“If you follow the King, you will follow Him into broken places.”
One hour I’m drinking coffee, putting on my makeup, and picking out clothes for church. Before I know it, I find myself driving to one of the worst areas of town, where the houses stand thin and old by the train tracks, and a little girl wearing a pink coat is crawling into my back seat.
As we drive away, I ask her how she’s doing in school, and she immediately starts talking. “I’m reading chapter books. Whenever Pawpaw starts arguing, I just run upstairs and read my chapter books.”
“That’s a good idea,” I answer.
She pauses reflectively. “Pawpaw says we have nineteen days before we need to leave, because the house doesn’t belong to him.”
“I’m sorry about that.” My answer sounds lame to me, but I don’t know what else to say.
She keeps talking. “I’m glad we’re going to church. I know about God. I read the whole Bible before my brother tore the pages out. But now it’s like I’m reading the Bible in my mind.”
I don’t even remember how she gets to the topic of her parents, but she keeps right on talking. “My daddy will get eight years if he gets caught in Virginia. So he only comes to Virginia to pick me up. My daddy is a good man. But my mommy is mean. Was your baby an emergency C-section?”
“I was born emergency C-section,” she continues without waiting for an answer “They had to get me out and away from my mommy. My mommy was on drugs, so my daddy got me. When I get older I want to help babies.”
“Like be a mommy, or a nanny?” I ask. “Or a nurse or a doctor? A pediatrician is a doctor who helps babies.”
“That’s what I want to be! A pediatrician!”
After a conversation like that, I feel distracted during the worship service. “Into the darkness You shine …. Our God is Healer, awesome in power, our God.”
We all keep singing, and I think, It takes a lot of faith to really believe that.
I try to change my distraction into prayer for this little girl, and for our foster baby. Our God is Healer, shining into the darkness … but we live in such a broken world. Let Your Name be hallowed in their lives … may Your kingdom come in their lives, let Your will be done in them … give them each day their daily bread … forgive their debts, and help them to forgive their debtors … lead them not into temptation, but deliver them from evil … Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.”
When the music ends, she wants to go to a Sunday school class, but when we walk in, she is shy. The teacher is telling the story of Joseph.
“I promise I won’t leave until you feel safe,” I whisper to her. “Have you ever heard the story of Joseph?”
She shakes her head. The teacher asks what a famine is, and a little boy on the other side of the room raises his hand and says, “It’s when you don’t have enough food, and you feel hungry.”
I look around the room of privileged, well-fed children like my own, with their correct Sunday school answers, and I realize the little girl beside me who has never heard the story of Joseph is probably the only one who knows what famine feels like.
“I’m scared, can we go?” she whispers to me.
We walk out and she says, “Those doors by the stairs look just like the doors in the jail when I went to visit my daddy.”
After church, when I drop her off back near the train tracks, she takes a long time unpeeling her name tag and handing it to me. “Here is for you!”
I look into her face and say, “I will remember you and pray for you. I hope you can come back.” But I wonder I will ever see her again.
I’ve seen the patterns of drug abuse, crime, eviction, homelessness, relational breakdown, but it’s jarring to hear it from the mouth of a precocious little girl. And I wonder why God gave me this interaction this morning. Is it that He wants us to foster again later, even though our first case is such a heartbreak? Is it that He wants to open my eyes—all of our eyes—to what brokenness looks like through the eyes of child? Is it that He wants me whenever I see her nametag to remember and pray?
I don’t know, but I admit that today I came home and cried. I keep thinking about a little pink coat, a young and tender heart, a church, and a broken world.