A Little Child Shall Lead Them
The Word of God delivered in an unusual package
By Wilona Karimabadi
Stepping up to the podium, the speaker prays silently as he readies himself to deliver the message the congregation is eagerly awaiting. The singer before him, his sister, has prepared the audience through song, and he is ready.
Does Your Child Have the Gift to Preach?
He greets the audience with enthusiasm and vigor, smiling brightly as he surveys the crowd. With Bible in hand, message committed to memory, and zeal for preaching the Word of God in his heart, he begins. He preaches with fire, power, and conviction. Tapping the Bible for emphasis, pacing back and forth with boundless energy, he proclaims the gospel with a passion that knows no bounds. The crowd is clearly moved, and his appeal at the end of the sermon is well accepted. This preacher has mightily touched hearts and souls for Christ. This preacher is on fire for the Lord. This preacher is 7 years old.
The above scenario is far from fiction, but rather a glimpse into the life of a real child preacher—Kevin Patiño. Kevin is just 7 years old, but has been preaching for a few years already. He is the son of Edgar Patiño, a minister from the Inter-American Division now living and working in Mexico. Kevin and his 6-year-old sister, Dailyn, are extremely active in their own ministry for Lord—preaching and singing in venues large and small across their division home territory.
How did these two children barely in elementary school become involved in preaching? It is a career path and ministry that traditionally requires years of education and life experience to undertake. Have these children come into this path on a whim? Or is this truly a calling from God?
As very small children, both Kevin and Dailyn were active participants in their cradle roll Sabbath school class, learning their memory verses and songs perfectly. Their teacher noticed this and recognized that these two children possessed something very special. As a result, Kevin was asked to preach his first message for a Children’s Day program. Pastor Edgar Patiño says: “We both [my wife and I] started preparing Kevin and Dailyn, but what we didn’t know was that the Lord was actually preparing a special ministry for them. When we started working with them for this occasion, we noticed that they were both fast learners. Dailyn was just 2 years old, and Kevin was 3. We did not encounter any limitations to what they could do because of their age or the fact that they couldn’t read yet. For them, there was nothing more fun than to participate in church.”
The Children’s Day program was to feature an audience of more than 250 people. The Patiños decided that it would be best if Kevin got the opportunity to preach in another setting before this particular event. The district pastor was approached and happily arranged for Kevin to speak at a meeting of 150. Kevin had turned 4, and his sister, Dailyn, was just 3.
PUBLIC EXPERIENCE: Kevin and Dailyn
Patiño have been singing and preaching
the word since they were pre-schoolers.
“We as parents were very stressed out because of the expectations the audience had,” says Pastor Patiño. “People would ask, how come these little children are preaching? People expected the children to say some Bible verses and other things by memory. But it wasn’t like that. The Holy Spirit was in charge, and when Kevin’s 25-minute sermon was over and it was time for the altar call, the entire church stood up and came forward—some crying and some just praising the Lord for what they had just heard.”
Clearly, the Patiño children had moved into a very special work for the Lord. “As parents we never thought that this presentation was going to cause such an impact,” Pastor Patiño adds. But the word soon spread to other Adventist congregations throughout Panama [where the Patiños lived at the time]. When the Children’s Day program rolled around and news of Kevin and Dailyn’s preaching spread, members of the congregation were eagerly awaiting these young preachers.
Just Like Samuel
Obvious gifts aside, how did Kevin Patiño come to believe that the Lord was truly calling him to be a preacher? Why now as opposed to waiting till he was grown and equipped with a seminary degree? Pastor Patiño and his wife, Jogly, prayed and fasted to know the Lord’s will about what ministry, if any, was appropriate for their children.
“I always wanted to do what my father did, to imitate him since I always watched him preach or hold meetings. It was my great desire to do the same,” says Kevin. “One day something very special happened. It was 11:30 p.m., I was sleeping, but my parents were praying [about this], as they had been doing for six months. They never asked to have children that would preach, though they often saw my sister and me ‘playing’ pastor and singer. My father said that suddenly he heard a voice saying, ‘Kevin will preach.’ He turned to look at my mother to ask if she had said anything, and continued praying. Again, the voice said, ‘Kevin will preach.’ He came to my room and woke me up and said, ‘Kevin, do you want to preach?’ I replied, ‘Of, course!’ So he took me to the balcony and explained everything that was going on.
“My father said, ‘Kevin, the Lord has called you to preach,’” he adds. “To tell you the truth, I didn’t understand, and I asked God if He had called me just like Samuel. At that very same hour, we lifted our arms up and committed everything we had to the Lord. Then it became my mission to preach, to show that my father was not making this up, that God had called me. When I preached that first sermon, the church was packed, and the Holy Spirit descended and confirmed that my father did not make anything up.”
Little sister, Dailyn, using different gifts at the time, was not excluded from the call to minister. She says, “At the beginning of our ministry, I used to only sing. My mom was my biggest example. She sings beautifully, and like me, has been doing it since she was little. So I also sang and did presentations. When I was 3 and my brother was 4, we did our first musical/speaking presentation called ‘Jesus, Our True Friend.’
THE PATIÑO FAMILY: Jogly, Edgar,
Dailyn, and Kevin.
“When I turned 5, I decided that I would also like to preach. I felt it inside and I felt I could do it, and praise God, I am doing it!” Dailyn adds. “I know that the Lord called me even though He didn’t do it exactly like He did it in Kevin’s life. He allowed me to fall in love with this, and today I feel extremely happy to serve our Lord.”
