What You Really Need to Know Before You Step Out into the World
How the American Dream becomes Christmas in July

When Compassion Becomes a Gold Rush

A Holy Experience

Caleb and I are in a high rural part of Haiti and can’t post today but will be sharing about the 1000 Moms project and Caleb’s donation from the wreaths to the Moms here in Haiti at a Child Survival center on Thursday.

More stories and photos to come, but for today, remembering how this story of Jonathan forever changed us:

 

We wind around a thousand mountains and canoe up a river of gold to find him.

To find the boy someone named Jonathan.

Gold panners, they run the whole throat of the Amazon through their boxes, through their bare hands, looking for gold flakes flashing…

Jonathan, he just stands by his shack on toothpick stilts and barely flashes a smile.

Compassion Bloggers visit Ecuador(Photo by Keely Scott)

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Compassion Bloggers visit Ecuador

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Compassion Bloggers visit Ecuador(Photo by Keely Scott)

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Compassion Bloggers visit Ecuador

 

(Photo by Keely Scott)

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Compassion Bloggers visit Ecuador

(Photo by Keely Scott)

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Compassion Bloggers visit Ecuador (Photo by Keely Scott)

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We find Jonathan in the jungle, off the banks of the Amazon. He’s fifteen.

He is scared. He shakes like a thin leaf in wind.

My mother, she runs out on us when I was four.” He tells the translator this.

His voice’s a whisper, not even a ripple.

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“I do not know where she lives.” I don’t need translation to know his fear, hear how his voice quakes.

“I have seen my mother only once in my life again.”

Jonathan keeps twisting his own hands, a wringing out of pain.

“My father, he leaves the city when my mother runs out. He brings us back to the jungle, so my grandparents can help us live.” A skinny hen clucks behind him.

“But there is no work for him here and he goes up the river to work at a village.” Jonathan glances out towards the Amazon.

“So, his grandparents are still here?” I look towards the translator —

The translator repeats the question in Spanish.

“No.” Jonathan shakes his head. “No grandparents anymore.”

I am trying to understand. Make sense of this.

“So you are here alone?” I glance up at this hut propped into sky. At all this jungle.

“My father, he takes my brother with him when he goes.”

I nod slow.

And why not Jonathan?

“My brother is my Father’s favorite.”

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“My father tells me to stay here. My father leaves me alone here.”

Something flashes – and I understand. And I don’t at all.

Someone named him Jonathan — but no one loves Jonathan like a brother.

No one loves him like their own soul.

Jonathan is a boy abandoned in the jungle. And only for a moment —

I am looking into the whites of his eyes.

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How do you turn away?

What do you say to a son right between the ages of your two oldest sons, a son with no courage left, both halves of his heart leaving him here at the edge of the Amazon river – the river streaming on without him?

How do you abandon a child to poverty when you’ve looked right into the begging whites of his eyes?

What do you say to this one scared voice shaking in wind?

Jonathan looks down at the ground, his one hand holding the other, him standing alone.

Patricia finds words – stretches out the only hope we have. She asks it quiet.

“Does he go to church? What does he think of Jesus?”

Jonathan lights — “Yes, yes. I go to church and sing to Jesus. It makes all the time go faster, looking forward to going to church each Sunday.” The boy marks time by God — with God. Why does swallowing in this place hurt?

“How – how does he get enough to eat?” I ask the translator.

My throat won’t stop burning.

“His father brings him food now and then.” Andreaya says this, our translator with Compassion.

But when I visited him last week, he had no food. Nothing at all to eat. His father hadn’t come in three weeks.

Jonathan doesn’t look up.

I look up. Trying to keep it from running down.

Jonathan kitchen collage

(Photo by Keely Scott)

Compassion Bloggers visit Ecuador

(Photo by Keely Scott)

For a long moment we all say nothing. We try to be brave.

The Amazon sun beats down on us.

Looking up, his house there on stilts, I say this quiet to Andreaya, trying to encourage, to find a nugget of good.

