As I walked around the corner, a little boy yelled out to me that he wanted a cup of coffee. I turned around to see a familiar face. The child said, “hey you look like another American girl that I know that helps women.” Then it clicked. This 8 year old little boy standing by another child of maybe 12 was the same child we had been trying to help for months. And I found found him. God led us to him. We had been working with the Costa Rican child protective services trying to help his entire family. When I first met his family, his mother was lying on a mat in their tiny, dirty house deathly sick. The little boy was actually in “foster care” because he had been taken away. The purpose of my visit was to help a 13 year old little girl who had been being sold as a prostitute. Little did I know God had even larger plans.
The crazy thing about seeing this child this particular night was that we had literally just left the hospital where we had met the mother to pay her bus fair as she left the emergency room. That morning we had seen the daughter at our work program for rescued girls. What a sad and dark reality.
As Carlos took this child aside to talk to him, the other boy (who was in the streets with him) who is around 12 years old caught my attention. I sat beside him on the curb and made small talk. I then felt that I had to ask him if he felt alone.... if he felt abandoned.... both of which he told me were true. As he began to pour out his story, my heart broke. His father died when he was small. His mother can not recognize him because she was so severely beaten by the step-father that she has serious brain damage. If the step-father beat the mom, I hate to imagine what he did to this little boy- his stepson. Often times when we see these “bad guys” on the streets we quickly turn our eyes. We are either filled with fear or we don’t want to let the reality of what we are seeing affect us, or we are too busy to care about the ‘bad guy’ on the street corner.... any number of things. However, to see that “street guy” as a little boy, right at the beginning of his life on the streets... it truly changes how you look at ‘street people’. This poor child.... abandoned, abused, neglected, alone. Alone in one of the most dangerous places. A place where literally no one cares about you. I could feel God’s heart break. Just feeling my own heart break was heart enough... but to think that I was only listening to his tragic story, while God had to sit and watch his little boy live through these things. Indescribable.
Paths to brokenness
A woman at the work program on Saturday morning sat down across from me and looked me in the eyes. I’m not sure how she started but what she said kept me thinking. She began to tell me how drastically her life had changed since she came to know Jesus. Last week, we talked with the women in the program about how lies come into our lives and how those lies affect our lives. We asked them to think of which lies they believed about themselves and when those lies entered their lives. At the age of 9, this woman was raped. Her mother never believed her. This is when the lies began.... ‘you are worthless’, ‘no one believes you’.....the lies go on and on.
From that day on, she began to grow more and more bitter. She was angry, didn’t understand, closed off, defensive, and isolated. As an adult this bitterness because her identity. The father of her children was terrible with her. She could not relate to her kids; she was so afraid that the same things that happened throughout her life would happen to them that she didn’t even let them have a life. Her bitterness was all consuming. She was completely isolated and harder than stone. Because she felt she had no value, and because her rights to her body were always just something that was taken from her; prostitution was an easy option. She continued to grow harder and fall farther.
However, she told me that now her life has been completely transformed... that through the work program & discipleship, she has come to know the Lord personally. Her life is radically different in every aspect. She has hope, she smiles, she actually comes out of her house. She said that every day of her life, she used to wake up and think “ugh, I hate life..it’s going to be a terrible day...and I have nothing worth getting up for”. She said that one day a friend called her saying, “it’s so cold and rainy outside. It’s such an ugly day”. She in turn replied, “no, this is a beautiful day because the Lord made it just for me. And you can always put on a coat”.
Seeing people like this is one of the things that keeps us going. Hearing someone just say out of the blue that God’s work through our ministry has radically changed everything about their lives makes it worth it.