It was Christ himself who declared that "whoever welcomes this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me; for he who is least among you all is the one who is great" (Luke 9:48 NRSV). One could say that these words that Christ spoke nearly two thousand years ago are the cornerstone of Amigos de Jesús. In my own experience, that is exactly the case. With every step you take on the grounds of Amigos, you can't escape the reality that in every child's face you see, you are seeing Christ.
The question arises, though, what exactly does Christ mean in His statement? What does He mean when He said that "unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:3 NRSV). Children possess nothing. Of course, they may have a few possessions, but it wasn't them who bought or collected those things. They received them from their care-giver(s). Children also inherently have nothing to buy love or affection from other people with. The sheer fact that they exist demands that they be loved. They cannot be anything other than themselves, and that is exactly what God wants. God wants only ourselves, free of attachments. That is why God wants us to be like children because children don't have attachments that impede their ability to give and receive love.
As we mature into adults our ability to give and receive love becomes clouded because our world tells us that we only have worth based on what we possess. This is usually followed by us acquiring knowledge or skills so we can be "worth" something in the eyes of the world, and that leads to us believing we have worth because of the "things" we have acquired over time. Christ, in one single sentence, strikes down the belief that we are only worthy of love by the things that we possess. God made us for Himself. He made each and every person a beloved child of Himself, and there is nothing else needed for Him to love us. But since our world continually tells us the opposite, we refuse to believe God. Why would Christ use a child? Because they don't have years of disbelief creating a barrier between them and the love of God. When a child hears that they are loved, they don't ask "why?" They simply receive it. And they delight.
I have never experienced this reality with greater intensity than at Amigos. When I first walked through the gates of Amigos, it was a moment I will never forget. Countless kids lined the bridge excitedly waiting to welcome me, a complete stranger. As soon as I crossed the threshold, I was smothered in hugs from kids I had yet to even say hello to. My first response was of disbelief. How could I feel such overwhelming love when I hadn't done anything yet? I hadn't proven myself worthy of this love yet. I hadn't done anything to deserve their love. To the kids, that didn't matter. I was there. That was enough. This is what God wants from us. Pure delight in the person for simply being that person.
That is why here at Amigos, we believe that we are disciples of the kids. It isn't the other way around. While we may have more worldly competency, it is the kids who show us how to love with depth and clarity. We as adults struggle with this. Our waters of love have been clouded by the things of this world, but the kids have the love of a shimmering, clear blue ocean where you can see with absolute clarity all the way to the bottom.
That is why Christ said, "he who is least among you all is the one who is great." It is the children who are great. We might possess things that may deem us great in the eyes of the world, but our love is choked and limited by those worldly "things." The kids don't need all of that. They simply want a person to be there. To show up and tell them they are loved. They tell us this all the time by their laughs, by their smiles, by their hugs. Every move a child makes exudes love. We must follow that. We must learn that. Every day at Amigos I fall short of this, but simply being here and basking in the glory of these children has allowed me to get a glimpse of what heaven must be like - crystal clear and pure. Just like the love of a child.
- Clay Mathews, 2018-19 Amigos Volunteer