Hand in Hand

The sun was strong and I was hot. We had been outside for a few hours now and the sun was just starting to reach its peak in the sky. It would only get hotter from here.

So I did what any person would do. I found shade. And as I stood there under the blossoming leaves of the nearest tree I saw it. It was right there in front of me. I didn’t know when it had happened, only that now it was happening.

Hand in hand they walked, making their way down a dirt road, stopping at each house and changing the world as they went.

Thinking of what it meant, I couldn’t help but smile.

Setting the Stage

It was our first day in Tipitapa with the Aggie team. We were walking house to house doing a census of the kids in the neighborhood and a few of the children were tagging along with us as we went helping us with the work. Within that group of kids was Reina and her sisters.

If you have followed our work for the past few years you have heard Reina’s name before. If you haven’t, Reina’s family has a hard but beautiful story. They are some of the poorest of the poor, overlooked by everyone and everything. Reina is one of 15 brothers and sisters, all from the same mother and father, 13 of which are still living.

I met Reina and her sisters in 2010 when they were homeless, living in a warehouse with 1,000 other people. They had nothing, not even a change of clothes, and they were terrified of anyone but each other. They kept to the background, hid in the shadows, and wouldn’t look anyone in the eye or speak even if spoken to, much less let anyone touch them. Lizbeth, Reina’s sister, was especially wary of anyone coming close to her or touching her. In the picture on the right, Reina is on the far right and Lizbeth is on the far left. You can see Lizbeth wouldn’t look at the camera, even after I had known them for at least two years.

I still shudder to think of what happened to them to make them so guarded and distrustful.

As I became more involved with the community I was able to slowly build trust with Reina and her sisters so that they would stand by me, look at me, occasionally talk to me, and on very rare occasions give me a high five or a hug. Every time they looked me in the eyes I could see deep hurt, pain, and a distinct lack of confidence. Even when I told them they were loved by the Lord and by us I could almost hear their thoughts and feel their doubts as though they were saying, “That is something that applies only to others. Not to us. Not to me.”

It left me brokenhearted knowing these precious children did not believe they were lovable.

To make matters worse, a few years ago, Reina’s father left her mother. He said he didn’t want to deal with a “worthless woman” or all “these $%# kids” anymore. Then he walked out the door.

I don’t care how tough you are, the cowardly actions of a selfish husband and father leave scars. I can only imagine how much that underscored the girls’ belief that they were unlovable.

We began working with them shortly thereafter, hiring her mother as an employee and helping them grow a garden. Over time Walter has been able to establish a deep and meaningful relationship with the family. He has been able to be an agent of truth and a living example of the fact that they ARE loved, they DO have value, and that not ALL fathers are the same. The picture to the right is of Reina. I cannot express how much change has occurred that she was willing to smile so genuinely for me when I asked to take a picture.

I still lack words to express the joy I feel when I look at this picture and think of everything that has transpired to make it possible. I am so grateful for Walter’s investment in them, for it has truly changed so much. But even still, all of them, especially Lizbeth, have remained distrustful of most people other than Walter and myself, especially strangers.

Back to the Trip

So there we were doing the census. Reina and her sisters were working with us, going house to house, enjoying their jobs, laughing with each other, and smiling at the team.

And that’s when I noticed it. Lizbeth wasn’t just walking with us, she was holding hands with two of the girls. This was the same little girl who historically wouldn’t even look up when spoken to and would just run away if she felt uncomfortable. It was the same little girl who had hidden behind me when strangers were around and flinched anytime someone’s hand even came close to touching her.

And now she was holding hands with two Aggies, laughing, smiling, and lost in a moment where she was secure and safe.

A moment where she knew she was loved.

Why it Matters

That is the gospel, isn’t it?! Is that not redemption and reconciliation?! Is that not a person coming to rest in the knowledge and belief that no matter what is in our pasts, what the world says about us, what other people think about us, what has been done to us or what is yet to occur, that in all circumstances we are loved. And even more so, that the love we are given is powerful enough to make everything else disappear and let us enter rest?

Is that not what Jesus came to teach? Is that not why He died, conquered death, and now intercedes on our behalf?

Now some of you may be thinking, “Is this really that big of a deal? And is the gospel REALLY being spread through this?” And I get that. In fact, I have asked some of the same questions myself about our work, especially in ’08 and ’09 when we were just getting started. But since then I have seen the power of “small” moments on display over and over again.

I have seen the Lord use an experience, a trip, a day, a conversation, or even a single moment to change everything. And so when I see a little girl finally experiencing a tangible representation of that which we have been proclaiming to her and her family; when I see her little, hurting heart finally rest in the idea that she IS lovable and IS loved, I am both confident and hopeful that that example will permeate much more than her feelings for a morning.

That when her soul questions what she believes she will reach back, grasp hold of this memory, and choose to believe that God loves her in the same way. That her heart is worth claiming, redeeming, and restoring.

That she is choosen.

That she is loved.

That is the reason why we are doing what we are doing. We fight for these kids so that they can come to understand the Lord’s love that He – the perfect Father – lavishes upon us. But they need someone to help them see that, to understand it, and ultimately, to BELIEVE it. And I wholeheartedly believe that words alone are not enough.

They need someone to live it out for them. To SHOW them what it means to be loved by Christ.

Sometimes that is a person that will read the Bible with them. Sometimes that is a person that will invite them to activities and conversations. And sometimes they learn to believe in the love of our Lord through two Aggie girls that are willing to be content just holding hands with one of his other children.

They come to see the truth of God’s word and promises through people that enable them to rest in that which changes everything: being loved.

I am so grateful for the love of our Lord that reshapes, remakes, and reclaims. I am grateful for all the teams that have come down and worked with our kids to help teach them about that love. And I am grateful for each of you that support us to make our work possible through prayer, encouragement, and donations.

It is an honor to get to see and be part of the beautiful work the Lord is doing through you.

Chris & The Team

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