In the hands of this willing servant the game, UNO (a deck of cards with five simple colors and some numbers on them), became an instrument through which God taught His amazing lessons of patience, self-control, kindness, joy, and in the end, LOVE.
Playing this simple card game, these academically delayed and disadvantaged migrant children learned, relearned, and solidified their knowledge of the colors BLACK, RED, YELLOW, BLUE and GREEN and the numbers zero through nine. Shuffling and passing out the cards to each player, we would count, ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR, FIVE, SIX...at first the voices were faint, but with each successive round the volume grew. They were learning and growing in confidence. Once dealt out we taught the children simple lessons about organizing their cards and grouping like colors to make playing the game a little bit easier. Though they wiggled and bounced eager for their turn to lay down or pick up a card, we talked about waiting, taking turns, and respecting each others "thinking time".
When a SKIP card was played or a PLUS TWO card laid, we learned that it was not grounds to wage WWIII. This was a game and there were rules to follow. Only by being obedient to the rules would there be a chance for the child's turn to come around again. In this game, everyone played by the same rules and in the end they discovered by working together that it WAS all fair. Win or lose, we had FUN!
Age differences faded, walls came crumbling down and a community was formed in the sweltering summer heat as we counted, took turns, gave pats on the back for good efforts, and celebrated an honest win. Excitement mounted and cries of "let's play again!" and "again" and "again" echoed into the air. Children who would previously stone each other for fun, physically assault one another on a whim, or verbally lash out with crazy accusations just to get a rise out of someone were playing together...but not just playing together, they were helping each other and encouraging each other and cheering for each other.
They were discovering the joys of sportsmanship and friendly competition...they understood about following the rules...they found joy in someone else's success and it prompted them to want it for themselves. So many lessons were being learned from the numbers and colors on a deck of cards that had obviously been blessed by an almighty God who had a plan and purpose for those sweltering days under the old pine tree down the dusty dirt road between two tobacco fields! And He didn't stop there...
A few days later the children noticed the bracelet on my wrist.
"Kelli, your bracelet is like the UNO game!"
Dumbfounded, I sat there for a minute. I looked at the bracelet I wore around my wrist. Yes, it was a simple band with five colored beads on it...YELLOW, BLACK, RED, WHITE, GREEN, similar to the colors of the cards in the UNO game. For days, the card game had been teaching the kids important lessons in patience, kindness, and sportsmanship. It had been building their character and reinforcing positive behavior traits.
Now by making a connection and noticing the colored beads on my bracelet, the children would get a lesson in LOVE that I pray they will never forget.
Using the colors on my bracelet, I shared the Gospel.
YELLOW: heaven (John 3:16, John 14:1-6)
BLACK: sin, the thing that separates us from God (Romans 3:23, 5:12, 6:23)
RED: the blood of Jesus who died on the cross (Romans 5:8)
WHITE:: purity (Romans 10:9-13)
GREEN: new life, growing in faith (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Under the old pine tree, some powerful, life changing lessons were learned through colors...lessons in character, eternal hope, and LOVE.