Signs of Salvation: Nairobi's Story

Timid little Nairobi approached me after church to tell me that she would like someone to tell her more about going to Heaven. Since the bus was about to leave, I made arrangements to visit her as soon as possible so that I could continue our conversation.

After I arrived at Nairobi’s house, I asked her grandmother's permission to talk to Nairobi about trusting Christ. She gave her consent, and Nairobi took my hand, leading me to the drab couch in the tiny living room. I opened by New Testament to the Romans’ Road, beginning with Romans 3:23.

“Nairobi, do you know that you are a sinner? The Bible says that we all have sinned, done wrong things against God.” I was surprised to see tears stream down her little face. Although she was only nine years old, the Holy Spirit was convicting her of her sin. She nodded solemnly.

“That’s why I want to get saved,” she whispered. With great joy, I was able to show Nairobi the rest of the Romans’ Road and lead her in a prayer to trust Christ as her Savior. It was a happy day in Nairobi’s house.

As exciting as it was to lead Nairobi to Christ, I wanted to proceed with caution. In working with children, we must be careful when it comes to salvation decisions. One can talk a nine year-old into almost anything; they are usually very eager to please adults whom they respect. I wanted to be sure that I had the right balance of showing her the need to trust Christ, while making sure that any decision made was her own and not mine. It’s easy to lead a little child in a prayer, but if they are not ready or don’t understand the decision they are making, such a prayer can result in a false confidence. Many teens and adults doubt their salvation because they prayed a prayer as a child that they have little memory of. They’ve simply been told, “Remember? You asked Jesus into your heart when you were four years old.”

On the other hand, children certainly can come to Christ. They are capable of understanding their sinfulness and need of a Savior. And we must express to them the importance of trusting Christ at a young age, before the world has a chance to take root in their hearts. But in our zeal to lead them to Christ, we must not forget the necessity of each individual making his own choice.

Also, after a child prays to trust Christ, it’s often difficult to know whether his
profession was sincere or not. Marks of a Christian, such as turning from the world or confessing Christ before others, are sometimes more difficult to identify in a young child. Because they are not involved in deep sin, it may be difficult to see a lifestyle change. Sincere or not, they may simply lack the words to clearly describe their decision to trust Christ because of their young age. This doesn’t mean that we discourage them—“You must not have really asked Jesus into your heart!”—but that we simply wait patiently for the signs to appear, all the while encouraging them to know Christ.

I was pleased to see Nairobi return to my class the next Wednesday. We had a full room, over thirty boys and girls squeezed into a tiny space. On this particular night, I had to work harder than usual to keep the class’s attention. Then a teacher came running in from an adjoining classroom needing help. A sink had come off the wall, shattering on impact, and a geyser of water from the wall was flooding the 2-5 year-olds’ class. An usher was called to shut off the water and the teacher assistants were sent for mops and buckets. The 2-5 year olds were filed into our class to finish the Bible story about Elijah.

Amid all this chaos, a little girl sat on the front row, her shining eyes never leaving my face. Nairobi listened eagerly to the Bible story, hungry for every word. Amazingly, the mayhem around us didn’t seem to bother her a bit.

After church, she found me with Claire, cleaning up the classroom. “I want to give these toys to your little girl.” She carefully pulled a small plastic dish, fork, spoon, and hairbrush from her bag and gave them to Claire. She tried to downplay the magnitude of her sacrifice, “I’m too big to play with them now.” But I saw her look at them longingly. She was giving up something that was very special to her.

As I watched Claire hug Nairobi and examine the little toys one by one, I prayed that the Lord would one day work in my daughter’s heart in such a miraculous way. It's my desire for her that we would not see an empty profession that would later lead to doubt, but a real repentance resulting in a changed heart.

If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. -I John 1:7
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