The church we served is in the process of opening a daycare for children whose parents If they did not have the daycare to go to, they would be left at home. Many of these children end up as street kids...either dropping out of school or falling into the dark world of child prostitution.
Our children physically worked at the daycare...cutting down coffee plants (Jacob used a machete...WHAT?) and moving branches just to name a few. However, the best part of the week was watching my kids PLAY! They played hard. Despite the language barrier, they played with children for hours and hours.
Our first real work day consisted of working at the daycare and planning for the VBS we were hosting during the week. I spent hours waiting for the director of the daycare to sit down with me to talk about what they wanted and needed from us that week. I learned two important things during this sit down.
1.) They needed us to help with the construction projects and the VBS was important, but what they really needed was for us to encourage them in the work they were doing. I strongly believe that after we left what they will remember most about our team were the times we sat and talked and prayed. They would remember that we didn't get upset when the schedule changed or that the bathroom our men wanted to build didn't get built. They would remember that we simply wanted to serve them.
2.) One of the communities the church reaches out to consists of the socialoutcasts. One of the poorest areas in San Jose is down the road from this church. They are refugees from Nicaragua. They are poor. They are not well liked by the Costa Ricans. Their families are often broken and dysfunctional. Their homes are made from whatever they can find...trash...when we pulled up to spend an afternoon with the kids, a roof on one of the houses fell off. (Mom moment: Kids keep a good 5 feet from the houses, just in case.) Our guide told us that incest is a common problem in this community. Families live in small houses and sleep in one bed. Moms are often at work while boyfriends stay home. Young boys and girls have witnessed or experienced incest for generations. What in the world could we possibly do to help?
As I sat on the bus, I watched the landscape change and all I could do was think about how could we help these young girls. I couldn't stomach the idea of going to play for a few hours just to walk away knowing that their abuse would continue...who will fight for these girls? My American mind was spinning and I wanted so much to ask the church what they planned on doing. What could they do to help educate the men and women and keep them accountable for the well being of their children?
We got off the bus and carried a trunk and suitcase full of bubbles, balls, fingernail polish, jump ropes, crafts, and so much more. The kids (and their moms) start pouring into the fenced-in area where we planned on setting up our stuff. Whenever we pulled an item out of the trunk, the kids (and their moms) started reaching and grabbing and asking...they weren't trying to hurt us; they just didn't want to miss out. They have gone without for so long that a little bottle of bubbles is a treasure worth begging for...(Mom moment: Kids shouldn't carry or handout anything, just in case.)
It didn't take long for our kids to jump in and play. Jacob and the other boys started playing soccer with the locals. No language necessary because playing ball is a universal game and form of entertainment. Emma Grace found a little girl close to Zoey's age. The little girl wore a t-shirt and a diaper and Emma Grace carried her around. Some of our ladies sat down and painted faces and fingernails. The three men on our trip are three of the finest, most godly men at our church. They loved on these kiddos...having a positive male influence is a huge gift we were able to give these children.
The hours went by so fast and before I knew it we were packing up our stuff and headed back to our hotel...our kids were going to end their day with swimming, a great dinner (rice and beans, included), and then would fall asleep in their own beds (Jacob had a king size bed) in an air conditioned room. We left that afternoon and there was no plan in place to "fix" anything. There were no immediate answers and resolution; however, I learned the most amazing lesson. Sometimes (ok most times) it isn't about fixing the broken, rather it is about loving the broken. We showed up that afternoon with one goal in mind. We were going to play and love on some of God's children for a few hours. We wanted them to know that they are worth it. Jesus came and loved the lost, broken, and sinful.
I don't have to be in a poor refugee village in order to love on the lost, broken, and sinful. They are all around us...in every community. They are at our churches, neighborhoods, and schools. I don't have to fix them or come up with a plan to solve all their problems. I simply must love them.
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This the great and first commandment. And a second is life it: You shall love your neighbor has yourself." Matthew 22:37-39
"For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you clothes me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me....And the King will answer them, Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me." Matthew 25:35-36 and 40