There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear ... (1 John 4:18 TNIV).
At our Sunday orientation session, Miguel had warned us, "Your love for these children will make this the happiest time you have ever gotten lice." He was right — both about the lice and about the love.
When we returned home from our trip to La Comunidad de Los Niños — Sagrada Familia, we left our luggage in the garage because of the smell and the lice. We would bring in a load to wash and leave the rest there in the garage. Each whiff of the aroma coming off those clothes brought back memories. These were precious memories, fond memories, of children and our time with them. While the lice and the aroma came out of the clothes, the children were permanently embedded in our hearts.
One powerful moment happened on Tuesday of this trip. I was not sure what had happened or how it happened until after we arrived home and I was going through some pictures that my friend Spencer had taken. The story told by this one picture moved me to tears when I first saw it.
This was a picture of Donna and two little girls on the playground at "The Community." One little girl, Adriana, was snuggled under Donna's left arm, looking at her face-to-face. She was staring intently into Donna's eyes. Through an interpreter, Donna asked her if she was tired and wanted to go back and rest. "No!" she said, "I want to stay here with you." And she stayed there the whole seventy-five minutes we were on the playground, her little, thin body and her blank expression absorbing the affection that my wife poured out to this precious, but deeply broken child.
When we first met Adriana, her face was expressionless, except when she was crying. She would stiffen anytime I drew near. She played by herself and withdrew from the other children when they shared in activities. This precious little girl had been profoundly mistreated by an older stepbrother when she was two and been brought to "The Community" for protection. Adriana was guarded and withdrawn, locked down deep in a shell she had created to protect herself. Yet somehow, in Donna's lap, and looking into Donna's eyes, and shielded under Donna's arm, some of that shell melted away.
While "perfect love drives out fear," all we had was our imperfect love. We wondered how much difference our feeble efforts could make on such a mountain of needs. This picture reminded me that imperfect love goes a long way when powered by the grace of Jesus.
Adriana was different the rest of the week with us. She played with us. She played with the other children. She participated in our Bible stories and the learning activities. She smiled some. She even laughed a little. And she snuggled close — not just to Donna and another lady in our group, but also to me.
On the final day of our visit, she wiggled her way down into my lap with six other little girls. She snuggled in close, pulled my arm over her, and went to sleep feeling safe, loved, and secure.
While none of us have the perfect love that Jesus demonstrated, we each shared our imperfect love, and somehow the grace of Jesus made it enough for the moment. And that picture of Donna and Adriana lives in my heart as a reminder of how God uses that imperfect love to make breakthroughs and turnarounds that we did not think possible.
In July of 2010, Donna and I joined about eighty other people on a mission trip to "The Community" of children north of Lima, Peru. For a week, we shared our love with these children, more than 800 of them. ("The Community" turns no child away that needs a home or needs to come to them for protection.) We spent each day with these children, teaching Bible school lessons in the morning and playing games with them in the afternoon. We did our best to let these children know they were loved and that they would never be forgotten.
I want to invite you to read my blog about this trip: http://www.heartlight.org/thephilfiles. Even more, I hope you will visit the website http://www.peru-orphans.com and learn more about "The Community" and the children there. Most important of all, I hope you will join Donna and me and support a child or two, ensuring that they continue to have food and home.
For $25 per month, you get a t-shirt, a picture, and the assurance that one child will be fed each day. You will also have one specific child for whom you can pray. Who knows, maybe one year, you can join us and go share your love face-to-face and see what difference imperfect love can make in the life of one of "the least of these" that Jesus loves.
We are going back again in July 2011, Lord willing, to share more of our imperfect love with these precious children. We will do our best to let them know that they are not forgotten by us, and certainly never forgotten by Jesus. We want them to experience Jesus' perfect love!
You can really make a difference! Please take a moment and watch this eight-minute video from Miguel, the founder and passionate leader of La Comunidad de Los Niños — Sagrada Familia, and join us in our quest to help these children experience Jesus' perfect love.
You will also want to check out the links below for related information on "The Community."