They range in age from five-years-old to eleven. Before Tuesday this week, many of them had never met, some had never darkened the door of a church.

They entered on Tuesday cautiously, some could barely be coaxed out of their car in the parking lot. But they came.

For four days, they have shared in creating crafts, making beautiful music, enjoying internationally-themed snacks, learning with extraordinary puppets, walking the labyrinth, making and flying kites, enjoying high tea, and just hanging out as old and new friends.

They are accompanied by a dedicated team of adults working along with an amazing team of talented teens.

Now they are a temporary beautiful little community on a journey together. Their journey is to a deep place within. Their journey is to a place of love and light that does not depend upon them being a certain way or measuring up to a certain standard in any aspect of life. They are discovering what it means to respect one another, to share with people who may be different from the people with whom they are more familiar, and to open to new experiences in life.

This journey is the reason we have church.

There are so many places children can go to be encouraged to define themselves by their ability to achieve and succeed. There are fewer places that seek to remind them that they are beautiful creations of God just as they are, regardless of anything they may ever have done, or failed to do, or that may have been done to them.

The journey these children share is a journey to that place within themselves where they know they are deeply valued and greatly blessed simply because they carry within themselves the gift of life.

One morning we spoke about the things that might make being on a journey scary. The children immediately recited a litany of fears that might be encountered on any journey… well almost any journey… probably not too many of us will meet dinosaurs along the way. But the fears were real and familiar to everyone.

This past week has been committed to helping these children experience the possibility that there is that within them which is stronger, more real, and more lasting than anything they might ever fear.There is a force within them that is stronger than all their insecurities, anxieties and any pain life may ever bring across their path.

It is natural to feel timid at times and fear is a real and, sometimes necessary part of life. But, ultimately, we all bear within ourselves a strength, wisdom, light, and peace that nothing we fear can ever destroy and that does not depend upon anything external.

If I were able to give any child one gift, it would be the gift of the awareness deep in their hearts that they are not defined by any external circumstance. Their beauty does not depend on how they look, how they perform, who their friends may be, or how much they impress others. As the children will sing in their closing presentation today:

You with the sad eyes
Don’t be discouraged
Oh I realize
Its hard to take courage
In a world full of people
You can lose sight of it all
And the darkness inside you
Can make you feel so small
But I see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that’s why I love you
So don’t be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful
Like a rainbow

This is a gift that will never fail them, never forsake them, and never let them down. I am so grateful to the members of our church community who have shared in creating an environment in which children might come to know this beautiful reality in their lives.