I first met Christian one evening outside Jollibee, a fast food restaurant in Malaybalay City, while visiting fellow missionary Lindsey Romero and her kids. A boy came up to us asking for food and money. Lindsey, having met this boy before, started conversing with him and asked him where Christian was. The little boy ran off to fetch him, while Lindsey explained to me briefly about this street kid named Christian. A few moments later, a small child with the cutest face walked up to us, and my heart immediately melted. I couldn’t believe the child I was looking at was the same one Lindsey had just described to me. How could this be possible? My heart felt for this boy in a special way. There was something special about him. Although this was my first time meeting Christian, I felt the urge to hug him and shower love on him. I could tell how much he desired to be loved and cared for. Lindsey, who has known these boys for years, questioned them about where they had been sleeping, at what shop and on which street corner, and encouraged them to go back home. We bought them some dinner and then told Christian that his family misses him and he should return home. He stood there not saying much. As we said our goodbyes, I squeezed Christian one more time and left trusting that I would see him again.
On the car ride home Lindsey gave me the full history of Christian, who has been on and off the streets since he was six years old. His dad died when he was two, his mom has since remarried, and he does not get along with his stepfather. Christian has lived in many different places over the years. His older sister and her husband love him and really want him to move home with them, but he keeps running away. He hangs out on the streets doing drugs and smoking cigarettes and who knows what else. He is only 11 years old.
A drug-using street kid is not the face I saw. It is actually hard for me to believe that Christian has lived that kind of life. His face is precious, innocent, and kind. He is only a child. I joined his family and the other missionaries in praying fervently for him to return home. I wanted to find him and take him back to my home on Camiguin Island, but I knew that was not what God was asking me to do. So I did all that I could do; I prayed.
[Besties, Christian and Maggie Joy]
I did not see Christian again that week, but I also did not forget about him. A few days later I returned to Camiguin and received a text message. A miracle happened. Christian moved home with his sister and brother-in-law, Diane and Junar. I was so overwhelmed with joy! PRAISE GOD! What an incredible and quick answer to our prayers.
A few days later, I returned to Malaybalay to participate in a medical mission trip. Junar, Diane, their three children, and Christian would be staying at the retreat house with us because they were also helping to lead the trip. I would be staying in the same house as Christian! My heart was overjoyed, and I could not wait to see the child who had so easily stolen my heart. When I finally saw him again, I chased him around and showered him with affection. We were instantly best friends.
Christian and I have a special bond. He desperately wants love and affection, to feel special and wanted. I was reminded this week that love has no language barrier. I was able to shower love on Christian, not judging him for his past or doubting his future. Just loving him as Christ loves us.
The struggle isn’t over for Christian. He has run away dozens of times. The temptations of bad friends, drugs, and being a free kid on the streets is real. There is a battle going on for his soul. Praise God Christian has Jesus Christ as his Savior.
Christian is eleven years old, he cannot read, he has only finished second grade, he gets bullied in school for being small for his age, he does not like rules, his father is dead, he does not get along with his stepfather, his family lives in serious poverty, and he has been on and off the streets since he was six years old. Tell me what hope is there for this boy? The only answer is Jesus. That is all Christian has.
[Ice cream date at Jollibee.]
I ask and beg you to please pray for Christian. He needs your prayers. Pray that he does not give into temptation, that he stays with his sister, that he learns to listen to those who are responsible for him. He has a lot to learn. And please pray for Junar and Diane as they take care of him.
After the medical mission trip I treated Junar, Diane, their kids, and Christian to dinner back at the Jollibee, Christian’s old stomping grounds. When we entered the building, the guard, whose job used to entail preventing “street kid” Christian from entering the Jollibee, came over to us and patted him on the back with a smile, clearly glad to see him off the streets. Walking home, we passed a young boy who yelled to Christian, “Hey, long time no see!” Christian didn’t even bother looking back. I am hopeful that Christian will continue experiencing the love of Christ, “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.” (Philippians 3:13)