Bill sends his greetings from Yemen where he is working in refugee relief efforts, and I am writing to you from our home in Goma, D.R. Congo.
When we returned to Goma after a brief trip to the US in August, we carried back an old, tarnished brass trombone that a friend had found at a yard sale. It was a kind gesture (we had earlier asked for donations of trumpets and trombones for our church) but this trombone came at the last minute, it was not in the best of shape, and because of it is size, it took up precious luggage space. Frankly, Bill wondered if it was worth taking with us.
Nonetheless, we brought it back to Africa. I was told this past Sunday by one of our church leaders that “it is the best trombone in the praise brass ensemble!” They cleaned it up, oiled it and it has an incredible deep and melodious sound! To think, we almost left it behind…there is a lesson in that. It didn’t look like much on the outside; it had been cast aside and bought for a pittance at a yard sale. Though neglected, its true value shone forth after a little loving care.
Which brings me to a project our Sunday school team has been pondering for months. Ongoing war and conflict, abject poverty, insecurity, illness, lack of food and livelihood have made life unbearable for so many in this part of the world. Parents often cannot support their children, and sadly many end up orphaned or abandoned on the streets of Goma. Some of these children have resorted to crime, others are vulnerable to exploitation. They have been cast aside, shunned, and largely ignored in a world with more pressing concerns.
After the eruption of Mt Nyiragongo in May, we have seen an increase of such children from toddlers to teenagers coming to Sunday school: dirty, hungry, unwashed, unloved. They often sit in the last benches in our overfull classrooms, huddled together. They come to us after others have gone asking for a shirt without holes, a bar of soap, or shoes to cover feet hardened by the volcanic rock that makes up our streets.
The teachers’ hearts are full of compassion for these children, and we have spent hours talking and planning what we can do. Whatever we do, it must be done well and carefully so as not to stigmatize or do harm. The first step we undertook was an intensive three-day workshop for our teachers and staff by a psychologist and protection workers experienced in this work. After more discussions and planning, we are starting a program uniquely geared to meeting the needs of these dear children.
Each one is a child of God, precious in his sight. Though they may look a little rough on the outside, a little dirty, in ragged clothes… God sees the inside, as He does for each of us.
I appreciate the Sunday school teachers who are willing to take on this long-term task. It will include listening, counseling, referral, protection, food, medical care, safe places to bathe, clothing and shoes…but mostly the love of God shining through to reach each and every one of these children who come to our doors.
The trombone that was nearly discarded has become the most valuable member of the band…raising a sweet melody of praise to the glory of our Creator. So it may be with these over whom the Lord watches day and night.
Matthew 18:10, 14 See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.