I’ve always had commitment issues with children.
I was in university when I first felt the desire to do work for children in difficult circumstances. A year after graduating, I resolved to pursue this aspiration though I didn’t know how to get started. I initially volunteered for a number of things: reading and giving lessons to kids living in cemeteries and under the bridges of Manila; facilitating skills training for parents of street kids; raising funds for small organizations serving in communities. Then as part of my masters program (in social work) I organized kids and their parents living and working in the city’s colossal garbage dumpsite.
All these involvements were short-term, as if I could never get myself to invest emotionally and be engaged for an extended period with any of the children that I encountered. When I did get my first employment in a child-focused organization, it was as a technocrat: I managed a grant that provided education to children who were involved in or at risk of getting into the worst forms of child labor. I made decisions on fund allocation, supervised people and coordinated with partners who did direct work in the communities where these children were, but I hardly interacted with the children themselves. Almost every chance that I did get to be with them — in the sugarcane fields in remote villages, the filthy streets of the city, and their shanties that simultaneously served as their little factories-cum-warehouses for hand-produced firecrackers — my heart would break into pieces and I would find myself weeping the moment I got to be by myself.
Fast forward to more than a decade later —
I got it stuck in my head how our CEO at Compassion, Jimmy Mellado, had reminded us that “it is our job to keep our hearts soft for this ministry.” Meanwhile at the just-concluded gathering of the Global Children’s Forum (GCF), which is a network of Christian children’s ministries, I was reminded of how children, especially children-at-risk, can be such a constant presence for most of us to the point of simply becoming “part of the landscape,” with us ceasing to see or hear them.
In all honesty, I feel that in spite of the jobs I’ve had, I have actually never allowed my heart to be as soft as it could be, and my eyes to see all that it should, when it came to children in difficult circumstances. Apart from child sponsorship (which I have not even made the most of to nurture relationships that could make a lasting impact on both the children I’ve sponsored and myself) I have never made a long-term commitment to any child. Even in recent years I would do volunteer work involving children, but I never followed through. Moreover I don’t have a child myself, so I also know next to nothing about what it takes to raise and to journey with one.
At the tail-end of the GCF gathering last week we were asked to pick one each from a pile of soft blocks, where we should write down our commitments and together form a sort of memorial altar. Just prior to this activity, a missionary from northeastern India by the name of T.L. shared with us his experience raising dozens of kids in his own home — he is currently “father” to 32 children — and related an incident from 8 months ago in which he rescued a newborn infant from a garbage dump, literally resuscitating her tiny, blood-covered body by breathing air into her mouth. This baby, at 8 months old, is now T.L.’s youngest child. T.L.’s story brought to the fore a well-known reality that has indeed, for me, become “part of the landscape”: There are so many children needing to be cared for, to know the love of Jesus through the adoption of a family. His story also convicted me to move and do something real, to take a chance to be involved with real children, to allow myself to be used to bring the message of God’s love directly to his precious little ones.
I was convicted of how Jesus in His Word says,
Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great.
In my other blog I write about my journey toward becoming a mother, which I am still praying for. We had been dilly-dallying with our adoption application, but it seemed that the urgency of the matter sank in to me, finally, with T.L.’s sharing. So this was one of the things I wrote on my “block”:
Then I thought about how out of touch I was when it came to truly embracing and sharing my life with children, so I wrote this on another side:
When we had all written our commitments we put together our little blocks and formed this:
Pretty, isn’t it? And all covered and cemented together by faith in the One who is able to make all things possible and able to move in the heart of every single person.
I would like to challenge you today to reflect on things that you might’ve been slacking on. Or maybe there’s a meaningful pursuit that you have been wishing to undertake, and yet have not, for one reason or another. Would you like to join me and give a decisive (and prayer-filled!) “YES” to your thing, too? Let me know your thoughts!