Feature

One Among Thousands

A starving boy softens a heart

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Recently, my husband, Rich, our daughter, Alexa, and I were walking through downtown Trujillo, Peru, reliving times gone by and rushing to find soccer cleats for Alexa before catching a bus to Ecuador that night. I was grumbling to Alexa that I had just bought her some shoes. Was she absolutely sure that she had grown out of her other ones and could she please stop growing so fast? 
 
As I was grumbling, I saw out of the corner of my eye a little form curled up in the doorway of a building. Having grown up in Latin America, seeing beggars is nothing new to me; people huddled on the street rarely even register in my hard heart. Thankfully, I married an amazing man who notices details. He stopped and told us that he thought that form in the door was a child—a child in pain. Convicted immediately, we walked back, and sure enough we found a little boy holding his belly and crying. 

As people pushed by us, we stooped and asked if he needed medical help. He said he was crying because his stomach hurt. “Do you want us to get you some medicine?” I asked. He said he hurt because he was so hungry.

We helped him up slowly and asked him his name. “Alexander,” he responded.
 
We took him to the nearest lunch counter at the marketplace and ordered the largest meal on the menu. While we waited for the food, we sat on the bar stools and talked. Alexander was dirty, his pants were ripped, his shoes were without laces and the grime on his neck screamed “street kid.” He sat hunched over on the stool and rarely made eye contact. He talked so quietly that Rich and I had to lean in to hear him.

Alexander told us he had been selling newspapers for three months because his mom was in the hospital. He was supposed to have been paid three days earlier, but his “boss” ran away. Alexander had no money to get home on the bus or to help pay for his little brothers’ food or his mom’s hospital needs. He hadn’t eaten in days and didn’t have the energy to make the two-hour walk home. He had been living on the streets. Eleven years old, he hadn’t been to school in more than a year.
 
I sat next to him and rubbed his back, feeling each rib that jutted out as he told his story. When the appetizer came, he wolfed it down so fast I honestly thought he had dumped it down his shirt! It disappeared in seconds. 

As we sat with him I felt sadness, which then turned to guilt and embarrassment. If Rich hadn’t been with us, I would have walked right past Alexander and never given it another thought. Me, a worker in an organization that feeds both stomachs and hearts.

We had to rush to catch our bus to Ecuador, but we couldn’t call anyone because we didn’t have our cell phones with us. What were we going to do? We couldn’t just leave the boy. Alexander finished his lunch, and we awkwardly started roaming the marketplace, trying to find a phone to call Inca Link Peru (our partner organization) to get help.  

Then we saw an angel! Okay, not really an angel, but Sandino, a guy who used to be a leader in our youth group in the America Sur Alliance church. He is now married and expecting his first child and owns a fruit stand at the market. We ran over and gave him a big hug. He helped us phone Inca Link and then offered to help Alexander. Since Sandino is at the market every day, we gave him some money to buy Alexander more food whenever he might need it. Sandino also told the boy that at any time he could go and pick any fruit from his stand! Once we knew Alexander would be taken care of, we made sure he had a way home, and then prayed for him. Sandino was the perfect help at the perfect time.
 
In Latin America there are hundreds of thousands of kids just like Alexander. They need help, but we never have enough manpower, money and resources. Alliance workers, staff and volunteers sometimes feel helpless and alone looking at a mountain of needs.

Helpless that is until May, June, July and August—our salvation months! In these months heroes come and help us! Every summer staff at Inca Link/Envision Trips, the Alliance missions site, get fresh legs, fresh hearts and fresh eyes to work alongside us. They offer invaluable assistance at Tesoros, a home in Quito, Ecuador, for children whose parents are in prison. Abused inside the prison and in so-called “safe houses,” these kids are often left starving on the streets. Participants of Envision Trips also help at Pasitos de Fe, a children’s home in Trujillo, Peru, and Huaticocha, the new training school we are building in the jungles of Ecuador.

To be honest, we are not going to live forever. At Huaticocha, we train leaders to take our place and reach the lost; leaders who will not walk past a starving boy on the street, who are willing to go into the darkness and spread the light—leaders who are going to make a difference for the Alexanders of the world!  We are so grateful we are not alone in shining a light all over the world!

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