Spreading the Good News
From that first Children’s Day program in Panama, the preaching ministry of the little Patiños has been steadily growing. It was definitely not easy in the beginning as the sight of child preachers delivering a serious message was hard for people to believe. But slowly, through the grace of God, doors continued to open for the family. What started as a special appointment at a children’s program has now grown into an international ministry, and the Patiños travel throughout the Inter-American Division preaching and singing about salvation.
Preparing a sermon and delivering it to an audience is not an easy task—even for adults. So how do the Patiño children prepare their messages? The family refers to themselves as a team of five, counting the Holy Spirit as the main force behind the sermons, as He is the one who helps them prepare the messages, and trains and converts hearts. Second is Pastor Patiño, who writes Kevin’s sermons after much prayer and time spent with the Lord. Then a unique component of their preparations comes into play. The children’s mother, Jogly, turns the text of the sermons into drawings. Kevin and Dailyn do not memorize the sermons, but use these sketches to bring the points to life in their minds. Their sermons typically run 25-30 minutes with one message sometimes containing 200 to 300 different drawings, all from Jogly’s own hand.
According to Pastor Patiño, “I contribute to the sermons, but Kevin and Dailyn do not always preach everything that I write. In the beginning that was a real challenge for me since Kevin especially didn’t always like what I had prepared for him. As a theology major I have taken homiletics, hermeneutics, and Bible exegesis, but one day I came to realize that I needed the Holy Spirit’s training instead of just this academic preparation. So Kevin and I prayed together asking God to help blend our thoughts and therefore be able to organize sermons that would be comfortable for Kevin, and He answered us immediately. From that moment, every time I prepare for a sermon I call Kevin and ask him things. We pray together and that’s it. I prepare a sermon that is comfortable for him.”
But what is it really like for a child to get up in front of a large crowd of people much older than themselves and preach? What goes through Kevin and Dailyn’s minds?
Kevin says: “There is a Bible text that has become one of our favorite ones. It is found in 1 Corinthians 9:16, ‘Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!’”*
This is clearly their charge in ministry. “Sometimes when we are up front, with a small or large audience, I feel something special that makes me say things that are not always on the sermon sketch, and I may say things and not know why I said them. But they touch the lives of the audience and people make a decision to be baptized.”
KIDS IN DISCIPLESHIP: Mentoring and Empowering Little Disciples for Jesus
By Wilona Karimabadi
In 2002, veteran children’s and teen ministries leader and pastor Don MacLafferty embarked on a unique program just for children. Often taught a certain amount of Bible doctrine to prepare for baptism, kids are then often left alone as they attempt to map out a Christian walk for themselves. Opportunities for ministry utilizing their individual gifts and talents are not always readily available, and sometimes mentors for those endeavors are not easily found.
But at the Kids in Discipleship Center based at the Collegedale Seventh-day Adventist Church, Collegedale, Tennessee, U.S.A, those patterns are changing. According to their Web site, “The center’s purpose is to lead children to be faithful, fruitful disciples of Jesus Christ.” This mission is accomplished in several ways, one of which is to help each child discover their unique gifts and passion for ministry and be equipped to share them now—in their homes, schools and churches. This includes preaching, singing, and so much more.
Congregations, communities, and families are encouraged to discover how this ministry program can work wonders with developing discipleship for Jesus in their own children. For more information, go to www.kidsindiscipleship.org.
Though Kevin and Dailyn are involved in a very grown-up work, no one forgets that they are still children. “In 2005 we were doing an evangelistic series in Colombia. A pastor organized an event in which there were over 5,000 people. It was a Sabbath afternoon and we had sung and preached. The next day we did an interview at the local station. The pastor who did the interview asked: ‘Kevin, what did you like most from yesterday’s event?’ And I told him… ‘That there were so many children to play with!’ I say this because many forget that we are still children. When we are up in front on the platform we look like adults because the Lord works miracles for us. But our hearts are still young,” add both Kevin and Dailyn.
Kevin and Dailyn are also nurtured and encouraged in their daily lives as many children are. Their mother, Jogly, stays at home and takes the business of caring for her children very seriously, making sure their morning and evening worship times are consistent; that she is available to answer their questions, feed them nutritious and nourishing food, and get them to go to bed on time—while still helping them to remember that they are first and foremost beloved children of the living God. Jogly says, “Every Friday night, no matter what’s going on or where we are, we have family night with the children called ‘Mota.’ This special night we sleep together in the same bed, all squeezed, but we don’t care. We enjoy it! We believe that doing things like this keeps the children happy and encouraged.”
Tiny Vessels, Mighty Voices
Children who have the gift to preach are proving an asset to the awesome work of spreading the gospel. As Kevin and Dailyn Patiño’s ministry illustrates, the Lord can do mighty things with individuals—young and not so young—when they place their lives completely in His hands.
Kevin and Dailyn state that they have three goals for their ministry: “(1) We dream of filling up big stadiums and baptizing many souls; (2) We want to be modern apostle Pauls—faithful preachers of the Word of God; and (3) We want to continue traveling the entire world carrying the message of Jesus’ second coming.”†
Baraka Muganda, General Conference Youth Director, who has seen the young Patiños in action says, “I compare child preachers to sleeping giants in our churches. These children are ready to participate in the mission of the church if they are given opportunities. Their minds are so sharp and they master the training so fast. They believe in the teachings of the Bible and are ready and willing to share with others without any fear. They are bold to defend what they believe. I have been so amazed by their Bible knowledge. You hear adults asking themselves, ‘if these children are so inspired by the Word of God, there must be something special in this Book!’” Something special indeed.
*Text taken from the New International Version.
Wilona Karimabadi is marketing and editorial director for KidsView, Adventist Review’s magazine for children.