The world is full of adorable children, one of which I just finished putting to bed, after she whispered excitedly that she had something to give me, then proceeded to pull little lint balls out of her pockets and carefully place them into my open hands as if she were handling treasure. Haha.. treasure it is though: to live whimsically & wonder-filled, every single day. I love walking her the mile home from school, because she sees mountains to climb instead of six-inch-high dirt clods, lions & tigers to sneak past rather than barking dogs to ignore, and no that’s not a stick she’s carrying, it’s a magic wand! = )
This little girl is four years old and here I’m going to call her Allie… she is adorable in every way, even when she’s crying and screaming in her small-child-Spanish “I don’t wanna take a nap!” she is so cute. Her hair is pitch black, her skin alabaster, and somehow the tip of her nose and her cheeks are always rosy pink as if she’s spent her day making snow angels outside. The other night we watched finding Nemo, and when she was all snuggled into bed later she prayed sincerely, “Daddy God, thank you because Nemo escaped from the tube, and thank you because he found his Papa.” ohhhh. Basically, she is darling, the kind of child anyone would want to take home as their daughter.. precious, beautiful, silly & sweet.
A few weeks ago I went for the first time with the kids to the “Parent’s Visit” which happens the second Sunday of every month. I love that in this ministry we also work with the biological families, with the hope that eventually the kids and their parents can live together again, but this month I’ve begun to realize how difficult that can be. The kids were so excited to see their families, we drove to the city in the ministry bus to meet up with the parents in an indoor playground Formando Vidas has in the ghetto. We finally got there, and as the kids spilled out of the doors of the bus I watched Allie and Joey’s* (*also not his real name) faces change from anticipation to pure excitement when they spotted their Mom through the window glass. “MOMMY!!” Allie shrieked as she ran to hug her. It was sweet, and I smiled as I watched them walk inside.
The different families all sat down at different tables with their kids, playing games we had brought, and while we served them hot cocoa and cookies Bibiana, the woman I’m living with who has been raising these kids for the past five years, introduced me to Joey & Allie’s Mom. Bibi said, “Now you know who Allie looks like” because it’s true, their mom is young and pretty with the same black hair and dark eyes. I smiled but I watched as their Mom looked at Allie as if she didn’t agree, as if she didn’t want to agree, and as I continued to observe them both I began to realize she didn’t seem to care as much about Allie as I had imagined. During the visit I occupied myself by succeeding at not crying even though I really needed to, and playing dominoes with another little girl and her Grandma, but I couldn’t stop noticing as Allie spent the entire visit playing with one of her older brothers, while their Mom did a puzzle with Joey. I listened as she made a promise she couldn’t keep that if he was really good he could go visit her at her house, and I wasn’t smiling anymore as I watched when she finally noticed Allie again, just in time to give her a kiss goodbye. How can she not be absolutely in love with her little girl? Is all I could wonder.
Joey sobbed the whole way home. Deep, poignant sobs. At seven, he has some memories of living with her, and I could see he has some sense that he can’t live with her now by some fault of his own. I played hangman with one of the others girls and listened as Bibiana held him and spoke love and truth into his broken heart, “it’s not your fault that you can’t go home with her, you are a great little boy and there are so many of us who love you so much..”
I was feeling so sad and heavy for everything I’d just seen when we walked through the front door of our house, and I stopped to look at a painting hung on the living room wall that I’ve looked at so many times before.. but this time I kept looking. A woman who lived here for several years painted it, an image of one person holding another in their arms.. with Psalm 27:10 painted as well: “Though my Father and Mother have abandoned me, the LORD will receive me in His arms.”
I have heard many people deny the possibility of God, because “if God were real there wouldn’t be so many people suffering in the world.” and I understand that, but I know that isn’t true. God is present with those who suffer, God longs to bring justice to those who are hurting and oppressed.. and God longs to reveal Himself as FATHER to those who have been left as orphans. I am here in Colombia not because God hasn’t done anything about these kids.. I’m here because God asked me to come, and God asked me to come here because He has seen these children’s suffering and is doing something about it. How great an honor that He wants to work through us.. to bring justice to the oppressed, to comfort those who mourn, to bestow a crown of beauty instead of ashes. (Isaiah 61)
God has taken these kids into His arms… and what that looks like is that sometimes I sing Allie to sleep, and sometimes it looks like me playing “kung-fu” with Joey, and sometimes it even means I put them in time-outs… but I never, ever, would have been here to do any of this to begin with had the LORD not acted in love and compassion on their behalf. I look at where they’ve been, and I look at where they are.. and I know without a doubt that they are being held in His arms indeed.