“Tell him his house is beautiful. That I have never seen one so lovely.”

The white and aqua and coral, it shines in the jungle.

 

Compassion Bloggers visit Ecuador

(Photo by Keely Scott)

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“My father, when he brought me food the last time, I told him you were coming.”

You have to turn you ear to him to hear him speak, he’s so barely there. So trying to disappear.

“I told him that special people were coming. Then he came and painted it.”

I look him in the eye and he looks away and I want to cup his face.

A father who doesn’t want his son — but wants to impress?

A father who doesn’t care to love a child like his own soul, but competes and compares – and casts off?

A father who wants one child – but not another?

When he shows us his bedroom, there are no photos of his father on the wall. Or mother or brother. Just a trio of smiles— a photo of a family, a long haired girl, a cluster of kids. It’s good to find smiling here. We brush at wet cheeks and smile too and ask who are these beautiful friends of yours, Jonathan?

I look towards our translator. She asks Jonathan and she turns to us —

“These are his Compassion sponsors.” The the only family he knows, right there, hanging over his bed, the only things hanging on the walls of this hut. Love is always our only art.

“These are the letters they write me.” A smile flickers. The scrawling script under the Compassion logo talks of snow and dogs and school. “I love Mr. Andrew and his family very much.”

He whispers it.

Love is always our only hope.

Compassion Bloggers visit Ecuador

jonathan letter collage

(Photo by Keely Scott)

Compassion Bloggers visit Ecuador

(Photo by Keely Scott)

We tell him that Mr. Andrew loves him, that Christ loves him, that all of us at Compassion, we care, and we give him a bag of groceries.

The boy slumps to his bed. He opens the bag. He holds the can of sardines long, the bag of rice. He smiles when he holds the can of peaches.

“You can’t know what this means to me.” He whispers and we all nod. We’re looking directly into the whites of hunger. He holds onto one loaf of bread.

And he tells us that he got baptized last summer. That the pastor who offers the Compassion program asked him if he was ready and he said yes and he walked right into the Amazon and came up proclaiming newness in Christ.

I can see it, how he would have come out of those waters — pure gold.

“To celebrate, we went back to the church and had the Lord’s Supper.” Isn’t that always the only way to celebrate life in Christ – to take it all as bread, to be the bread, to be the bread broken and given?

Standing in Jonathan’s shack, him with a loaf of bread in his hand, that is what’s burning in me. – this fire in my bones to be bread, broken and given and is there anything better than to be bread broken and given for another man? Make me blessing, God of Grace, and make me Bread, Bread of Heaven and I will not let go of you until you make me a blessing, God who is a river of blessings and calls all the blessings to flow on and on, never running out.

There’s his Bible there on the rough wood shelf by his bed, the only book in the room.

Jonathan food collage

Jonathan looks down at the loaf of bread — “My father, if he brings food, he brings it on Sunday mornings, when he knows I am at church.” He sets the loaf of bread on the floor.

“After church, I run as fast as I can home from church.”

I can see this too, how his feet would fly, running to find his father.

“But most times — my father is already gone before I get home.”

How do you stop up a heart howl?

How do you keep looking at the crumpling of one young boy?

How do you right the world?

Maybe it’s about not wanting to impress — but wanting your Father and what He wants for all His children. Maybe you don’t compare and compete with the Jones’ — but care for the hungry? Maybe you care about one child — and all the other children too? Make me bread, God.

“Sometimes I am lonely.” Jonathan says this, looking past us, out the open door. He’s saying it like a confession, like a murmuring…

“Sometimes, when I am very lonely… I lay in my hammock and …. I just sing these songs to God.”

And he starts to blur and swim, me all brimming, and I feel it low, like a kick in the gut —

And maybe this is right?

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“To be moved with compassion” — that phrase, it’s only spoken of in Scripture in regards to Christ and our Father, and it’s “splangchnisomai” in the Greek— and it’s what we’d call guts.

