It was a year ago now when they hugged the breath from our lungs, when we waved hard from windows flung wide to catch our last look at Chillanes. Their faces, wet and smiling, grew small as the wheels of our bus picked up speed.
Such a small-syllabled word, but steely; strong enough to shoulder the weight of a love that spans the three thousand miles between us.
It’s funny how we stepped foot in Ecuador expecting to be changed, but still jarred by how the overlap of our lives and theirs unraveled us, left us raw and open and waiting for God.
Over and over again, it was the same: we’d visit a home, meet a mom and her children, sit and pray and listen as she opened her life, word by humble word, to unveil the pearl of her story. And every time I’d think, That’s me. She’s me.
I saw the unmistakable pulse of my own heart in each young mother—in Jada’s fragility, barely daring to trust the world. In Olivia’s fullness, standing so rich in children. In Adelina’s protectiveness, Mira’s redemption, Rosa’s constancy, Cristina’s dogged hope.
I saw myself in their pain and ambition and disappointment and breathless belief, and I understood perhaps what God means when he tells us to love each other like our very own skin.
Near the end of our visit, our team circled glass-topped tables in Quito, sifting through the treasure of the past week. Our fearless Compassion leader, Melissa, related a recent conversation with an LDP student named Richmond. She’d asked him if the letters from his sponsor family mattered much in the grand scheme of things. I’d like to think that his smile was patient when he answered.
“Melissa, I didn’t have a father,” he’d said, “so to have someone writing letters saying they loved me meant everything.” It changed the landscape of his life.
And this fatherly covering of a sponsor makes it a small leap for a boy like Richmond to envision a God who cares for him, who is watching over him with relentless tenderness.
And I find that everything I want for my children I also want for these families we now call our own: a warm place to sleep, food in their bellies. Homework. Medicine. Clean water. College. And the love of Christ flooding their veins like lifeblood.
I want them and us and all of our kiddos to live in light of God’s redemptive love. To live like the rescued, the freshly alive—saved not to scrape in circles of familiarity and ease, but to risk and dream and sweat and pray and extend compassion to others.
These are the little ones God has entrusted to our care, and friends, you are loving them with gusto. The fact that so many of these children are thriving speaks to your sacrificial love and fiery prayer, and to the tireless work of people like Miriam, Angelica, Pastor Pedro, and Patricio on the ground.
But mostly it points straight to a God who lavishes His love upon us; who spots us coming in the far-off gloam and sprints to meet us, unleashes a party, and dances like mad to have us home.
This is love: not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another (1 John 4.10-11, NIV).
**A note from the author: Thank you, Epic Church family, for the joy of meeting the people of Chillanes and the high privilege of sharing their stories with you. I am blown clean over by the munificence with which you love. Keep on keeping on, dear friends. Jesus is our pearl of great price.