When you simply drive by, this mangled place can appear overwhelming bleak and irrevocably hopeless. I mean it. If you don’t slow down and look in their eyes, you see only this:
* a mass grave where thousands of bodies lie under a mound of dirt, limbs tangled, all of them killed in an earthquake.
* tattered tarps flapping atop wizened sticks, posing as houses for whole families.
* toddlers, wandering with no shoes … and often no underwear.
* a little girl, curled in a ball with limbs askew, like her whole body is broken. Her mouth is gaping. A fly lands on her forehead, and she doesn’t brush it away. I’m not sure if she physically could anyway.
You’d look at this place, and maybe you’d wonder, where has God gone? Did He leave these people alone to suffer in this menacing, brutal world? I want to cry out. I want to scream: Where are you, Father?
But no. If that’s all I saw, I wouldn’t have been really looking at all. Because there’s more.
When you stop the bus — when you just stop moving long enough to see — you see that, in fact, The More is here. Yes, there’s More.
Jesus has moved into the neighborhood. And when I stop to look, I see that He’s here, for the brokenhearted. And maybe, I can be a tiny part of something revolutionary. I can be a carrier of hope, sure, but I can also be an awed witness.
I stand under the man’s roof, made of a loose thatch, and I ask him straight out: “What brings you joy?” A bold question, and dare I ask it? Joy? Here?
I’m standing in the mud puddle, right there in his house, when he tells me through the interpreter: “My joy and my strength come from the Lord Jesus Christ. My joy comes because I just took another breath.”
This, from the man who has to walk thirty minutes to fill his green, five-gallon bucket full of water.
I see revolutionary hope in the pastor, just down that dirt path, who invites us into his parsonage. It’s just one room, smaller than my Iowa kitchen. We pray over him, and he invites us to his church a few steps away, so we can pray a blessing over his church as well. He wants more of The More… On the way to the church, I notice that he’s carrying those type of plastic straps that I cut off of shipped packages and quickly discard. This pastor excavates those long, sturdy strips from the littered landscape, and weaves them into seats, onto discarded chair frames. These are the chairs on which his congregants sit when he preaches the word of the Lord from the pulpit.
Those tattered tarp houses? They are more than houses; some are homes of startling, jaw-dropping hope.
Those half-naked children? They want to hold your hand and tell you their names. And I stand and marvel at the revolutionary joy on a child’s face. I want me some of that.
And that girl, curled with limbs askew? I kneel down beside her, brush the fly away and tell her she’s beautiful. Her Daddy says he knows Jesus. And life is painfully hard, yes, but still this: He knows Jesus. And this is not his daughter’s home.
And in the orphanage, I cradle hope in my arms, hope for a new generation.
I cradle More.
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