When Christ was moved with Compassion, it’s like he got kicked in the gut.

Christ’s people feel compassion like Christ did, and they feel the strike to the stomach, they feel the pain in the deepest places, and they hurt and they bend over and they reach down and they reach out and their lives become cruciformed, shaped into the cross of Christ. Compassion isn’t merely a vague sense — but a feeling so strong that it causes you to bend: it shapes your body, your life, into a response.

Compassion is the radical cross-shaping of a life.

Underneath the stars I see at home on the farm, there’s one boy in the Amazon jungle, lonely and alone and looking to the hills whence does He come, and he sings songs to God – to God with Him – Immanuel.

The God of Compassion is the God who is with us, the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us — who doesn’t abandon us in the our brokenness, who doesn’t forsake us or reject us or leave us fatherless, the God who forever sings forever love over us, whose lyrics accompany all our lonely hammock watches.

Compassion it’s birthed out of the Latin ‘pati’ and ‘cum’ and it means “to suffer with” and it’s there, spilling down all of us standing there with Jonathan, rivers carving something out of us, and we are heart naked and we are not ashamed: Compassion chooses to suffer with the sick, to be kicked in the gut, to weep with the weak, to pray with the powerless, to cry with the castoffs. Compassion is the condition of being fully human and fully Christ-like and being fully with.

The food matters. The shelter matters. The education matters. But nothing matters more than the love. To not evade pain, but enter into it, to not just to not just write out a check, but write a letter – because compassion is about doing life with a child. Ours is God-with-us. It’s compassion that stands in solidarity with the suffering and isn’t the greatest gift we can give always the gift of presence?

Jonathan shifts from one foot to the other.

I hand it to him shy – a Jesus Storybook Bible in Spanish– and I tell him he can give it away if a children’s bible is too juvenile, wave my arms about, embarrassed and flailing.

But he holds it like treasure and says he will keep it, says Noah is his favorite and he finds the page.

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The boy baptized in the Amazon reads the story clearly.

The story of waters and rivers and boats and storms and escape and a piece of wood that saves. His thumb’s right there on the title Noah — the page illustrating the enfolding of the faithful into the bowels of the ark, into a womb of wood.

And I want to whisper to Jonathan that the Hebrew word for compassion is like the Greek – that it’s “rachamim” – meaning bowels, a tender love, and that rachamim derives from the word “rechem”, meaning womb. And Christ’s followers are always safe in the womb of the wood and no matter the seeming circumstances, our Christ is moved with compassion and we move within the womb of God.

Our God is both Father, mother, and His Body but our brother and sister and stirred in the deepest places, the compassion of Christ shakes this earth to respond, to labor and deliver with Him a new Kingdom coming, to bring into this world the endless, streaming amazon of God’s tender compassions, His new mercies and inexhaustible, Christ-made grace.

Jonathan looks up from the page of his Bible. The translator asks, “He wants to know – can he hug you?”

And I nod and enfold Jonathan in arms and he is closer than a brother.

It’s compassion that’s the womb of God.

Compassion Bloggers visit Ecuador

(Photo by Keely Scott)

When we ride the Amazon river out, a storm builds big behind us.

We ride our boat pass the panners. We hold on to our wood.

We watch how the wind blows through the jungle and who knows where it came from and where it goes.

We watch how the wind blows gilded leaves out of the trees, all yellow, all gilded flakes lifted by the breath of God.

I point and the Farmer nods and all the gold falls to the water, to the current carrying us on.

Behind us, somewhere on the river tonight, Jonathan will sing, him panning for God.

And the river will carry his song to the ocean, to the world — There are children here. There is gold here.

And there will be a rush of compassion and it will make the givers rich —

all their bare hands flashing with the flecks of forever….

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… be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.

Luke 6:36

 

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Might I ask — will you pray about sponsoring a child in need today? They need you — and you need them

And what ever you are thinking and wherever you are at right now —

Thank you for giving the gift of prayer right now to just one child in need of Hope…

 

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