When I tell people that I will be moving to Peru for 10 years, among the first questions that inevitably follow are (1) Why? and (2) How can you take that precious baby that far away and for that long? Allow me to answer.
On the “why” front, there is the obvious answer of “to teach people about Jesus Christ.” My intention is not to be flippant with this response but to assume that we are on the same page about the obvious and that the question is aiming for a more personal answer.
I desire to focus my time and attention on a particular section of the population: the children, specifically those who have no family to call their own. It’s not just about food and clothing for the needy. It’s about finding them to be as vital to the kingdom as Jesus would have and going well out of my way so that they know I am there on purpose, for them, because of Christ.
Imagine being an orphan in a city in South America. This would probably be due to your parents dying or being in jail or just disappearing. If you are on the government radar at all, you would be tossed into an orphanage, which is basically a juvenile detention facility for the kids who haven’t actually gotten into trouble with the law...yet. Your “play” time would be when the workers drove you out to a fenced-in field and let you run around. I picture animals being let out of the barn to pasture for a while; how about you? The reason for this secure entertainment time is that the facility would get in trouble if you ran away, so they can’t risk it. The workers really do the best they can, but there are too many kids and not enough adults to guide them.
And then there are those who aren’t in the orphanage, living on the streets or still with abusive or drugged out parents. They survive, but life is very empty. We talk easily about letting kids be kids, but they don’t have that luxury.
Imagine next that the government takes you out of that setting, either one, and moves you to a Christian children’s home run by an American mission team. You wonder why they are there in the first place, and they tell you that it is because of Jesus. Your family was just Catholic enough for you to recognize the name, but you don’t understand why He would be a reason for an American to come give you a home. They explain that Jesus told everyone who believes in Him to take care of those who are alone. And out of all the places in the world, they chose to come to Arequipa and find you.
I have been praying for the children of Arequipa for years, because I realized that most of those I will meet had already been born. They may already be broken. They may already be lost and alone. I can’t explain it fully, but I miss people that I have not met. I have cried for pain in their lives that I haven’t experienced. I long to hold them close, but I don’t know their faces or voices or laughter. All because I have prayed for them and love them.
This informs the answer to the second question. How can I take Shaye so far away from home and family? Because I cannot bear the thought of meeting one of those Peruvian children in heaven and being asked, “Why didn’t you come?” Any answer I might want to give - “Because I wanted an easier life” or “Because I didn’t want to miss family moments” – just is not good enough. God has burdened me for those little ones, and I cannot refuse that call. I have a job to do. Jesus loves the little children, and I must make sure they know that.