Another long ride through the dusty outskirts of Lima, Peru. I was on my way to visit one of our oldest and biggest church partners there. They’ve done a lot of good work and the church has grown tremendously over the years. They’ve already started seven daughter churches and now are working with us to start daughter child development centers.
When I arrived, the church staff told me about a very creative project they had begun — they had just opened a rotisserie chicken restaurant. This was a new one on me!
They submitted a proposal through our Complementary Interventions Program to help the youth start up a chicken restaurant as an income-generation activity. They had professional adults guiding and teaching the adolescents, and there were five youths actively working in this capacity.
I looked out onto the church courtyard where the restaurant was located and saw a nice-looking young man wearing a bright white uniform with a lime-green apron and visor. He looked like he had walked right out of a well-run fast food joint.
When I stepped outside I caught the eye of this young man and his intense concentration changed into a bright smile. You know the kind. The kind that lights up the room.
When some people smile, it seems their face hardly changes. Then there are others who smile and it changes the world. Job’s is a smile that changes the world.
That’s his name, Job. Who names their child Job? I think only a Christian mother who is familiar with suffering — but also believes in a gracious God.
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I felt an immediate connection with Job and, partly through my broken Spanish and partly through an interpreter, I started to get to know a bit about him.
Given that Job was working the “chicken stand,” I assumed he was one of the youth likely not on a highly academic track and was instead being prepared with a valuable vocational skill.
I asked him enthusiastically if he hoped one day to run a rotisserie chicken shop of his own. He abruptly told me no.
So I asked what he hoped to do. He told me he wanted to run a juice shop. I guess Lima now has juice shops popping up, kind of like Jamba Juice in the U.S. So, I thought that was very entrepreneurial of him. And I thought I had this kid pegged as a young entrepreneur.
To broaden our conversation I asked Job what else he likes to do.
His face lit up (remember he has one of those faces that really lights up!) and he said that he loves to read. Not many 14-year-old boys say their first passion is reading!
I encouraged him that I too like to read. Then he said that what he really wants to do is to be a journalist. Wow! Not who I had pegged this kid to be.
As God would have it (and God does have it!), we were planning to do a home visit that day, and out of all the homes that I could have visited, my small group was set to visit Job’s home.
Now isn’t that an interesting little coincidence? Out of all the kids that I could have connected with, I connected with Job, and then I happened to be given the opportunity to visit his home.
Job joyfully took us to visit his house and welcomed us into his home with pride. Job loves his family and they work together to do the best they can with what they have.
Job has a deadbeat dad who is seldom around and doesn’t provide for the family. So his paternal grandmother has taken them in. Awkward, but real.
Job’s family of five (not including the dad) live in one room in Grandma’s complex. Four other related families live there as well.
Now they feel safe because there is always a family member around to provide protection. Where they lived before, the mom never felt that her kids were safe.
We met Job’s sweet mother who has three other children and no regular income. But she is a devoted follower of Jesus and has raised her children to be involved in church.
In fact, her three adolescent kids all lead cell groups for the youth group. Grandma has even set aside a special room for youth group gatherings.
Job showed us his family’s room (no, not the family room, his family’s room!) and the simple little desk (set up on blocks because it has broken legs) where he studies.
His books are all neatly organized and highly valued. In fact, their room was fastidiously organized. I asked if just he was organized and he said that they all needed to be organized in order to live together.
We walked up two flights of open stairs (no railings, no wall) to a makeshift kitchen and a place where his dad comes to sleep once in a while. The dad has basically abandoned the family, but is still a constant presence because they see his empty bed in the kitchen of his mother’s house.
I asked how we could pray for the family, Job started to cry.
Sylvia, our wonderful Program Communications Manager, nudged me and said,
“Job needs to experience a father’s love right now.”
So I slid over and hugged Job. He collapsed into my arms. He just leaned back into me and rested in my arms. He had no desire to break free. He simply rested there, just like we need to do into the Father’s arms. Let go. Cry. Lean in. Breathe deep. Feel loved.
Job let me love him and express to him how much he is loved.
In that one simple act of wrapping my arms around Job’s small frame and letting him experience a father’s love, I felt like my purpose on earth had been realized. Why I was alive that day was evident.
One of God’s precious little ones needed to feel the Father’s love. One of Compassion’s 1.2 million children needed to know tangibly and physically and emotionally and spiritually that he was known and loved and protected.
This precious, godly, responsible, smart 14-year-old has all the potential in the world. The world will be a poorer place if he is not able to use his sensitivity, his courage, his heart and his mind to bless those around him.
And we are there for Job — through the reality of the local church and his sponsor. We are all making love real, offering hope, providing a way.
We must keep on. We must keep getting better. Job is counting on us. We have the great privilege of helping to restore to Job all that God promises. He has had the trials of Job and he is being faithful.