Not without Grace

But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Eph.4:7

The question came out of the blue. We were just drawing and talking as usual. Ruan was asking questions about things we did at home. He said that he would like to visit our home one day. He knew that we did not have a TV and he was intrigued by this. He wanted to know how we occupied our time. He was overall curious about everything we did away from the streets. Then all of the sudden, he just asked this question; “Why don’t you just adopt me? I want to live with you.” There was a moment of silence. All the years we have been here, this was the first time any of the children have asked this question. There was an awkward silence.

There was an easy way to answer. I could have said that legally this is not possible. Ruan is technically not an orphan. However, this would be the coward’s way out of this situation. Besides, Ruan knew this deep down. He wasn’t asking us to take him home immediately. He asked in jest and yet there was a seriousness to it. He wanted to know the boundaries of our relationship. He was curious to know if adoption or even acceptance into our household was something that was on the table with us. The rest of children and teens were silent and pretended to draw or color while secretly listening. They wanted to know how we would respond to this question. We were wondering about this ourselves. How can we answer Ruan and the other children honestly?

The problem is honesty. Frankly speaking, I like the way things are now. We come to the streets everyday and spend time with the children and teens and then we go to our quiet home. It seems like a good system. Everything is going well. Our time with the children is time well spent. Our conversations have grown and we are talking about deeper things and they are not afraid to ask us some tough questions present including the one just mentioned. We are learning to see God’s grace working in their lives and hopefully they can perceive this in us too. We love spending time with the children and teens and we can say this honestly. I also like going back to a quiet home and spending the evening reading and relaxing. The time we spent alone has become sacred to us too. We have grown accustomed to the way things are now. We don’t perceive a need to change anything because of the simple fact that we don’t want changes. Unfortunately, a simple question from a young boy whom we have grown to have strong affections is threatening to devastate this so-called comfortable situation. It is almost as if God is asking us through him how far are we willing to go from here. In a way, it is a “yes” and “no” question. The children were waiting for an answer from us. We needed some guidance to give the right answer. However, I was afraid of going to the Bible. It might tell me something that I don’t want to hear for now. My fears were right.

I did not look to the Bible for the guidance but the Word of God spoke to me despite my deliberate negligence. It did not happen in some mystical way but rather through the regular and traditional means. I was in church and the lesson read from the lectern was from Isaiah;

“Is not this the fast that I choose:
…….and to bring the homeless poor into your house;” Isaiah 58:5-7

According to the text, this was the worship that God considered to be true and acceptable. At that moment, it seemed to me like an unreasonable request on the part of God. Not many people would sign up to serve Him if they knew that this was the standard. Whenever we hear such tough sayings from the Bible, we have two choices before us. We can pretend they are not for us but written for specific period and age where homeless were nice, clean and jolly fellows who would be a joy and pleasure to bring into our homes. Since we have different kind of homeless today who can be dangerous and mentally-ill, we don’t really need to heed these verses. The other option is just face the Truth and say this is God’s word for me. Keeping in mind that the scripture is not telling us to go out and grab the first homeless people we see and bring them to our homes. It does tells us that serving God involves openness to radical changes in our lifestyles.

Since we are here to serve the homeless, we only have one choice and that is to face the Truth.

God’s standards are always the best standards for us to live our lives. His standards are not given to impose a heavy burden on us. God is not interested in making us feel bad or guilty. He is genuinely concerned about the poor and their welfare. He wants to help those who in need in a way that would really help them. His standards are a manifestation of His love. They are the only true guide to help us understand how to love our neighbor the way He loves us. Besides, they help to keep us from feeling self-righteous. We need high standards to keep us humble and open to learn from others.

As human beings, we adapt to different circumstances easily and once we are settled in our space, we don’t like changes. It is just not natural to like changes. This is the way we are and God obviously knows this. This is why He always gives the grace to change. Without grace, it is impossible for us to garner the strength and courage to modify our lives. In a way, those who say “no” to changing their lifestyles for the sake of the gospel are saying “no” to the grace of God.

We told Ruan that at this precise moment God has called us to be a family to all the children and teens here in the streets. If we took him to our home, then we could not come to the streets everyday like we do now. We won’t be able to dedicate ourselves to the rest who need to have parents in the streets too. The answer was met with approval among all the children including Ruan. The answer we gave was based on our understanding of God’s grace. We move in the direction that His grace lead us. The fear of change will always be present in our hearts but grace will help us to move forward despite this hesitance. Perhaps there will come a time when we will have to take someone into our home and when that time comes, God will give us the grace to do it. For now, I’ll enjoy my quiet nights.

…the Lord said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me 2 . Corinthians 12:9

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4 thoughts on “Not without Grace

  1. Excellent response. It seems in all decisions we should consider the whole group and what it means to be family. Street family has much less accountability or responsibility. Perhaps a long term goal, with governmental and church assistance, would be some type of group home. This would require significant commitment by those who live and support this environment. Clearly a major project with major time and resource considerations. Let us pray for clear discernment.

  2. Well, that was the inevitable question just waiting to be asked, and trust Ruan to ask it!!
    It is also a heartbreaking question which perhaps all of the youngsters have thought of at one time or another. It might seem to them the perfect answer to their problems, to go and live with Fr. Stephen and his wife, to be safe and not to be lonely any more. However, actually, it would not answer their problems, it would only temporarily shelve them. As I see it, the ministry you have now is that of gradually introducing them to the One Who can really help them, and empowering them to see the possibilities they have within themselves. So I think that the answer you gave Ruan was the right one, at least for the moment, and we will see where the Lord leads you, and the youngsters from here.

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