When I was 17, I went on a mission trip to Peru. It wasn’t really your average mission trip. No matching tees, no house building or concrete pouring. No physical labor at all. It was a small group of teenagers, maybe 7 of us, a couple of Young Life leaders, and a missionary who lived in Peru. It was a spring break trip, so we were there only 5 days. We worked in an orphanage in a tiny mountain village about an hour from Lima. The place was tiny. A brick wall built around a few broken buildings. Dirt floors. A concrete slab where the kids could play. Sparse. Dirty. Forgotten. And filled with lost children. No real records of who they were or where they came from. Some dropped there, some found alone and wandering and brought there, some showed up there on their own. They were invisibles. Belonging to no one. But they were God’s
.They were tiny lives. Precious. Desperate to be seen and desperate to be loved. All we had to do was show up for them. That was it. Just show up and love them. Our only job. Show up and show them Jesus by loving them. THEM. Tiny lost children in a broken down orphanage. No identity. No one to call them theirs. Or rock them. Or teach them. Or love them. Nothing. Forgotten. Unknown. Children on God. And we got to know them. Just for a few days. We got to hold them and braid their hair and sing to them. We got to pick them up when they fell. Dry their tears. Cheer for their accomplishments. Run and play and laugh with them. Pray with them. Talk to them about Jesus. Love them like Jesus does. We got to see the unseen. To care for the least of these. I had been on two other mission trips before this one. Both amazing. Both doing good and necessary work. But this one? It changed my perspective. My sense of responsibility for those in need. My life, really.
There was a little boy. 3 years old. He was called Abel. He didn’t really have a story. He just ended up there. In that orphanage. Lost and alone and forgotten. For one week, though? That little baby was mine. I don’t know why, but he chose me. He couldn’t understand my words. But the first time I met him he called me Mama. And for five days he followed my every step. Slept in my arms. Ran to me when he scraped his knees. Kissed me goodbye every night when we left. And I loved him the best I could for those five days. And the day I left? He chased me out of the orphanage crying out “Mama! Mama!” He was finally ripped from my arms so I could get on the bus to fly back to my private school life. I watched that little face cry and cry as my bus drove away from him forever. When I got home I sat my parents down for a serious talk about adopting him. I started by rationally explaining how I had worked it all out. Then I begged and cried and pleaded. “You’re don’t have to send him to private school.” “I’ll take care of him.” “You don’t have to buy him a car or send him to college.” “Just being here and being safe is better than what he’ll ever have there.”
They listened, and even considered. They did not laugh at me. But in the end I got a firm no. I have no idea what became of Abel. The orphanage closed down a few years later. The children were scattered. He is 17 now. Somewhere. My mom and I still talk about him sometimes. We can’t shake that little face. That little life. Alone in the world. Begging to be loved. I pray for him still. That he is safe. That he is loved. That those five days with him when he was three somehow imprinted love on his heart forever. I pray for that boy.
Today I have my own three children. I love them in a fierce way. I would do anything to protect them. They deserve everything. All my energy and all my love and all my comfort and all my protection. They deserve everything. But not because they are mine. Because they are God’s. They have been entrusted to me and Jordan, and it is our responsibility to take care of them in the best way we can. To provide for them. To love them and teach them. To risk everything to protect them. And if we can’t? If we are not here? If in our efforts to protect them we lose them? Then I pray with my whole heart that others will love them and protect them. Stand up for them and defend them. Not because they are mine. Because they are God’s. Because every child belongs to all of us. If parents lose their way or lose their children, it is not a “what a shame” situation. They are all of our children. Ours. We are to help them find a way back to each other. If we can.
John Wesley said:
“Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.”
When I was 17? With Abel? The best I could do was to love him while I was with him, and then pray for him forever. But now. 14 years later? I can do more, with more means, in more ways, in more places, at more times, for more people. And the next child who suffers. And the next. And the next. They are mine. And yours. They are all of ours. And they need us. They need to us advocate for them. To defend them. They need us to hold them close in our arms and close in our prayers. They are ours. Because they are God’s.
I am asking you see yourself in the people at our nation’s southern border. They are mothers and fathers. They are us. Their babies are our babies. They are risking everything for a chance. Some are begging for asylum from lives we cannot imagine. Some are coming illegally from lives we cannot imagine. And you know? They know it is illegal. They know the risks. They are terrified. And yet? They come to us anyway. They know. They. Know. And yet they come to us anyway.
And us? Well. We can love before we judge. Mother Teresa said of her work “They are all Jesus in disguise.” And these people at our border? They are Jesus in disguise. They are hurt, hungry, tired, destitute Jesus looking for love anyway. And we can be Jesus in disguise for them. We can be compassionate, loving, healing, life giving Jesus. We can keep families together. We can listen to their stories. We can help them find a way. They brought us their babies. Their. Babies. Their worlds. All we have to do is see Jesus in them. And we can do it. We can love anyway. We can let them stay together. We can heal a little suffering. We can make it all a just little better for them. For our ourselves. For our hurting world.
Because they came to us anyway.
Because every child is all of ours.
Because they are all Jesus in disguise.
We have to do better.
Call your elected officials and demand better for these babies.