there’s this group of kids that i’ve known and loved and served for three years in Liberia. i’ve prayed with them, cried with them, laughed with them, walked through all sorts of situations and circumstances of life with them. we were family.
and then, one day, things changed. i went from seeing those kids every single week to having to walk away from them without any contact. there were valid and important reasons, to be sure: other people’s poor choices. hurt feelings and wounded pride. sin.
i understood the logic behind it all, but it didn’t make it hurt any less.
today, i was given a chance to visit with these kids—and was slapped in the face with the cold, hard reality that things have changed. kids that used to run up to me and jump into my arms wouldn’t even come near me. others were angry and confused and wanted to know why i hadn’t come to visit them. one girl buried her face in my shoulder and wept. “auntie elena, why did you forget about me?” she cried.
i hadn’t forgotten her; i hadn’t forgotten about any of those kids. i had prayed for them and thought about them every day. and i told them that. i told them how much i had missed them, how i had ached to be able to see them.
but there’s still a very real wound in their tender little hearts. there’s still a piece of them that feels abandoned. forgotten. alone. i wish that i could heal that for them—but i know that only Jesus can.
since the visit, i’ve been an emotional train wreck. part of me is angry, angry at the lies and deceit. part of me is discouraged; i fear that i’ve poured my everything into these kids during the last three years and it’s all wasted now. part of me grieves over what has been lost. part of me is worried that trust has been broken and that the road to rebuilding those relationships is a much rougher one than i can bear to walk right now.
but then there’s this other part of me, a tiny, quiet part hidden deep within that whispers “hope.” this part of me believes in a God who makes all things new, in a Savior who completely redeems. it’s the part of me that is willing to walk through the rough stuff because i know that those kids are worth it. it’s the part of that says, “love them—and don’t ever stop.” it knows that real love, true love, the love that Jesus gives, isn’t always easy. it’s a love that keeps pouring out, a love that will not give up. even in the hard times, even when it hurts, even if it has to start from ground zero, even if it takes a year or possibly two.
this is the part of me of that whispers into a child’s ear and says, “i didn’t forget you, and i never will.”
Jesus told his disciples that he would not leave them as orphans (john 14:18). furthermore, he gives them the gift of peace, promising them he would not treat them the way the world does:
i don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. so don’t be upset. don’t be distraught. (john 14:27, msg)
his promises are a lifeline during this very difficult time. i know that i can’t save these kids, and i know their wounds are not ones that i can heal. but i can love them. i will love them…
love them likes Jesus does.