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Daniel, a Displaced Child of War

Join us on an animated journey in the final episode of our series as we explore Daniel’s remarkable journey — a war-displaced child navigating adversities and facing corrupt leaders. Witness how his unconventional path aligns with God’s redemptive vision through Jesus. Daniel, a powerful witness, sheds light on the essence of rescue, inspiring InFire’s mission to equip at-risk children as convincing witnesses to the light.

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InFire has a 125 year legacy of working in high conflict areas across the globe. Turning children at risk into powerful peacemakers who can transform their own communities from within. We stand in the line of fire for children at risk.

Thousands of children are recruited and used in armed conflicts across the world. In 1997, through my Uncle Bill, who worked in the intelligence world and some of his network, I was made aware of the reality of child soldiers and began to see its prevalence in Southeast Asia. Our organization, InFire, has developed a model for gaining access to child soldiers, child combatants that can be seen through the story of Daniel in the Bible.

The way it works is we negotiate with insurgent leaders and we trade education for access to child soldiers. Today we’re going to dig into how our strategy connects to Daniel’s story as a child at risk. So let’s begin with Daniel’s story by meeting Nebuchadnezzar, the reigning emperor and proud conqueror of many regions.

He needed some help to administrate all of his new territory. So he asked his secretary of state for the young men they had taken from Israel to be trained and educated in the literature and the language of the Chaldeans so that they could help administrate the empire. This was the religious and political language of the day.

We discovered that this felt need that navigators are had is often the felt need of the insurgent and resistant groups. They need competent emerging leaders and the felt need of ruling leaders is for administrative leaders, executives and competent people that can help them build their empires and cover their territories.

Though not every rebel group will follow this simple paradigm, access to children, many will, especially those who carry some sense of ethnic patriotism or a need for local autonomy. So legitimate or not, these insurgent occupiers, whether outsiders or insiders to the local culture, they’re still the sword bearers of Romans chapter 13 and so act at least a form of local governance that we can engage.

Now initially in our work with InFire we begin to use this model to send teachers into military camps to train children. Eventually, we adapt the model to remove many of these children from the military camps completely and to put them in actual schools with permission from the local leaders. Daniel and his friends fulfilled the government’s need for administrators.

In Daniel chapter 1, it refers to this principle of increasing God’s justice by serving and adding value to government authorities. The principle works well in the context of insurgent leaders. We must choose whether we’re going to fight a corrupt government through the lens of an enemy or through the lens of a friend. Both choices represent battles, but the mentality and the tactics are very different because God sees the entire world as on a redemptive basis through Jesus.

It’s not wrong for me to use his redemptive lens, even with the worst of these. And in fact, it’s necessary if we want to access more children. In Southeast Asia we found that education bridges this gap between rebel governments and churches or NGOs wishing to serve in a conflict area.

And the model of empowering children through education can be very broad, but it still can have a really massive impact. Now a few years ago some of our children’s safe homes were compromised by a rebel leader. He had thousands of troops under him and there was a sudden rise to power in the region and his second command, Hinchman, took about 100 kids from a cluster of homes we had, ignoring the legal agreement we had written out with the existing government.

Now it’s a really bad day when you lose 100 kids, right? So he took a few kids in sixth grade, a handful on seventh, and quite a few in eighth grade and up. Now sixth grade is a lot of education and many of these isolated indigenous lands.

Somebody with that amount of education is often seen as well-prepared already for adulthood.

As I had a few days to process these events and the reports started trickling in, I began to see the silver lining in the story.

You see, most of the children were taken and moved into paid positions of stature and influence. So this was actually our program goal to put these kids in places that influence.

So it was just happening a lot earlier than I had expected it to like. Many of the kids who were taken were further trained or went directly on as administrators in the government, as accountants, as teachers, as nurses. Only about 10 of the students actually ended up as actual soldiers and most of these later defected.

We also had students that were selected to be part of a celebrated ethnic dance team. Others became paid sports trainers, even for the state volleyball team, basketball, and even for their ping pong team. For me, that little skill of competitive ping pong was this eye opener. You know, isn’t it crazy that ping pong kept teenagers from military service?

So education isn’t simply just school attendance, then it’s equipping children to have skills as higher value players in society so that they’re not simply expendable bodies. Everything you impart to a child makes them less expendable.

How does Daniel qualify as a child at risk?

So let’s jump into some of the historical context of his story. Daniel and his friends were displaced by war as used, probably about 13 or 14 years of age.

The time frame was Jehiachim, king of Judah’s reign, when Nebuchadnezzar lays this devastating siege to Jerusalem, and Nebuchadnezzar plunders the temple, exiles all the valuable people of Babylon. He leaves the stench of dead bodies and the broken rubble of Jerusalem for all the poorest and overlooked folks that weren’t important to him to scavenge through. And then later there was a second deportation that came not long after when he actually destroyed Solomon’s Temple.

And this was an unthinkable moment for the Jews. Daniel and his friends were likely taken in the first relocation to Babylon, approximately 600 BC and from royal or upper class homes.

This means some of them may have even had Davidic bloodlines. Now castration was often a practice with high-ranked officials. We see people called eunuchs like the military captain Potiphar who purchased Joseph or the eunuchs serving Esther in the harem. And now we see Ashpenaz the chief of Nebuchadnezzar’s eunuchs choosing Daniel. So this can be both a term of office and also a description of physical status.

Herodotus, the Greek historian, wrote about prisoners of war, especially “boys of unusual beauty, often being castrated and then sold for, he says, the barbarians value eunuchs more than others since they regard them as more trustworthy.” So, castration would have rendered Daniel and his companions unclean and shameful by Jewish standards.

It is shameful because Israel was structured so deeply around inheritance through family lines and it limited access to the temple as well. Since there’s no hint of romance in Daniel’s story, we can at least suspect the social implications of sterility.

