A dozen children raced to the fence to greet us before our van stopped in front of the children’s home in Tijuana. It was Friday, the final day of our missions trip to Mexico. There were no houses to build or garbage to walk through to minister in the name of Jesus Christ. This time we brought pizza to about 25 children who had been either orphaned or abandoned. It was in many ways the easiest day of the trip. In another way it was the hardest.
An adult from the home opened the gate for our teens. We were immediately greeted by children who jumped into our arms. When we ran out of arms they latched onto our legs. That’s all the children did for the first few minutes . . . absorb as much attention and love as possible from people they’d never met.
When the pizza was gone and all of the toys we had brought were given out there was still much more fun to be had. The kids just wanted to play, and our young adults obliged with shoulder rides, soccer games and toy playing. No child was left out. If someone was sitting on their own, one of our kids would catch on and invite them to play. Very cool.
I noticed Maria in the picture to the right with her little sad face. The toy she had received from our group was a bear and she had named Oso (“bear cub”). The word for tickle in Spanish is cosquillas. For the next 1/2 hour we played a game with three of the only words I knew in her language, two of which I had learned that day. I would talk to the bear and say, “Oso, no cosquillas!” I’d make the bear shake his head yes, indicating that’s exactly what he’d like to do. Eventually he’d disobey me and tickle Maria, much to her delight.
The language barrier was difficult for most of our group that week. Kate Faull, Megan Hawkins and Graig Graziosi were often pulled aside by one of us so that they could adequately translate what were trying to communicate. But language wasn’t as much of a relational speed bump on Friday.
There’s something about having fun that speaks volumes to kids. Maybe it’s because you’re showing your willingness to enter into their world, spending time doing what they like to do and learning about what makes them tick in the process. We filled their need to know that people care about them and value them as God’s creation. I wonder if, in a way, they were getting the answer to their unspoken question: Do we matter?
It’s a question aimed directly at humanity, and indirectly at God – and it’s not a question that only children need an answer to. As people grow older they ask the question in different ways, trying to fill the emptiness however they can. And we have the answer. You have the answer.
One of the hardest parts of our trip to Mexico was leaving the kids at the end of our couple of hours with them. We bonded so quickly with them because it’s even easier to be moved by compassion for children that live how they live and who welcomed us the way they did. Your neighbors aren’t going to greet you in the same way, but the question is still there. Are you willing to give them the answer? Are you willing to enter into their worlds?