when rape becomes a face instead of a statistic

“But once the issue has a name and a face, it changes everything, doesn’t it? God knows each of those names. God knows each of those faces. And it breaks His heart.” -Primal by Mark Batterson

(Here’s another story from my heart that shows why I’m still participating in this challenge to live on $1.50 a day…it’s an edited repost from December 2009)

I didn’t know what I was getting into that day.  I seem to forget that heart-wrenching stories come in the seemingly quiet parts of the day.

I stepped out of the vehicle with a vague mission of playing, hanging out, and just being with the kids at the park.  Except, today, the park felt separated and empty.  I found a little girl playing near the slide.  Unlike most kids, she shied away from me.  I didn’t force the conversation or even try to make her laugh.  We just were.

She led me over toward the rickety dinosaur slide.  A jungle gym type structure that proved the perfect spot to gather around.  Legs dangling in the air and the brave ones doing flips off the sides.

And it was there that I put a face to the issue.

I found myself no longer with just one little girl, but instead surrounded by a group of boys.  They chattered away with questions like: Do you know Chris Brown? Do you have a boyfriend?

I laughed and engaged them right back.  We landed on the topic of passions and what type of jobs they wanted.  One wanted to be police man.  Another was adamant about being a doctor so that he could help people.  One piped in that he wanted to be a teacher.

These kids saw the realities of their community.  They understood how crime, HIV/AIDs, and a need for education could positively change their nation.  They had hope.  They saw a future.

But in the midst, the conversation turned…

The words blur in my memory, but the faces stay.  I saw the twisted look of “this is just life here.”  Shame, hurt, and brokenness emerging from the pieces.  As I pieced together the bits of the story, my heart dropped.  They were trusting me with their story.  Their reality.  Of how ten year old boys are raped.  Of how the boy sitting in front of me was raped.  Of how he wasn’t the first or the last.  Of how the police knew and the person was in jail…for now, but the boys told me that he would be out before long.

I felt God’s heart break alongside mine for everyone involved in the story.  The boys. The man in jail.  Their families.  The pieces of the story that I didn’t hear but that led to such brokenness and hurt.

No longer could I hold onto a statistic or a number. I had a face. I had a name. I had a hug.

Sure, I could try to swoop in and “save” the day, but that’s not the solution. No. I want to empower for change. These amazing kids have dreams and hopes for a better future that can become a reality.

They see the problems and they see how they can bring about a transformed nation.  They can live out the abundant life Jesus offers.  And that. That gives me hope and passion to join alongside them in their stories.

These are the stories that remind me life is messy.  Sorting out root issues and seeing how we all need healing.  This is where the hard love comes into play.  The hard love of loving all people and loving enough to walk through the process.  To say “I believe in you” both to the boys and to the man.  Showing them that God loves no matter what.

When we are weak, He is strong.

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