Standing for Change

“We have to go now!” he barked.

Her eyes widened. Her fear was palpable as she looked down at the ground. The smile that had just covered her face had been replaced with a worried scowl. Then she looked back at me. Her eyes carried a great sadness, conveying sentiments that words surely could not adequately express.

She began turning to run and for me everything else around us blurred. The world froze and nothing else mattered. All that counted was this moment.

I knew I only had one chance to get this right, but I had no time to plan or ponder what to do or say. Knowing I had to take action or lose my shot, I reached my arm out towards her to stop her, simultaneously praying for the right words and enough faith to do what I must.

She stopped her flight and looked at me. “Oh Lord, please let my words be yours.” I thought.

Getting to the Moment

First of all, I just want to let everyone know this is going to be a two part blog entry. I think this little girl (and so many others like her) deserve to have their full story told and to do that well I will need two entries. That said, here is part 1:

It was day 1 of the SMU VBS activities for the kids of Tipitapa. Historically we have always had at least 250 children show up to participate in our activities, but today there were less than 50. I couldn’t help but wonder where the rest were and, admittedly, I began to get a little worried.

I had promised the team more than 200 children. I had planned for that many, talked to donors about that many, and had, selfishly, looked forward to seeing that many. More so, I had looked forward to seeing a few select children with whom I had formed very special relationships with over the past four years. But none my children were there. There were all missing – everyone one of them – and I was disappointed.

But then, in His endless grace, the Lord opened my ears to hear Him say, “None of my children are missing today. Open your eyes. Look around you. All who are meant to be here ARE here. BE present here and now. This moment is for them, not for you.”

“Do not let my moment slip away.”

I paused and looked around me, convicted about my selfish perspective. Even if only one child showed up, would it not still be worth it?

I immediately began looking for those the Lord has called me to love: the invisible ones. They are the people in this world that leave no footprints, no impressions in the lives of others. They are so good at hiding, at blending in, that others often do not even know they exist. And in poverty settings, they are usually the poorest of the poor, overlooked even by those that society overlooks (like Reina in the last blog entry).

In the end, they go unnoticed without anyone to fight for them, to tell them they have value, or to tell them that they are loved.

Instead, their voices, their lives, and their stories are silenced. Carried off by the wind to places unknown where their existence is neither celebrated, lamented, nor remembered. As such, they often feel their calls for help have fallen on deaf ears to the point where they have stopped calling out altogether.

They have lost their voice and have become “those who cannot speak for themselves” from Proverbs 31:8-9. The very ones I believe Walter and I have been called to help give a voice to.

And that’s how I saw Fatima.

Seeing the Invisible

She was standing all alone in a sea of children, a little 7 year old girl. The other kids were running all around her but didn’t acknowledge her, didn’t bother her, didn’t even seem to see her. It was as if she blended in so completely with the background of what was going on that she was totally unnoticed.

She was invisible. She was one of my people.

I walked over to her and asked her about the bracelet she was putting together. She looked at me as if she was surprised that someone was talking to her. She didn’t say anything, absolutely no words, but she did lift up the bracelet so I could see it.

“It is beautiful. You are doing a great job.” I said. She smiled and looked down continuing to work on her bracelet. I felt the pull of the Lord’s purpose telling me to invest so I cleared a spot in the circle of children she was in and began helping her and a few other little ones put their bracelets together.

We worked on the bracelets for 20 minutes or so, then all of us got up to go play outside. I stuck close to her and made sure she was included in whatever we were playing. I could tell she was having fun. Then, at one point, I stuck out my hand for her hand as a part of the game we were playing. I remember she looked at me directly, paused for a second, and then placed her small hand in mine.

Foundation established.

Standing for Hope

After running around with the kids for a while I decided to take a step back and just watch. Watch the SMU team invest in the kids, watch the kids laugh and smile, watch as relationships were formed and hearts were touched.

I was standing alone at first, and then I noticed there was a person standing next to me. It was Fatima, the little girl. She was just standing there watching all that was going on with me. I stuck out my hand and she placed her hand in mine again, and we just stood there.

Another little kid that I have known for a few years ran up and hugged me, causing me to have to let go of her hand, then ran off again. When I stood back up from the hug, instead of grabbing my hand, she just leaned in. I put my arm around her and then we just stood there.

Most invisible children are invisible for a reason: they want to be. They don’t want to stand out, to be noticed, because that can often lead to being picked on, abuse, or worse. Therefore they choose to hide and not to draw attention to themselves. So the fact that she leaned in meant she was letting it be known that she wanted to be seen.

She was taking a HUGE risk in the hope that the promises of the Lord’s love we had been proclaiming were true. That she didn’t have to hide. That she could step into the light and, even once seen, be loved.

Oh, that we would all have the courage of this little girl. The courage to not just believe a promise, but to also risk everything in the pursuit of it. To decide that whatever the world has told us in the past and whenever voices around us tell us the promises aren’t true, that we are still going to step into vulnerability and align our lives with our beliefs – no matter the peril, both real and feared.

Can you imagine what our lives, our communities, our churches, and our world would look like?

So there, in that moment, even though no words were spoken, no words were needed. Her actions were essentially making a statement and asking a question: “I am risking my heart to find out if the promises you have claimed are really true. If I step into them, will they really lead to life?” And that question needed to be answered.

So there we stood. Silent and yet shouting out for the whole world to hear that God’s promises ARE true. That Fatima can rest in the fact that she is seen, she is valuable, and that she is loved.

I thought to myself, “Step 1 has been accomplished: we have established a foundation of trust in God’s promises and in us. Tomorrow, it will be time to dive in deep.” And even though that was my plan, I had no idea at the time how much these few moments had impacted Fatima, or how much they would ultimately remind me about trusting in the Lord’s goodness.

But that is for the next entry which will conclude her story, including finishing the piece started in today’s intro of what happened when her brother came to get her.

More to come soon.

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