The fact that they would have had no children for inheritance must have weighed really heavily on these young men. Like Moses who was trained in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, Daniel was trained in all the wisdom of the Chaldeans. This was the language of wise men, including the astrologists, the Dream and Alman interpreters, the healers and the exorcists.

The religious leaders and kings were ruling class in Daniel’s days, and Daniel and his friends were peers and trainees of some of these sorcerers and enchanter’s guilds. Even though there are strict biblical injunctions against dabbling in the dark arts, Daniel and his friends seem to have had little choice.

It appears God used the deep study of other religions, ones that often stood at odds to his revelation in the Torah and the lives of both Daniel and Moses. Now it’s important for us to contextualize and feel what this is really like so that we don’t gloss over the story.

For example, how would you feel if your teenager was trained by sorcerers? If the government castrated your child? If your daughter was taken to a foreign land to study Hinduism? If your son was trained to serve the man who destroyed your family and your home? If through an international war, your teenagers were taken away by Muslim militants to study radical Islam and become religious and political advisors to the Islamic State?

These are not easy questions. And the reality of displaced children who are used for war, government activities and other functions is a tough thing to grapple with.

So let’s keep looking at how Daniel reacted to his situation as a displaced child of war. Nebuchadnezzar was so full of himself that he built a great statue of his own likeness and commanded the entire kingdom to worship it. And Daniel delivers some harsh truth to Nebuchadnezzar, while interpreting one of his dreams.

This is what he says to protect him from the coming judgment, ”Humble yourself, turn to practicing righteousness and mercy so that peace and prosperity might continue for you.” But Daniel actually initiates this conversation with honor. He says, “My Lord, I hope this dream is for those who hate you and the outcome is for your enemies.

Essentially, Daniel didn’t find it wrong to side with and honor a king who had oppressed his own cherished people. Nor did Daniel try to steer the wicked king into judgment, but instead he attempts to steer him into repentance so that he won’t be judged.

So it’s really okay to honor your enemy politicians. Daniel used this tactic to bring his prophetic insights forward. Living with influence among our enemies requires extracting the bitterness out of our hearts, and Daniel lived without spitefulness while serving under some terrifying foreign kings.

Because Daniel wisely counseled the king, even though it took many years, Nebuchadnezzar comes to his senses and he reigned in humility before his death. And in the context of the story, the poor received mercy during his latter reign. So how you treat an enemy doesn’t simply impact them, it also impacts their circle of influence.

Consider God’s heart for the King, shown through Daniel. How much more does he desire the same change in the heart of my enemy or your enemy? We’re going to see positive fruit from showing honor to enemies.

We also see Daniel acting as a witness in a story. In the Hebrew culture, the idea of witness is a participant who can witness the actual moment to you. A witness participant is not someone who watches the ballgame, but someone who actually plays in the ballgame. And that’s an important difference for us to understand.

So let’s look at a couple of verses that show the Holy Spirit’s job as a witness. “But when the Helper comes, who I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.” That’s John chapter 15 verses 26 and 27.

And then we have, “And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us”, Acts 15.8. The Holy Spirit is seen as the witness. “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.” Romans 8.16.

The witness of the Holy Spirit is key because the Spirit was there at creation. He was there when Joseph was thrown in the pit and when he stood in front of Pharaoh, the Holy Spirit was there when Daniel interpreted the dream, and the Holy Spirit was there when Jesus hung on the cross.

When we open that great book of scripture, or we live or we speak, the Holy Spirit is there as a witness to bring that bright, radiant light.

And Daniel’s big win in life was not that he rose to power, but that he became this blazing, bright witness for God in dark and high places.

And when the church does transformational ministry without the power of testimony. She’s baking bread without flour. The key ingredient is missing. Testimony and transformation are integral to each other.

So this activity of witness is about pointing to another, not ourselves, but Jesus. We are light because Jesus is light. We shine because Holy Spirit is in us as the witness, making us true flaming messengers of His love.

And InFire, as work with children at risk, we’re trying to prepare them for future moments to shine when they become these convincing witnesses to the light.

I was looked for their emerging stories in darkness that radiate bright overcoming faith because nothing multiplies justice more than the power of a testimony. Daniel became a powerful advisor and administrator who brought light serving at least four different monarchs during his lifetime.

He became, in his own words, one who lived wisely and well until he shone brilliantly like the cloudless stars through night skies. Daniel, as a youth from Jerusalem’s world class carried within this knowledge of the Jewish Decalogue and the Torah, which surely are foundational stones of developing ethics and the rights of others.

And some researchers have noted it’s possible that Daniel had influence on what the UN recognizes as potentially the first charter of human rights. This charter would have been drafted during the role of Cyrus the Great at a time when Daniel had great influence.

The Old Testament pattern of children at risk turned heroes offers stunning journeys of resilience into radiance by those who grew up in the heart of darkness, Joseph, Moses, David, Esther, and Daniel. They were rescuers who had needed rescue as children themselves. Their paradox was actually their preparation. It was their very risky yet strategic location in dark places of power that prepared them to be rescuers, radiant lights and those who offer strong hope for justice.

Their stories, their witness still speaks to us today. The scope of these Old Testament stories should encourage deep reflection on what rescue really means in our work and our lives.

Maybe Jesus the rescuer has not taken us from hard times on planet earth for a similar reason.

Are you seeing dark times ahead? What beautiful stories are still gonna emerge from the dark?

I hope this story of a child at risk in the Old Testament has inspired you like it did me to serve the next generation in a more intentional way.

So let’s honor the Word before you move on to the next thing. First ask Holy Spirit this question, what is the one thing you’re asking me to do with what I learned today? May God bless you on this exciting journey of being a transformative agent in His world.