“What happened to your arm?” I asked, pointing to a wound that looked fairly new. I could tell by the shape of the mark on her arm what had happened, but I didn’t want to believe it was true. I was hoping I was wrong and that she would tell me she simply scratched it somehow, but that wasn’t the case. “My grandma” she replied and then she held her arm up to her mouth demonstrating how her grandma bit her. And the scars on her face and neck? Those are from her grandma too. This sweet young girl has endured so much. Both of her parents have died and her grandma is the only family she knows that she has left; the grandma who abused and abandoned her. And now, at twelve years old, because she doesn’t have anywhere else to go, she lives in prison.
Every day we visit one of the M facilities, I meet a new child and hear their heartbreaking story. There are no happy reasons why anyone ends up at one of these places (though I know that God will use it for good). Most stories involve abuse, abandonment, severe poverty.
“My brother tried to rape me.”
“My stepmom didn’t like me and abused me.”
“It was too much. I wanted to drown myself in the Nile. I was seven.”
“I gave my sister’s phone to a friend and so my parents sent me here for a year.”
“My dad didn’t want me and accused me of stealing.”
And then there are the little ones. The young children who were abandoned on the streets, in their homes or at the police stations. The kids who were dropped off at one of these places by their parents and have spent more than half their lives there. The little boys and girls who were mistakenly separated from their parents and have a mom somewhere wondering where they are. The babies who now put themselves to sleep on the concrete floor.
There is a popular song with a line that says, “Break my heart for what breaks Yours.” There are days though, when I just don’t know how much more my heart can take. Hearing story after story after story of brokenness… holding hands with a 10 year old girl who says to me, “My mom died. I have no one left. Can you be my mom?”… putting down a little girl and having to walk away as she starts to cry. It’s sometimes just too much. I hate to admit it, but there are times when my thoughts are similar to David’s: Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable? Has his steadfast love forever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion? [Ps 77:7-9]
I have started reading Psalm 33 in the mornings before heading out and often in the evenings when we return home as well. It’s not out of discipline, but desperation. The truth of those words breathe new life into my broken and weary heart.
“The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
the plans of his heart to all generations. Blessed is the nation whose
God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!”
“The Lord looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man;
From where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, he who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds.”
“Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.
For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name.
Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
even as we hope in you.”