Giving someone the shirt off your back
Such a famous quote. However, yesterday I witnessed the literal meaning of this quote.
Feeding the boys and spending a little time with them is the highlight of my days right now. I never know what will happen while we are hanging out. I never know what will be said. But I know there will always be laughs.
The majority of our ten kids spend their time during the day working on the street parking cars and washing them while the car owner shops. They try to make a little money to buy juice & snacks or to be able to use the public bathroom.
As we drove up to the boys yesterday four of them were hard at work washing a car. I could see the suds all over the car. The water droplets were splattered everywhere. I could tell they had been washing for quite some time and would be finished soon. I was just standing around making small talk with them while they continued working when I saw one of the older boys go over and literally take the shirt off of one of the younger boys back. At first glance I thought the older boy was being a bully or trying to start a fight. But then I realized the younger boy willingly gave his shirt up. He gladly let the boy take his shirt off.
I continued just watching and saw the older boy begin to use the shirt as his drying cloth for the car. He used the shirt to wipe the whole car down until it was dry & completely rid of the splattered water droplets.
I was laughing lots by this point. We had gone from what I thought would be a fight over a shirt to a very comical, yet thought-provoking situation.
These boys aren’t always perfectly behaved. Sometimes they fight with each other. Sometimes they say dirty things. Sometimes they sniff glue to get high.
But they are there for each other.
They are willing to give each other the shirt off of their own back. Even if just to dry a car to make a few pesos.
I wonder how many of us would let someone use our shirt to dry a car!
Every day as I spend time with our kids I am realizing more and more just how under qualified I am to be doing what I am.
I don’t have a business degree to know how to open a ministry center.
I am not a mother of five, or even one, who is experienced in raising children.
I did not study social work or psychology in school to help these kids talk through their problems and issues in life.
I am not a huge manly man who can protect these kids.
The more I think about all of these ways I am under qualified the more I realize I should be scared to death. Or worried I won’t do something right. Or overwhelmed by all there is to do. Or intimidated because I don’t have all the answers.
Yet every night when I come home I can’t help but smile at my time spent with the kids. I can’t help but laugh as I replay the faces the kids made that day. I can’t help but chuckle at how a kid just decided to break out in dance moves. I can’t help but giggle at how the smallest kid out there tried to stop traffic to park a car.
I smile & laugh not because I have it all figured out, but because God has given me this complete peace that I am not the one in control. I can’t do this alone. We can’t do this on our own. I have to fully depend and trust him for every decision I make, or we make as a team.
It’s not always an easy thing. It’s not always easy to walk away from the kids knowing they will sleep on the street. It’s not always easy knowing they won’t have another meal until we return the next day.
But it’s so worth it to trust that God has this!
Not me. Not our team.
But my Father, their Father!
I am way under qualified to live the life I am living but I cling to the cheesy quote I hear often:
“God doesn’t call the equipped. He equips the called!”
This past week God has reminded me more and more why he called me specifically to not only the Philippines but to Cagayan to intentionally help street children. And although the reminder hasn’t come without seeing harsh realities it’s been really comforting and reassuring for my heart.
Not long after arriving in the Philippines I was overwhelmed by the vast number of people needing help. Whether it was a job, food, a place to sleep, a family, clean clothes, etc. Everywhere I turned people were in need. There were people begging on multiple street corners. There were people asking for money at the most random of places. And for a while I struggled with how I can focus on helping just street children when the need is great for so many others as well.
Journeying through that was tough but God continually reminded me he has a specific target group he wants me to help. He isn’t asking me to save the whole world. Just one child at a time.
Months later here I am completely ok with all of this. If I see someone begging and have a banana or granola bar I will give it to them. But if I have no food on me I have to be ok with talking to that person without tangibly giving them anything.
The other day was a little different however.
As I sat at the stop light it wasn’t a mom with a baby on her hip begging for money. It wasn’t an older man who wanted something to eat. It was kids. Not one. Not two. Not even three. But a whole group of them. Four kids standing at my window on my left. And a group of about 10 kids sitting on the ground to my right. When I say kids I don’t even mean boys and girls who are old enough to cross the street by themselves. I am talking little girls and boys about three to seven years old. And all they wanted was money and food. Someone to help them. Someone to show them they are loved.
In that moment I didn’t have enough money to pay for them to go to school. I couldn’t throw them in the backseat of the car and take them to a house where they could live and grow up being loved and taken care of. I couldn’t even give all of them a nice, fancy meal.
But I cling to the hope that one day I will be able to.
Right now I know God is calling us to start small and learn the ins and outs of what we are doing. To invest in our group of ten kids. To form lasting relationships with them. To show them the heights and depths of God’s love for them.
And as they learn and grow for themselves then God will call us to begin fresh with a new group of kids.
With every day that passes I know work is being done to invest in these children. And to work on building a community where each and every child living on the streets is cared for, loved and known by their Father!