“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” Leonard Cohen
She lives next the river. Where her mother committed suicide…by drowning.
Elsa. No, she isn’t the queen that lived in an ice castle in the movie Frozen.
The Elsa I met in the Dominican slums of Santo Domingo lived where even the poorest look down on her.
Elsa lives next to the river. Where people get sick from the polluted waters and everything putrid that gets ejected from the slums built up higher always finds its way downhill.
Living next to the river also means your house will be flooded — regularly here in the the tropics when the waters rise. So your home can never be free from the refuse that sloshes in as it washes away all you own and leaves a reside you cannot wipe away.
No matter how hard you try. The waters always rise. And you will always need to face what remains after.
You’d think that someone who has lived in this place as a child, as a young woman — who has now become a grandmother — would have no hope.
But, then you will enter her home, as I did, and you will find it odd that a little girl who cannot walk or talk, whose wrists curl up against arms rail thin sits on the sofa in the corner — with beautifully, gloriously braided hair.
And maybe you’ll find yourself amazed — even as you’re sitting there surrounded by broken things strewn about on cracked cement floors — how clean her hair is, how smoothly it’s been combed and gloriously beautifully it’s been braided so intricately.
I Want Them
Jazmin cannot move, except for eyes that slowly gaze because she is too frail.
Jazmin was born with birth defects. And her mother was going to throw her away and get rid of her.
Her mother got pregnant with Elsa’s son — two more times. Each time, she wanted to abort the babies.
But, Elsa is a grandmother who loves like she lives in a castle, daughter of a King, even though she suffers the destitution of poverty.
Elsa went to the mother and said, “Don’t throw Jazmin away. Just give her to me. I want her.” And she said it again when the mother wanted to abort Jazmin’s two other brothers.
Give them to me. I want them. Elsa tells us with a smile that waved like a banner of love, flying high in the sky. She caresses baby brother and pats Juan affectionately with her hand.
An Intimate Whisper
“I call her my daughter,” Elsa proudly boasts. “Because I have 6 brothers and I only have one son…. I’ve always wanted a daughter. So God gave me Jazmin.”
My brain asks why poverty always make so many babies? And I start to analyze the impossible cycle of poverty that often leads us to “can’t solve world hunger” phrase that is used in the work place. People use that phrase, in order to put away any notions of grandeur. This applies to projects, technology, marketing and business.
But, Compassion isn’t a project. Compassion isn’t about analyzing a person and their plight.
Compassion is a personal movement toward ONE individual. Not a people group – a faceless identity.
Compassion is an intimate whisper you hear when you look into a child’s eyes.
Compassion is the voice within you — that only you can hear — when you give yourself permission to let Jesus move your heart.
To touch one child. To sponsor a child.
But I said No
“Her hair is beautiful,” I tell Elsa through the translator.
“Yes. Everybody tells me to cut her hair. It’s too much work to wash her hair if it’s long, if she can’t do it herself. But, I said, No. I want her to be like all the other little girls. With pretty hair. I don’t want her to feel any different. I want her to feel just as pretty as all the other little girls!” Elsa smile beams with pride.
I cry because I’ve never known such love as a little girl.
I cry because Lisa Leonard wraps her arms around Jazmin, picks her up to lovingly cradle and hold her.
And I hear in those tears the One Voice who has always loved me from within.
I love you, Bonnie.
I love you, Jazmin.
I love you, Lisa.
I love you, Elsa.
I love you, Juan.
I love you baby brother.
I’m here. Jesus whispers in return. In every sponsor.
Poverty is replaced by somethings sweeter and something deeper and something eternal from within: compassion.
Write, Bonnie. And I will whisper. Kindreds will hear my Voice.
Because I will join their hands — with other Elsas. For other Juans, Jazmins and other baby brothers.
I love all the children who live next to the river. The ones whose hopes have drowned. Those are the ones I will love.
Together, they will hear me. There will be a river that flows from their hearts.
Fresh. Clean. Pure.
“One night the Lord spoke to Paul: ‘Do not be afraid…For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” Acts 18:9-10
Become a part of Jesus’ network of love. Say to a little boy or girl —
Don’t be afraid. God has many people in this city.
I am one of them. I am here for you.
Become a sponsor today. Don’t hesitate. Be His voice of love.
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