And David said to his son Solomon, “Be strong and of good courage, and do it; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the Lord God—my God—will be with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you, until you have finished all the work for the service of the house of the Lord.”
1 Chronicles 28:20
On Sunday, the 17th of December, I took a truck out to go pick up children for church as usual. We first went to the slum by the river and then continued onward to the road by the old abandoned kick-boxing stadium. As I turned the corner and saw the street I first noticed huge plumes of black smoke rising from the street and as I drove up I spotted a large bonfire. First I thought it was just trash burning, but as I approached it became apparent that it was multiple bonfires and I saw that the tarps normally strung up to protect the families on the street were not there. We passed through the first plume of smoke that was drifting across the street and then I saw that not only were the families on the sidewalk gone, but the porch of the old kick-boxing stadium was also barren.
The tarps protecting the families were gone. There was no sign of the strings that once held them up. Gone were the hammocks, sleeping mats, and mosquito nets. The pots and pans for cooking were not piled in the corners like usual. There were no piles of old clothes and scavenged materials sitting by the large trees nearby. And of course, there were no children rushing up to meet us. The site was barren and empty, reminiscent of a scene from the movies. And not knowing what had happened we climbed out of the truck and started look around.
After a few moments a couple of children emerged from the kick-boxing stadium and rushed up to the truck, ready to go to church. They ran up to the truck with big smiles. Either they didn’t understand what had happened, or they were excited that at least we were still coming. We asked them, “What happened? Where did everyone go?”
“The police came and said they needed to leave.”
“Some of them are inside the stadium.”
“Some of them went back to their homelands.”
And when we asked about specific kids…
“We don’t know where they went.”
The government had come during the week and decided to clear out what they considered to be unsightly squatter camps. The families were given short notice to clear away their belongings and then what was left was burned by city clean up crews. So they grabbed what they could and left before there would be trouble.
We then went into the stadium to find a few of the kids and families we had been working with. The families that were already inside were not affected, but only a couple more chose to move into the stadium. They had quietly cleared away the overgrowth in the corners and made new encampments.
Some of the children we would see every day are now gone, we know not where they have gone. And we are left only with hope that these families were touched by the Love of God and that they will carry it with them where ever they have gone.
All of this perhaps drives home the need to reach out to these children and their families now. I must wonder, how long will it be before the kick-boxing stadium is cleared out? We need to share God’s love now, not when we are ready because it is God’s plan that counts, not ours. And so I ask your prayers that God will watch over the families of the street. That God will make His love known to them and through them, where ever they have gone. And ask that He will enable us to reach out to these families that remain, so that we can make His love known to them now, so that they too will know that God is with them where ever they may go.
Recently online I shared a photo of a different girl. A new girl that we met only recently. She was praying during an outreach we were doing on the side of the road. I don’t know if she knew why we were praying or if she yet knew who God was. However, the caption said, “Many of the kids don’t yet know why we pray, but they just do it. Soon we hope they know that we pray with them because we love them.” The kids who are gone now are ones that we have known since we started reaching out to them. We hope above all hopes that they know we prayed with them and for them because of God’s great love for them and that He is going to go with them where ever they have gone.
Today I pray for these children and their families as they now face new challenges and take the love we shared with them out from this place. I pray the same prayer which the Apostle Paul prayed for the Ephesians and will continue to pray it for them daily.
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.