board of directors of a ministry in Jackrabbit, Ariz., called NAOMI (Native American Outreach Ministries, Inc.).
The purpose of NAOMI is to care for abused and neglected Native American children, most of them coming from the Navajo Reservation in Northern Arizona.
Over the years, I have seen hundreds of children with stories just like the ones I just shared. They come to NAOMI from such tragic situations, each one with a heartbreaking story of pain and suffering.
Once the children arrive in Jackrabbit, they are surrounded with a loving, caring Christian family. For most of these little ones this is their first exposure to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
They see the love of God lived out before them in the lives of the NAOMI staff and volunteers.
Many of these children feel safe for the first time in their young lives. They are able to sleep in a clean bed, with clean sheets, a blanket and a pillow. They can sleep without fear.
I believe strongly in the ministry of NAOMI. I know the director, Linda Thompson, and her staff personally, and I support them with my time, my energy and my finances. And I encourage others to do the same.
In June of this year, I will be taking a team of people from Bedford County out to Jackrabbit to meet Linda, her staff, and the children. We will be there for a week to help share the love of Christ with these little ones, and to lend support to the staff and workers.
We will lead a Vacation Bible School program, assist in child care, feed the children and staff, and participate in construction and maintenance projects.
We will travel the roads of the Navajo and Hopi Reservations and share the Word of God in churches and worship with our Native American brothers and sisters.
I am looking forward to standing in the pulpit of the newly built New Life Fellowship at Castle Butte, just a year and a half after the old church building was burned to the ground by arsonists. We will help that congregation celebrate new beginnings.
When a child is brought to the loving arms of NAOMI, they too are able to celebrate new beginnings. They are given a fresh start, and more than just a hand out, they are given a hand up.
Imagine a child sitting at the feet of Jesus.
Imagine a child.
-- Doug Dezotell is the pastor of Mt. Lebanon UMC and Cannon UMC. He is a former staff writer for the Times-Gazette, and he is a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a friend to many. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.