Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour- 1 Peter 5:8
On Monday, Felipe took us aside and said, “I have some bad news.” We knew the words that would follow after this. We haven’t heard them for a long time. We almost forgot that they were part of the street vocabulary. We experienced a period of tranquility and perhaps we have overlooked the fact that we still have an enemy who roams around like a roaring lion. He attacks when the opportunity strikes and this time the victim was Ruan. He was assaulted by a group of individuals who have sacrificed their humanity to the idols of hatred. They were hiding and waiting for their scapegoat. They decided to vent on any homeless person all their bitterness and abhorrence for life. Ruan unknowingly walked into their path and two of them ambushed him with their knives. Fortunately, their hurried footsteps alerted him and he was able to block the blows that were meant for his face and neck. He sustained three stab wounds in his right arm. Somehow, he found the strength to fight off these two angry individuals adults and escaped to a safe place. Ruan later said that he remembered clearly that there were three young men wearing masks. One stood and watched while the other two did the deed. They fled away. We hope that they never come back again. Probably, this was not their first time. One of our boys was killed two years ago in the same spot.
We were silent as Felipe told us what happened. Finally he said, “These things consume our hearts with sadness, don’t they?” Perfect words to sum up what we were feeling. Thankfully, Ruan did not sustain any serious physical injury but it was impossible for us to imagine his spiritual state. We went to the hospital to visit him but he was discharged before we arrived. Throughout our walk to the hospital, our minds were processing that the fact that we nearly lost a child because of hate.
We decided to visit Ruan at his home the next day. We went to his house at his insistence about a year ago. He wanted us to meet his family. We knew that it was close to the center where we work but we had forgotten the way there. We went to the streets first to ask the children for directions. They only knew the general area where he lived but nothing specific. However, it was meant for us to see the children and teens first. They were traumatized by the incident too. They were more open to us than usual. One girl asked about the letters she received a few months ago. She did not mention anything about them previously but suddenly they came relevant to her. She wanted to write a reply almost immediately. I had to hold it off with the promise that I would do it after our visit to Ruan. It wasn’t just her. The others were also renewed their enthusiasm for the letters. Perhaps, the letters helped to balance out the affect of the incident. The attack was motivated by random and gratuitous hatred. The letters were an expressions of love. They were also random and gratuitous. The children needed an extra dosage of this love at this moment to make sense of their lives.
After a wandering about for an hour, we finally found Ruan’s house. He was resting on a couch when we arrived. When he saw us, he gave us a big smile and hugged us. He showed us his wounds and told about the whole incident with a smile on his face. It was as if he had gone through a great adventure. There was no anger or hatred in his voice as he recounted the whole experience. He was just grateful to be alive. Then he asked if I brought some games and I informed him that I actually had all the unread letters he had received with me. I thought that now was the best time to read letters to encourage him. His face lit up. He asked to see all the letters and then started showing them off to his family members. The first thing he wanted everyone to see a musical birthday card. Then he kept reminding everyone that this was from the States. You can never find anything like this here, he claimed. Everyone was impressed. He put it away in a safe place together with the other cards and souvenirs that he received from people in the States. Then he asked me to translate the letters one by one. They all ended with the almost identical phrases; “We pray for you everyday and we ask God to keep safe and protect you.” These words on another occasion would have been mere pleasant and heartwarming words, however, now they seemed to be extra powerful and even sacred. These simple words ignited something in our hearts. One of the letters shared something was especially intimate. It talked about death and how this person lost a child just a little younger than Ruan to illness. When he heard these words, I could see that it struck a cord in his heart. Death is not reserved for the old but it lingers like a silent stranger around everyone. Ruan caught a glimpse of his face. However, it wasn’t his time yet. It has been etched into his soul that death is a true reality. Throughout our time with Ruan, he was more tender and affectionate. He gathered all the letters together and showed them to his family and said, “Look! All these people are my friends whom I never met.” Mary added that everyone loves Ruan. “Well.” I said, “At least we know three people who don’t.” Ruan laughed and his face was filled with joy and peace. Hatred did not penetrate his soul. He is still full of life and love. Those three men who tried to hurt him are still wallowing in their hatred and miserable existence. They deserve our compassion and prayers too. They have succumbed to the enemy of their soul whereas hatred has failed to penetrate into Ruan’s soul. He chose to celebrate that he is still alive. Most importantly, he knows that there are more people who love him than those who hate him. With this, we can conclude that the roaring lion has been defeated for now. We are aware that he is not going to desist from venting his hatred. We also know that love is always more powerful than any of the antics of this defeated foe.