Today, the founders of Happy Horizons Children’s Ranch visited my church. They had visited our church several years back, and their mission has been heavy on my heart. It was great to see them today and hear an update.
Their main work is the rehabilitation and defense of street children in the Philippines. Happy Horizons monitors and cares for hundreds of street children, many of whom have been abandoned or orphaned by civil war, abused or rejected by dysfunctional and poverty-stricken families, and further traumatized by the indifference of the societies in which they live. They also rescue children from the sexual slavery. You can read more about their mission here.
Did you know it is estimated that:
~ 27 million people are currently enslaved
~ 80% of those are women & children
~ 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year
Glenn Garrison, one of the HHCR founders, shared a story about how children at the Ranch need to be told that they will be having meals 3 times a day; otherwise, they don’t finish their meals but rather stuff food in their pockets to save for later. They are used to eating every few days. This, in particular, struck me. My parents never gave me the “there are starving children in Africa” line in order to get me to finish my meal, and we do not participate in the “Clean Plate Club” at our house. But having overcome an eating disorder, I still sometimes struggle with knowing when I’ve eaten enough and definitely have eaten when I was not hungry because I felt like eating or the food tasted good. There are children everywhere who do not know where their next meal will come from. This striking story reminded me of the importance of giving my body what it needs and stopping there.
Glenn shared that these children are often completely defenseless. A man comes along and buys a girl a meal and a nice dress and she feels indebted to him. Many of these children don’t have a name and don’t even know their birthdays or how old they are.
I can’t help but think of my own children. Jesus said “whoever welcomes a little child in my name welcomes me.” The Garrisons are doing exactly that. It’s an important work. Check out their website and support them if you are able.
It was heart-wrenching to be reminded of just how many children, all over the world and even in our own neighborhoods, do not have their basic emotional, physical, and spiritual needs met. If that were the only problem it would be bad enough- not to have loving, caring, protective, nurturing parents is deeply troubling reality for millions of vulnerable children. But that is just the tip of the iceberg.
When Glenn told the congregation today that he and his wife, Nancy, found 3 young girls locked in cages, it broke my heart. He said girls wear numbers on their clothing to indicate they belong to someone, and not someone who is taking care of them either, someone who is taking advantage of them and selling their sexual services. I recall that I was haunted for months by the images of the orphans of India after watching Slumdog Millionaire. Did others have a similar reaction? When I went on a short-term missions trip to Honduras I saw first-hand the poverty that many children experience.
I appreciated the first point in Glenn’s sermon about the God-given dignity that each child has as God’s precious creation. There is a righteous anger that should be stirred up in each one of us as we think about how the enemy is destroying these helpless vulnerable children, one by one. This anger is a motivator to do something. How can I ignore this and not do something? God has a holy & righteous anger against sin and evil. Knowing how much God loves them is additional motivation – to take care of those God loves.
I admit I am again convicted about “reassessing the budget”, as Glenn said he and his wife do, and praying over it and asking God, “does this budget reflect YOUR priorities?”
It is a high calling to minister to children, to rescue children, to advocate for children, to love children – all children. Jesus said, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”
I want to welcome Jesus like that, but do I really want to badly enough to change my lifestyle? my convenience? my comfort? These are the hard questions I must ask myself. I can talk the talk but can I walk the walk? God have mercy.
I am grateful for the Garrisons. They are here raising support to be able to return to the Philippines and continue their ministry as soon as possible.