Why are you here? Why are you my
friend? She used that as a chance to
explain Jesus’ love.
The first day of the high school spring break mission trip didn’t go quite like Erin Wood hoped. It was 2017 and Erin, then a sophomore at Amarillo High, was helping teach kindergartners at a Vacation Bible School class at a Bible Church in Phoenix.
“Not a lot of kids showed up and I felt discouraged a little bit,” she said. “It was not what I expected. I didn’t bond with anyone.”
And then, on the second day, came the bubbles. Big soapy bubbles blowing in the air. From that began a rudimentary, but loving, relationship with Erin and a Muslim family as they sought to understand God’s love.
Erin was with a younger group, but Nadia*, 8, a young Muslim girl, saw the bubbles and was mesmerized by them. She didn’t want to leave, and didn’t want to leave Erin. As Nicole, a ministry partner in Phoenix, got ready to take Nadia and her siblings home that day, Nadia asked if Erin would come along.
So, of course, she did, helping walk them a short distance to their home. Erin and others saw the small house, learning that a 10-year-old brother was basically the head of the house until both parents got home that evening.
On their final day there, as they walked together, Nadia began to probe Erin with questions: Why are you here? Why are you my friend? Erin used that as a chance to explain Jesus’
“She said I love you and my mom and dad,” Erin said, “and I told her that I loved her too, but imagine how much God loves you that He would send His son to die for you. Her eyes were wide open. It was the first time she heard about Jesus.
“We take so much for granted that people know about God and God’s son, but this was really an ‘awe moment’ for her.”
The mother, who was pregnant with her eighth child, was there when they walked them home. She invited Erin and a couple of friends in where they painted temporary tattoos on the children. That night was a VBS fun night, and the Muslim family returned.
“That night, it was as if time completely paused for me,” Erin said, “and I felt the Holy Spirit overfilling the place. I remember crying, like tears of joy in saying goodbye, which was really hard. Nadia was crying; her siblings were crying. We didn’t know if we’d ever see each other again.”
They did exchange a few letters, with Nadia at one time writing, “God loves us all.”
“I thought, ‘Wow, how crazy that she would write that,’” Erin said.
Fast forward a year, to March 2018, and again the high school mission trip to Phoenix. One of the advantages of a mission trip to the same place is to rekindle relationships. But Nadia’s family had moved several miles away after they were evicted.
Nicole, however, had a car sent to pick up Nadia and her siblings. Nadia and younger sister, Fatima, 6, both hugged Erin tightly. But if Nadia and Erin bonded in 2017, this time, God seemed to lead Erin to Fatima.
She was a bit of a troubled child,starting some squabbles, not listening, not always obeying. She really wasn’t interested in hearing about God. Toward the end of the week, Fatima seemed more upset than usual; she was crying.
“I took her aside and asked her what was wrong,” Erin said. “She said that nobody loves her, that she had so many brothers and sisters that her mom and dad didn’t have time to love them all, that I was so loving and happy and she wanted to be happy like me.”
These may be divine appointments, one-on-one moments when children, Muslim children, in this instance, can begin to see what one person’s words can paint.
“You just have to break it down the best that you can,” Erin said, “that her parents do love her, but there is a God that loves you a million times more than that.”
Erin began to list to Fatima all those who loved her, but maybe didn’t tell her all the time, and ended with the one who loved her the most, who sent his son Jesus to die for her.
“I don’t think she believed it at first, that anyone would do that,” Erin said. “But like with Nadia, it was the same with Fatima. Her eyes widened, like a breakthrough. She was so much happier the rest of the day, and it had such an impact on me.”
Final days are not always easy days because week-long friendships and nurturing abruptly end. On the drive to their home, Erin, Nadia and Fatima they “cried it out.” In front of their home, their grateful mother came out. All had a group hug one final
“Thank you for loving my children,” she said.
Erin is now a senior at Amarillo High, and this March 2019 was her final mission trip to Phoenix. As she had hoped, Erin was again able to build on what God had begun several years before. Erin’s commitment to serve and God’s faithful provision had left them all changed.
“All of this has made me realize God is in control,” Erin said. “What He wants is what’s going to happen. I have learned so much about the power and presence of God. The past three years, the last nights of VBS, His presence has been overwhelming. It’s like a movie, and it completely stopped, and I saw God’s power and hand at work.”
*Names in this article have been changed to protect children