The following article is written by permission from 21st Century Christian Magazine. “Advance Troops” was published in the October 1993 edition.

Is Christian child care a benevolent work or an evangelistic work? If you ask any person who has worked in child care and is devoted to working with children, they probably would tell you it is both. It certainly is benevolent to help children in need. However, individuals working in child care feel very strongly that it is a mission field.
Where else will some of these young people have the opportunity to learn about God? Who else will teach them that, no matter how bad their situation may be, there is hope in Jesus Christ if they will follow God’s word? Where else will they have the role models they need to provide examples of Christian living and dealing with difficult situations?
Brian Davis, Director of the Chattanooga Inner City Outreach, has written the following story that shows that child care is mission work:
In 1990, the Brainerd elders asked me to serve an apprenticeship in Nashville’s Inner City Ministry with the possibility in mind of developing one here in Chattanooga. That first year Lytle Thomas, the Director of Nashville Inner City Ministry, assigned me to the Night Ministry in order to locate and teach young men in the Inner City who would one day become leaders for Christ. The first to answer Christ’s invitation was a young man who went by the street name of “Nail Head.” He then led two of his closest friends to Christ.
Not long after these new births, “Nail Head” and one of his new brothers in Christ found themselves in rapidly deteriorating home situations. I remember the day they asked me for a way out. I called Greater Chattanooga Christian Services (GCCS) to seek advice. As the situation was critical, Delane Davis, a social worker at GCCS, moved quickly to find a place for these two young men in one of the group homes.
Over a two-year period, caring Christians from Chattanooga encouraged these two young men. We all saw tremendous growth from month to month as they matured in the Lord.
This course of events was no accident. The Lord was sending and preparing advance troops to reach our Inner City for Christ!
In October of 1992, “Nail Head,” better known as Andrew, decided to join us in the Inner City Outreach dormitory. In January, a friend named Peter whom Andrew had taught Jesus, joined us in the dormitory as well.
Through their experience in the Chattanooga city schools, they had become acquainted with many of the families we serve in the inner city. They had a natural bridge of trust and friendship over which to carry the gospel of Christ.
Already, the two have leadership roles in the Inner City Church of Christ, and we all rejoiced last Sunday when several of their school friends stepped onto the bus to join us for worship!
What a powerful example of our Lord’s providence! Through the joint efforts of his children in a city, they reach out to those who remain lost.
Young people with whom we work have lost so much in their short lives, and many times living in a new environment with sincere Christians as their immediate examples and role models provides them an opportunity “to buy back” their time (Ephesians 5:16). Often they “turn their old selves in and receive a new life in exchange.”
If you or your congregation is supporting a child care agency, you can be assured that you are helping these young people “redeem their time.” Some child you are supporting right now may be being prepared as part of an advance troop to influence others for Christ. Benevolence or evangelism?