We were doing day camp in a rough area of town, so nobody expected these children to be perfectly well-behaved, but this one kid was just too much. After fussing at him and separating him from some other boys, he got mad, went to a corner behind a chair, and started whistling. The American volunteer kept teaching his lesson in a display of extraordinary resilience, and I said, "Just leave him over there. He needs to learn that his behavior is not ok." So we left him to whistle for a minute.
But he didn't stop. He whistled louder and louder. The Americans kept looking at me with glares that screamed do something! So I quietly told him to come with me. Instead, he curled into a tighter ball and crawled under the chair. I wanted to yell, to twist his naughty little ears, but something told me it wasn't rebellion that pushed him under that chair. I took his hand and, instead of threatening him, invited him to go for a walk with me. His eyes lit up as he rose to his feet and followed me outside.
Your behavior is not ok.
You can't stay here if you continue to behave this way.
If you don't calm down, I will have to take you home.
I want you to stay. I want to sing and play games with you. We want you here.
But not like this.
Do you understand? You have to choose. Do you want to stay, or go home?
Can you promise me that if we go back inside, you'll behave?
He nodded, and with his hand still in mine, we slipped back into the classroom to hear the rest of the Bible story. He cuddled up next to me, listened to the story, and started answering the questions. When the lesson was over, I asked him where he lived. In fact, I knew when he hid behind the chair that he was the product of an institutional, affection-free environment. This child lives in an orphanage. It was one of those frequent humbling moments when all of my frustration melts into shame. This child didn't need to be yelled at; he needed a hug.
Unfortunately, he's only one of many. I've been here two years, and I've been around these children for two years, but it's not something I can get over. Not when a little girl waits for her caretaker before to leave the room before she tells you where the welt on her face really came from. Not when you walk in and see the food on their table that's barely fit for a dog. Not when you hug them goodbye and know that no one else will show them affection until the next time you come.
And then they get pregnant and abort their unborn babies, because they'd rather be guilty of this sin than be responsible for another abandoned child.
Does this depress you? Does it upset you? I hope so. It should. I don't see any other appropriate response. It's been two years, and my heart still breaks every time I leave the orphanage.
There are a lot of reasons children end up in orphanages. Some of their parents died. Some don't know. Some have actually been rescued from even worse situations, and are thankful that at least they're getting an education. My point here isn't to judge the people who abandoned their children, because I'm convinced this act must come out of extraordinary devastation. But how many churches are there in this community? If one person from each church visited once a week, that would mean at least half of these children would have a relationship with someone who cared for them. And how many Christian families are there in this country who could take in a child? It's not easy, and not a responsibility to be taken lightly, but being a foster parent is a paid job in Romania.
All I know is that my Bible doesn't say "visit the orphans if you feel like it" or "tend to the least of these if it's convenient for you." God says "This is religion: visit orphans and widows in their distress." It's not optional.
Are there difficult children in your congregation? Are there squirmy little ones who come to church without their parents? Are there kids in your neighborhood who may be rowdy because nobody has taken the time to teach them otherwise? Maybe instead of fussing at (or about) them, we should take this opportunity to share the love of a God who calls Himself "Father."