Jon wanted to share some thoughts on an experience he had last week. In his words…
Mid-morning on Friday, I was on my way to the immigration office for our yearly residency renewal, when I received a phone call asking for my help. It was someone from one of our ministry sites calling to tell me that four boys had run away. Three of them had lived on the street before, but one was pressured into going along. It is a bad situation for any boy to be on the street, but the fourth boy caused particular concern. The streets of San Salvador are rough, and this boy had no experience being out there alone. “Jon, please look out for Pedro *”, they asked. Because of our work on the streets, and the familiarity of my red truck to Pedro, they thought I might be able to find him while I was out.
The thing is Pedro has never lived on the street before. He has never been forced to survive in the world of drugs, alcohol, sniffing glue, gangs, and crimes. I promised to look for him, told the rest of our staff, and began praying that he would be found.
I met Danielle and the kids at immigration and spent a lot of time sitting and waiting for everything to be processed to renew our visas. During this time, thoughts of Pedro kept running through my head. I spent time praying for him…for his safety and his survival. Finally we got our residency renewed for another year (thank God!) and we left immigration. The first thing I did was check-in to see if Pedro had been found. He hadn’t been.
Three people had spent the whole day looking all around the city and they hadn’t seen any signs of Pedro, or the three other missing boys. Then I was asked to be part of a team to go out on Friday night to search for and rescue this lost boy. I agreed.
A small team of five people, including me, set out around 7:30 and spent hours driving around the city in all the areas where we knew the other three boys had spent time when they lived on the street. I found myself in the absolutely worst areas of San Salvador. We were in the “red light” areas, we saw drug deals going down, we were in and out of abandoned buildings where some of San Salvador’s most violent people live and work.
That’s when we were directed to a literal hole in the wall. The “hole house” was an abandoned factory behind a wall that could only be reached by climbing through the hole in the wall. We heard from those on the streets that many boys lived in the abandoned factory, but it was a very dangerous situation. We spotted some patrolling miliary soldiers, and four of them went with us into the house to try to find some traces of Pedro.
We also received some help from some others who live in that zone. They recognized me personally, or recognized my truck from our feeding program. We really needed the extra help as it was now approaching 11:30 and we had been searching four hours for Pedro.
Then I saw him walking down the street toward us. Embarassed and ashamed, he approached us with his head down. We loved on him and encouraged him. Miraculously, and thanks to God, Pedro was okay. He was alive and unharmed. He didn’t try drugs, or smoking, or sniffing glue. We got him some food and brought him back safe and sound to where he belonged.
As I was driving home, I found myself thinking about the parable of The Lost Sheep that Jesus told. In the parable, the shepherd has 100 sheep in his care. One day, one of them was lost. He left the 99 other sheep to go in search of his one lost sheep.
This story came alive to me. It didn’t matter that I had my own 2 kids at home, or that many other kids were safely off the street. Those “100” didn’t matter to me at that moment. All that mattered was that we find this one lost sheep. It didn’t matter that it was a long night, and that I was putting myself in danger. It only mattered that the one made it safely home.
It reminded me that at one point in our lives all of us are lost. God, our Shepherd, searches for us. He looks for us and will stop at nothing to find us and bring us back to Him…back to the safe place.
Thank you God for searching for us and while we were sinners, you sent your only son, Jesus Christ, to die for us and to bring us back to you.
Thank you, God, for helping us find this lost boy and bringing us all back to safety.
*Name has been changed to protect privacy.