This isn’t a post (or series of posts) I was planning to write. But the Lord was ever so clear this morning as I asked Him for guidance… “Forgiveness,” He said. “Write about forgiveness.”
I look at the sweet girl my friend Sheri is holding and remember the day we met her. Our team of nine from the States drove to two orphanages that day, the first one being run by a Mexican man and his American wife and the second one being run by a Mexican couple. The first houses 34 children, the second 65.
This little girl was at the second orphanage. We were saying our good-byes in broken Spanish to the children and the few helpers, trying our best to encourage the man in charge and show him that every effort he makes is appreciated and worthwhile. This girl gently put her arms up in front of Sheri, motioning that she wanted to be held. Of course Sheri picked her up — but she wasn’t expecting the tight, unrelenting hung and the sad eyes. As she put the girl down later, the girl’s face was completely broken and crushed.
I don’t know this girl’s story yet. But could she be like so many of the others there at the orphanage? The ones whose parents, for one reason or another (work, lack of work, lack of energy, lack of desire…), let their children run around in the streets and go wherever they please — the ones who then got picked up by police and brought to the orphanage? Could she be like these kids, who have homes and at least one parent and/or guardian? Could she be one of those kids who doesn’t need to be there?
This man, in the middle, works hard day and night caring for all 65 children. Upon arriving at their compound I thought, “How can one man love 65 children, individually, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week?” How can he possibly pour his heart into each child constantly? As we talked with him I realized more of God’s power. It’s God’s power that enables him to love like he loves, forgive like he forgives.
There’s a whole lot of forgiveness that has to take place for this ministry to function as well as it does. Holding grudges, being bitter, keeping count of wrongs — those things can’t happen alongside love! This man has to forgive the children for their mistakes and poor behavior. He has to forgive the parents who neglect their children, abuse their children, provide poor examples for their children. He has to forgive the police every time they bring another child to his door who doesn’t need to be there. He has to forgive the community and culture for screwing up, for allowing injustice, for deciding that God is not priority.
I watched these boys interact, and was amazed at their love for each other. They have to forgive, too. They have to forgive each other, they have to forgive the rest of the boys and girls who live there. They have to forgive their parents for neglecting them, abusing them, and providing them with poor examples. They have to forgive the police for taking them and the community and culture for not caring for them.
These kids are some of the most joyful people I’ve met. They don’t have life easy. They sleep two-to-a-tiny-bed because there are too many of them and too few beds. They probably show up at the orphanage with the clothes on their backs and not much more.
The girls in the top picture are working on their schoolwork. I’m not sure if they actually attend school or not; $140 per uniform, per child would likely result in some form of homeschooling. But I can’t say for sure. The girls live in the bottom half of the building in the second picture; the half that has no windows, is dark and dank and stinky. They have bunks (third picture) lined up in a U-shape around the room, with two exposed light bulbs on either side of the stairway in the middle. You can imagine they have to forgive, too.
The first picture here is the set of boys’ rooms, and the second is a common area with some computers and tons of water damage. Months ago Mexico was hit with flooding. If you know anything about Mexico, you probably know that northern Mexico is a desert. It’s a beach without water — all sand, no dirt. When it rains, the water doesn’t have anywhere to go.
This orphanage is on a hill, which starts up to the left of the green building. When it flooded, the water came pouring down the hill and flooded their property. It did a lot more damage than just that, though.
There used to be a concrete barrier along the edge of the sand right there. Now, there’s a makeshift fence.
All the concrete that used to be their wall got thrown down into those houses below. No more barrier. The Mexican government has told the man and his wife that it’s now unsafe for the children — which it is — and that they shouldn’t have the children there with such a hazard. Imagine the dilemma they now have.
When the wall got thrown apart, though, the children immediately helped clean it up. They went out and worked hard till it was done. Think of that! To my knowledge, none of them tried to escape. They didn’t complain. They must’ve had to look out for each other, too, as the drop over the ledge is dangerous.
How can a community of love like that be cultivated? How can all of those children get along the way they do? Surely they have arguments and fights and miscommunications — but they love each other.
It has to be forgiveness. Forgiveness allows love. It doesn’t have to do with material things, physical abilities, or spiritual giftings. Forgiveness just is. And when there’s forgiveness, there can be love. It’s amazing, isn’t it?