“Hey Paco, is your older brother around?” We call down to the young 12 year old.
Paco lays on an old mattress halfway under the bridge. His hair falls over his eyes as he holds a bottle up to his nose and inhales the glue that makes him forget the hunger, cold, fear and loneliness he faces each day. He smiles as he sees us and climbs up the concrete incline of the canal as he gives us high fives.
“My brother walked to the market… I will go with you!” He tells us as he falls into step beside us, his hand gripping the bottle of glue.
He is barefoot and dirty and people stare as we walk past, but we don’t care. Paco has become one of our many little brothers. As we walk, we begin talking to this little brother of ours and at one point, he throws his bottle of glue into a garbage can. I know that later tonight he will get more, but for just a few minutes he knows he doesn’t need to inhale glue because he isn’t alone. At least for a few minutes.
As we get closer to the market, we run into small groups of street kids. “HERMANA!” They call and it’s a new round of high fives and hugs as we move on, Paco at our side. We finally find Paco’s brother and we chat with him for a few minutes before leaving.
It may seem insignificant.
We walk the streets.
We search out kids.
We love them and listen to them.
But there’s a beauty there because as we walk the streets and love these kids I am reminded of who Jesus is.
He searches us out.
He calls us while we are hidden under a bridge with glue pressed to our nose and calls us by name.
He smiles and wraps us in loving arms as we crawl up out from under the bridge.
He leads us as we walk alongside him barefoot.
He encourages us as we toss our bottles of glue into trash cans.
He loves us. And He loves these kids.
Loving these kids isn’t always easy. It hurts. It’s messy and at times I feel like I have no idea what I am doing. But we are seeing the Lord move. We see Him building relationships with these kids.
It’s impossible to go to the market without hearing a little one call out, “HERMANA!” But God is encouraging us to just be present. Sometimes that looks like sitting under the bridge next to a kid and helping him make goals and think through the steps needed to leave the streets. Or sometimes it’s just sitting and listening.
The other day we spent two hours sitting on a playground in a small park as a seventeen year old told us about his life. It’s about being present. And God is opening up so many doors to specifically share His love and share the hope of the gospel.
This past month, two young men were baptized at a local church. We have watched three kids begin to flourish as they make the decision to stay at a wonderful home for street kids. We have continued to love on several other kids who have left the home and gone back to the streets. We recently had a special activity with the older homeless men from the streets and talked about how Christ breaks our chains. We are walking alongside a young mother and her two precious little girls as she goes weekly to a Christian center for women on the streets and is taking steps forward towards a bright future.
There are countless stories. They are stories of children who have faced so much and yet are so brave. There is hope in Jesus. These children are being searched for, they are being called and they are being loved by the Father.