Lauren dreaded going home. The familiar drone and lull of the bus was more comfort than the thought of walking through her door - not knowing what to expect. How she loved going to church! She never knew such a thing existed before a few months ago. Her life before Jesus consisted of fear, neglect, hunger and sometimes even……abuse. Her little heart was scarred more than any eight year olds should ever be.
She held her family secrets tightly in her heart. Her new friends could never find out what her home was really like…how her parents drank, fought and screamed at her. How her house was infested with roaches and filth. How she pulled her clothes each day from a large dirty pile in her closet. How her Mama lay passed out on the couch most of the time. How her Dad showed up late at night in a drunken rage. No, they could never find out….
Jerry and Melinda ran the bus ministry. They were a couple who never had children but loved every one of their bus kids with a love only Jesus could give. Lauren had never known such a love - it was un-conditional. There was always singing and laughter on the bus. There were hugs and smiles, snacks and small gifts at church. She had even earned a Bible in her class for memorizing verses. She treasured her Bible. Her church family was the family Lauren dreamed of, but never had. They talked to her as if she had something important to say. They were sincerely interested in her and she didn’t know how to accept that kind of love at first - even though she craved it. Then she met Jesus.
It was Wednesday night AWANA class when Lauren accepted Jesus as her Saviour. Oh how she cried as the Holy Spirit convicted her and Melinda helped her to understand what Jesus did for her on the cross. For the first time, that night she was excited to go home and tell her parents of the joy in her heart. She felt a warm glow all the way home and knew Jesus could make her home a real home! Jesus’ love was the ingredient missing there.
But, it didn’t turn out the way she had envisioned. Her parents got mad and forbid her from going back to church! Her Dad said she should forget about this fairy-tale and get in the kitchen to make him something to eat. They wouldn’t listen as she tried to explain of her salvation in Christ. She knew they would soon forget about forbidding her to church…they always forgot their threats. But her spirit was so defeated. As she crawled onto her bare mattress that night, her tears soaked the lumpy pillow as she silently prayed for them, just the way Ms. Melinda taught her.
The next Sunday morning she was up and dressed bright and early as her parents lay sleeping. She tiptoed out the front door and ran to the end of the street to meet the bus.
Melinda saw the wide-eyed fright in Lauren’s eyes and whispered a prayer for her as she entered the bus. She thought it unusual for Lauren to meet them at the end of the road. Lauren was subdued during the bumpy ride while the other children sang and laughed.
After church Jerry and Melinda dropped all the kids off and Lauren was the only child left on the bus. Melinda quietly made her way to Lauren’s seat .
“Do you want to talk about it, Sweetie?”
That’s all it took for Lauren’s big blue eyes to fill with tears. She explained to Melinda everything that happened with her parents and the things they’d said. She explained how she had snuck out of the house this morning to come to church. She was careful not to reveal all her secrets - only telling Melinda of the conversation regarding her salvation.
Melinda hugged her then said something Lauren would never forget.
“Honey, we all have our cross to bear. I am so sorry yours is what it is. But, don’t you ever stop praying and don’t you ever stop telling them about your Jesus. He is more powerful than anything in this world. He will give you strength and hope. You hold onto Jesus with everything in you and I promise you, one day, all that is wrong, will be made right.”
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