“And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20, the Parable of the Prodigal Son)
Today we went to the darkest place in the red light district. It is an area infamously known as ‘CracoIândia’ loosely translated as Crack Land. It is really hard to describe this area. It looks like a scene from a post-apocalyptic movie where there is no law and order. The area covers about three blocks of streets where most of the buildings are in ruins and it looks like a war-torn area. The most disturbing thing about this area is the number of people that are smoking crack in broad daylight. The police are around to ensure that these people stay in this area and do not wander off elsewhere. There is no intention or desire to help these people. There were about two hundred people (most likely more) of all ages lying in the streets high on drugs. Their bodies were covered with sores and wounds. They seem to be oblivious to the world and their only concern is drugs. They each have a story to share. Something happened in their lives to make them reject their own humanity. Many times the local TV stations report on this situation and they like to portray these men and women and children as if they were wild animals. We did not see any animals today. We saw sad and lonely people.
Our day started with a phone call from one of the former homeless teenagers, Jessica. The team was able to help Jessica get into a rehabilitation program and she had been making some progress. Unfortunately, she called to say that she was leaving the program and going back to Cracolândia. Her reason was that she could not believe that anyone could ever love her. She had sensed love from the team and she did not know how to respond to it. She decided to run away from love. We think that she called to tell us this because she wanted us to go after her. She wanted to test and see if our love was genuine. We don’t know how to prove to someone that we love them and we are not sure if we can. We might fail her if we try. All we can is to wait patiently for her to risk being loved.
The Father waited patiently for His son to return to His loving embrace.
We brought our first aid kit to this place. There were many who came up to get their wounds and sores cleaned and dressed. Some even had their imaginary wounds dressed. We walked through a scary scene where people were just rushing around using drugs but we did not encounter any hostility. We saw people smile at us. Young men shook our hands and thanked us for our attention. We did not see wild animals but we saw lost and lonely people. We saw people who were hurting. We saw people who have hit rock bottom but they don’t know or believe that they have a way out because there is no one from their family to tell them that there is a way home.
The Father waits for them and He sends His messengers. We were not the only people there to minister to these people. There were several groups from different churches. Each bringing an unique perspective of the gospel but all motivated by the Love of the Father who waits patiently for His children. Cracolândia is not a place without the Light of the gospel.
We did first aid for a young man who had a kind face and gentle spirit. He lost half of his finger on his right hand and it was infected. It was an open wound. I told him that we cannot do first aid on it and he had to go to the hospital. He told us that he was not going to do it. We insisted that he could get an infection and even die from it. He said that he did not care if he died and he was not just saying this. He was serious. He was a clever man but something was dead in him. We did first aid for him anyway and we spoke with him for some time. He said that the only person that matters in his life was his son and he is no longer with him. He did not say much after this.
We saw Jessica in the streets. She pretended not to see us but we called out her name and she waved and walked away. We wanted her to know that we are still here waiting for her. The Father waits patiently for all us to experience the length and the width, the height and the depth of God’s love. The Father waits….He gives us the strength to wait for these little ones to come to know Life and Life abundantly.
Pray for these little ones.