Not much of what I have come across here has allowed me to quick-footedly sweep through, change things, and then be able to turn around and see what has been completed as I shake the dust off my hands. Even if I were able to do that, it is not meant to sound like a prideful move. There have been miraculous, unforgettable experiences in my life and stories that I have heard from many others of times like those. And even though I have not been able to do that, it is not calling me to test my spirit or question the work that is being done.
I love big puzzles…although I sometimes give up on them, I love them. I never give up on them out of boredom, only frustration because of the process. But I always know there's a big picture being formed, as slow as it may take to see it come together. Not seeing it right away can bother me.
This is quite the puzzle.
I was blessed with the opportunity to visit a community that is one of many communities nicknamed Rugby. Jeepneys are the main source of the public transportation system here. They look like small versions of school busses with open backs so you can jump in quickly and shuffle to find your seat; all the while, the Jeepney continues to move. They are painted with every color under the sun from front to back, designed intensely and vigorously; decorated with slogans of sometimes wisdom, sometimes vanity. Rugby is made up of the men that drive these Jeepneys and their families. The fathers are mostly well fit, often big-boned people. Their children are mostly thin, often bony people. The men are jolly and happy and prideful. They eat and drink and make their lives worth living through their worldly eyes. They satisfy themselves and repress the thoughts of their children through gross ignorance. And so, they are desperate, and driven because of it, to supply their needs in ways I cry over and sadly understand.
There is a very inexpensive product of glue solvent that is sold here at local hardware stores. It is called Rugby. The children purchase this product and inhale its vapors to repress the thoughts of their circumstances. It eliminates the feeling of hunger, it causes them to laugh whether they are alone or with others, it is addicting and seemingly miraculous in the way it hides their harsh realities.
Through somewhat organized games and relays and praying for unmasked silliness and openness and courage, and a suitcase of sandwiches, snacks, juice boxes and desserts, we went and we played and laughed and talked and fed.
The kids from the ages of about ten to sixteen came to us and participated with smiles and laughter that I pray were not of Rugby but of Love. Either way, I pray they were reminded of themselves and their lives. But the young children stood just outside of the small area we used for our fun. They begged to be noticed and remembered, too, but darted if ever eye contact was made or if ever words were directed towards them or if ever a gesture was made to invite them in. I could not use the love that can be shown through eyes, through words, or through open arms. But the discovery was soon made to let them run away as I approached them, and just relocate my balloon blowing to where they peak around the corner at us. Sheepishly but surely, their little toothless grins and dirty, smelly bodies and lice-covered heads crept back. And they all got their balloons and soared with them.
And they sought me out if their balloon ever popped.
Distributing food to the community children was glorious just as it would be imagined…I stare upward and try to know the hurt that must come from staring down on His neglected and desperate children at all times. As grateful or ungrateful as they may come across, they came raw. They brought who they were, no rules, no fronts, simply and complexly themselves. Rugby kids. Sober or not, only God knows. And He does.
They were fed one meal one afternoon on one day…and the playful were played with and the quiet were laughed with and the actors and clowns were laughed at, getting the spotlight they yearn for, on one afternoon. I don't hang my head in shame or hopelessness, for I see the hope. And I stare up. But it is not finished…
…there were enough sandwiches to be given out to our shy onlookers. No one ran away at this point. In fact, more flocked out of mangled houses and popped out of nearby bushes and tiny ones appeared from behind other tiny ones. Women yelled out "only for the children" as they laughed. It was hard to stay focused, but the Lord gives the strength needed to ignore the question of whether their laughter was out of celebration or mockery.
I came out with the last bag of sandwiches, and the flow of children slowed down. It was lovely. Not because I wanted to be finished, but because I knew they had all been fed. If one finds out, they all know within seconds. Actually milliseconds.
And flock they do.
I crumpled up the last empty bag that once held food and looked around Rugby, about to shake the dust off my hands as soon as the bag was crumpled. But the panning of my eyes was sickly stopped when I saw a man exit his home and start approaching me. In his hands was the last remaining quarter of the sandwich that was otherwise in his mouth and stomach. Out of his mouth, full of food and grinning, he asked me,
"Do you have any more of this? I like how it tastes."
He held up the remains of the sandwich that had been handed to his hungry young son or daughter just minutes before. And he wanted more because it tasted good to him. Holding up and showing the front and back of my hand three or four times, I gave the gesture telling I have no more, and began to feel sick as I prayed for strength of my spirit over flesh not to glare…or scream…or pounce. I recalled the children scattering back to their homes with their gift of one meal on one afternoon on one day and felt sicker wondering why we didn't all just eat together so that they were in my view…so that I could witness each one of them bite, chew, and swallow their own food.
Not much of what I have come across here has allowed me to quick-footedly sweep through, change things, and then be able to turn around and see what has been completed as I shake the dust off my hands. And even though I have not been able to do that, it is not calling me to test my spirit or question the work that is being done. I always pray to know there's a big picture being formed, as slow as it may take to see it come together. But not seeing it right away can bother me.
There is a Love that sees, knows and loves passionately this puzzle. And will never give up. I smile through tears being reminded of the mission.