Our green chevy astro van pulls up to the slum and children start running out from all directions. Hair gelled, scrubbed clean, shiny bright faces, they have taken great care to put on their “Sunday best.” They cram in the back – 16 people in a car mean for 8.
Walking into the church with this crew I can feel it: new life in Christ. What could be more refreshing? More life giving? New chances, new grace, fresh mercy falling down from the heavens like rain, as the songs say.
Tears can’t help springing to my eyes as a new baby is brought to church. A young couple embraced and blessed, the shame falling off their shoulders, the young grandma (she’s my age!) smiles with contentment to have them here with her in this grace breathing community.
You can almost feel the strength pouring in. As I breathe in I feel o.k. All is right and I think to my self, I can do this. I can face another week.
Voices lifted, eyes closed, hands raised to the heavens. In a town as dark as Jaco, where so much evil is happening, this takes on an almost magical quality, an early church type of feeling. The Spirit is thick. You can feel God’s joy in the midst of those who love Him.
A father commits his life to the Lord, receiving the gift of salvation and stands before the church, dedicating his son and promising to be an example to him. The church lifts their prayers in agreement – blessing him, his wife and his son. It is quite a baby dedication.
And then a hearty “Feliz Cumpleanos” is sung along to the guitar for a 22 year old, everyone clapping and laughing. He hasn’t been coming to church much lately. His life seems to be spiraling downwards – but today, in this moment, in this family, he’s loved, accepted and his life is celebrated.
Bringing children at high risk into a community like this has the potential to completely transform their lives.
“He has a passion for you,” the pastor declares, calling out people in the congregation by name. “He has a great emotion of love for you!”
Oh, these children need that love. They need it bubbling up, spilling over and pouring into their wounded, hungry hearts.
There is a protective factor here as well for these kids. For children at risk of trafficking and abuse the more people who know and love a child, the safer he becomes. As he becomes part of a faith community he goes from being an unknown child in a slum to someone whose name is known. This builds his resilience in the face of risk.
Thank you, God, for Sundays. Oh how we need them.