A couple of days ago we went to Lorega. Lorega is a place where the homeless live among the dead in a cemetary. Part of me doesn’t even know where to start. They live among the dead. Their home is literally on top of and surrounded by tombs. And it’s not an old burying site either, we saw tombs marked 2004 and these people have been making their home there for well over twenty years. The first church service we went to we had the oppurtunity to teach the children Sunday School off to the side. I taught the songs, and then after the story was taught one of my other team members got up in front to teach another song and I stepped back. When I did this, I glanced down and there was little girl kneeling on a tomb in the dirt, glass, trash, and goat poop next to me. I knelt down and started to try and sing the song with her but she was too young to understand. I had this tug on my heart to try and pick her up, so I did. Immediately after I picked her up I felt my side get really warm and wet from where she had had an accident and not been changed. After holding her for a while I set her on her feet right in front of me. Immediately she grabbed my hand. It wasn’t because of her lack of balance because she was old enough to walk, but it was so obvious to me in that moment that she just wanted to be loved and comforted by someone. Eventually, after holding my hand for a little while she started to lean into me and rest her head on my leg. Whenever another child came over to talk to her she would almost act frightened and in turn I would feel her squeeze my hand a little tighter and lean into my body a little harder.

At one point she let go of my hand just so that she could wrap both of her arms around my leg and place her head there too and look up at me. For a lot of the time I would bend down so I was her height and could see eye-to-eye with her. Whenever I did this she would automatically switch from wrapping her arms around my leg to wrapping her arms around my chest. And it wasn’t like she wanted to be given a hug, she more just wanted to be held. I must have stood comforting Zandra for at least 30 minutes while all of the other kids played around us. To be honest, I remember very little about my surroundings for those 30 minutes, it was almost like she and I were the only two there, and all that mattered was the connection I had with this little girl.

When I told her I had to go and waved my other hand to make sure she knew what I meant, (I was kneeling down and looking her in the eyes at this point) she immediately reached up and put both her hands on my cheeks. I have never felt so connected with someone in my entire life. When I was walking away she grabbed my hand and led me. She didn’t have any shoes on, and the protective instinct inside of me wanted to say something like, “be careful” or, “watch your feet” as she walked over the broken glass. And that’s when it hit me and I held back the words. I realized she has grown up in this. This is her life. Zandra has probably witnessed far worse things in her short life than I will ever have to witness.

Before this trip to the Philippines, and especially before my trip into Lorega, I would have been naive enough to tell you it was impossible for a little Filipino child who didn’t even speak English, to have as much of an imact on my life as Zandra did. It sounds crazy, but I can still feel her arms wrapped tightly around my leg and her hands against my cheeks. At the beginning of this trip I prayed for God to break my heart for what breaks His, and I truly meant it in my heart. Over these last couple days with Mariel and Zandra He has done just that. I am so grateful He is answering my prayer, but all the same, it’s not painless to have your heart broken. I have prayed a lot about this, and this breaking of my heart is not only a good thing, it’s also healthy. Because the second a child like Mariel or Zandra walks into your life and your heart doesn’t break, that’s when you know something is wrong.

Thank you so much for keeping our team in your prayers. We are all excited to see what these last 7 days in the Philippines will bring us. God Bless!