Just the other day I saw him. Gregory. ( Names in this blog post have been changed). His smile lit up his face as he waved to us from his yard. He knows us and always greets us when we see him at his church or on the street. Such a nice kid. He had been working out with his home made dumbells. Fashioned from empty large tin cans that he had filled with cement and balanced between two poles. Genious, really. His creativity astounded me. I would never have thought of that! Fourteen years old. I was reminded of his story the other day and it crushed me.
You see, when he was only a young boy of seven years old, his father abandoned him. Left and never looked back. Gregory tried attending school that year, but he was so hurt, so broken, he just couldn’t continue. I cannot even begin to imagine the pain of that kind of rejection, that kind of wound so deep to a soul so young, wondering why his father left. Wondering if his dad was ever coming home and all the while missing him. Did he think he was to blame? Did he wonder if only he had done something different his dad wouldn’t have left?
Gregory can now be found on the streets in the city selling tamales. At times he is there at 5 in the morning providing for his family because his mom is not well. I am not sure what school he attends but his able to go to school on the weekends to continue his education. I am proud of the young man he is today, despite the hand that has been dealt him.
Then there is little Marjory, a precious little girl in fourth grade. Each time we come to her school for the Bible classes I look for her. I adore that little girl. I honestly can say I love all those kids but there are some that just have found a special place in my heart. Recently Marjory’s dad passed away very suddenly and without warning. There are many dads who are murdered. It’s fairly common in that area. Yet that was not the case with Marjory’s dad. It was a car accident and instantly his life was snuffed out, just like that, without any warning. My heart is broken for that little girl and her family. I didn’t see her the other day when we were at her school. I so wanted to give her a hug, tell her I was so sorry to hear about her papa. I don’t know what else I could have said. There are no words, really. How do you comfort an eight year old girl whose daddy is never coming home again? Her family needs him. We can grieve and weep with them. We can pray with them, but then what? I want to cry out that it isn’t fair. I know God cares and I believe heaven weeps over such heartache. I know God is able to comfort the broken, but I don’t know why these things have to happen. It’s one of the great mysteries in life I guess. Perhaps sometimes in life there are things we are not meant to know until the day when our own journey on this earth is done…
Finally there is Jack. He had Leukemia. It was a recurring thing. He would be in remission and then it would come back. I remember the time he told Dale that he could not understand why kids would stay home from school when they had a cold, and yet he continued going to school even when he was in treatment because getting an education was important. I remember when we used to hand out Bible bucks that the kids could redeem for various items. He had more than anyone in the entire school and he chose to spend his Bible bucks on a Bible for himself, and then he bought gifts for others. He bought a sweet straw Tinkerbell purse for the director of his school, who was genuinely moved to tears by his tender guesture, and a Mario Cart figure for one of his teachers…(well that was actually something they were going to share.) He was a kind and gentle soul, a teddy bear of a kid with a big smile and a huge heart. He always greeted us with the biggest smile and a hug when we would see him at his school. I remember how hard we fought to go visit him at the hospital when we learned he was back in there. Finally we ended up getting in with the help of a lawyer because the guards at the gate of the hospital would not budge. They would not allow us to enter . We only wanted to come see him, encourage him and pray for him. I remember how his face lit up when he saw us. I remember how badly he wanted out of that hospital room so he could go to school. Jack had been a sponsored child. When his sponsor died, the family continued on with the sponsorship. But do you know what Jack did when he learned his sponsor had passed? He sent a letter to the family offering his condolences and told them he was praying for them. That’s the kind of boy he was.
A couple weeks ago I was sent a recent photo of Jack…now in seventh grade. The cancer was back. When I saw the photo of him looking so very, very sick, I felt like I got punched in the gut; overwhelmed with sadness. My heart cried “no!” The last time we saw him was his grade six grad. We were so proud of him, graduating when he had been so ill during that year. I remember the standing ovation he received from his peers and teachers. And yet, here we are, not even a year after graduating and Jack…our beloved young friend is gone. He’s with the Lord, and not suffering anymore, but oh how our hearts ache. He was so young, had so much to live for. He truly loved life. He lived his life well. He had dreams. I don’t know why he had to die. I don’t know why he wasn’t healed or why he had to suffer so much in his young life. I know he loved Jesus and I know one day I will see him again. He is in a better place, not suffering, healed and whole. And something that struck me the other day is that Jack got to meet his sponsor. Not many kids or their sponsors ever get that opportunity. I am sure he ran up to him, hugged him and said “thank you for sponsoring me!” It reminds me of that old Ray Boltz song that says..”thank you for giving to the Lord…I am the life that was changed.”
Jack is greatly missed and was loved by all who knew him. An inspiration. A real life hero. He will never, ever be forgotten.
Deut 29:29 The Lord our God has secrets known to no one.
Psalm 56:8 You keep track of my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.