This is series of stories of a few of the abandoned boys Scripture Union is working with in the Programa Girasoles. They will help you understand what the life of an abandoned boy is like, and what Scripture Union does to help them.
Just Buy Four Boards and Take Him Away
The nightmare started ten years ago for Luis. He was then seven and already lived in the streets of the jungle town of Pucallpa. Hungry and fearful, he strayed further and further from home.
By helping load river boats, he was able to go from village to village, always moving on when he wore out his welcome. His only beds were the dusty streets, as close as possible to the market stalls where he often found women who would give him bread, or the root of the yuca, or hopefully a piece of fish, usually the head.
He eventually hit the big river, the mighty Amazon itself. This led to life in the city. Whatever innocence he had had as a child was now gone. Whatever dreams he had dared to dream had long since been shattered. Haunted by old fears, by hunger and pain, he sank deeper and deeper into the darkest side of Iquitos.
There it was in early December that Scripture Union staff worker, Juan Davila, lifted Luis off a filthy pavement surrounded by garbage. His body was consumed and he could no longer eat the scraps which people dropped as they passed by.
“Don’t pick me up. Don’t help me. I want to die,” the boy pleaded. But Juan and one of our other kids who himself had been rescued from these very same streets, lifted him up and brought him to our Center.
Two days later, gasping for breath, Luis was taken to the hospital. The facilities there were very basic, but the doctor was agreeable and gave the boy oxygen while Juan went out to look for blood.
The following morning, pointing to Luis, who looked more like a skeleton than anything else, the doctor said, “The boy’s lungs are completely gone. He is in the very last stage of tuberculosis. I can do absolutely nothing for him. I suggest you go buy four boards and take him away. He is dying.”
Luis heard this and now cried out, “Please help me. I want to live.”
“Doctor,” said Juan, “I don’t plan to nail together a coffin. The boy has to live. May I make a deal with you?” He hesitated, and then continued, “You, as a man of science do your part, and I as a Christian will do mine.” Dr. Jimenez agreed and treatment continued.
Other boys from our center offered to help. Tito slept beside Luis on a cot to let him know that someone cared. Pancho looked for the Pastor of the church he now attends, and this man of God led Luis to saving faith in Jesus.
Three weeks later, Dr. Jimenez called Juan to the side, introduced him to four young interns and asked, “Would you please tell me and my students what it was you did to make this boy live?”
“Well, doctor,” said Juan, “you were able to…”
“No, Juan,” interrupted the doctor, “That is precisely the point. What I did could not have ever brought Luis back from the door of death.” Juan was able to testify to the power of God and of believing prayer.
A week later, the hospital went on strike. The doctor waived his fees and all hospital charges, and Luis was brought ‘home’ to us in an ambulance.
I talked to him last night. He is still weak. He can, however, stand up and take some steps. He is still skin and bones, but I have seen him smile.
“Do you feel a little better?” I inquired.
“Yes, Jesus is making me well.”
Quemadito / Deaf / Americo
Prostitution or stealing – that was his only choice. He was only ten, yet had no other way to survive. People called him Quemadito, “little burnt one”, because he was small for his age and dark skinned. He snatched a watch on a busy street, hoping to trade it for food, for he was very hungry. But Quemadito was never to eat again. The man from whom he stole chased him. One and another and another joined in the chase. The crowd finally caught up with him, beat him to death, crushed his skull, and left his little body beside the road. Sadly, Scripture Union had not reached him in time.
Hospitals have emergency rooms, but they also sponsor programs for disease prevention. Similarly, Scripture Union staff and volunteers pick abandoned boys up off the streets, but are also developing work in the schools across the country in order to reach kids for Christ before they are abandoned. Parents in Peru are made to go to their child’s school a couple of times a month to receive whatever instruction the teachers with to give them. Often our S.U. staff is invited to do this. What an opportunity!
Behind a street boy there is a woman who is a victim – a victim of one and then another good-for-nothing man that leaves her with yet another child before moving on. In a world of poverty and mass unemployment, a woman needs a man to bring in at least a bit of food for her and her growing number of children. So we teach boys and girls and their parents God’s better way. The boys must grow to be responsible adults and the girls must be taught that they too are valuable and need not be bullied the rest of their lives. As their parents encounter God, they too will change, and there will be fewer children put out into the streets to live on their own.
A policewoman came into my office not long ago. “I have four boys in the back of my van,” she announced. “I would be very grateful if you would take them in. I understand that this is a place for street boys.”
“Yes,” I said, “but this is not a prison. These boys will come in this door and walk right out through another. Our doors are all open to the street, and although we do all we can to encourage them to stay, we do not take away from them the freedom God gave them to choose.”
“I do understand,” she said, “but I really want to leave them here. You see, I have a problem. I am a policewoman, and I know what it is to obey orders. However, this time I have been given an order which I cannot obey.” She hesitated, then continued, “You see, aside from being a policewoman, I am also a mother.”
I asked what she had been ordered to do.
“Take these boys and ‘disappear’ them.”
“I understand,” I replied. “We’ll take them.”
They came in our front door and ran out the back. We never saw them again.
Since our street boy center in Lima opened, four of our boys have been killed. The others have all been brutally treated and most of them tortured – water poured over their naked bodies and electric wires applied to them, put in closed rooms where hungry police dogs are let loose, forced to drink their own urine, or made to sit naked on red hot bricks. Small wonder they find it hard to believe that God loves them. And yet he does. And it is our task to show these dear boys that the unconditional love of Jesus – the love of one who knows what it is to suffer, to be misunderstood, and finally, to be abandoned. The one who was tortured and left to die that we might be set free. Far from seeing themselves as victims, street boys feel profoundly guilty and believe that they are wicked and deserving of all that comes their way.
A sixteen year old recently came into one of our centers with a very small street boy. “Would you keep him?” he asked, pushing the little fellow forward. “I found him just last night. I can tell that he has not been on the street long. I feel sorry for him, for I know what waits him.
“Of course we will keep him,” Carlos, one of our staff workers, responded. “You come in too. There is room here for both of you.”
“No,” said the older boy. “I am bad. If you knew me you wouldn’t want me.”
“Please stay,” insisted Carlos. “This place is for boys like you, and bigger people like me. We are all bad, and unworthy of God’s love.”
“You don’t know who you are talking to,” interrupted the boy. Then looking over his shoulder as he walked out onto the street, “for me it is too late.”
Carlos took the younger boy by the hand and walked towards the dining room with a very heavy heart.
Americo’s story is different. His conversion was marvelous. With not enough food to go around, his mother put him out when he was seven years old. He was picked up off the streets of Iquitos, a city on the Amazon, and taken to a government institution from which, shortly afterwards, he escaped. He got himself up to neighboring Colombia. There he lived the life of a street boy and was eventually jailed. Years later, he escaped from prison, got back to the river, and eventually once again to Iquitos. When we picked Americo off the streets we estimated him to be about twelve. He was deeply scarred and found it hard to trust anyone. Over the next few years he heard the Gospel many times, yet believed it was for others – certainly not for him.
Then just recently, one of our staff took him to his church’s camp. At the campfire, the group of mostly Christian teenagers were invited to take a piece of wood off the wood pile, and prayerfully put it into the fire, mentioning a sin in their lives that needed forgiving. Then after a long pause, Americo stood up and walked over to the woodpile. He leaned over, picked up a huge armful of wood, and stood there, tears streaming down his face. That night there was rejoicing in heaven as yet another sinner was saved by God’s amazing grace. Some time later I saw Americo. He came to me with a big smile I had never seen before. “Dios me cambio,” he said. “God has changed me.”¨