Jon is 11 years old and he lives and sleeps on the street in Cagayan de Oro with his family. I got to spend the afternoon hanging out with Jon in the plaza and putting the past few months of studying the language into action as I talked to him in Cebuano. My friend Blessie was there with us so she translated parts I couldn’t understand and helped us go deeper as I asked him about what life is like for him on the streets…
Two years ago a huge typhoon hit the Philippines. The hardest hit area was Cagayan de Oro. Jon’s family lost their home and what little they had and were forced to move onto the streets.
“Living on the streets is really scary”, he said. “Especially at night…we sleep wherever we can find space on the ground but its always uncomfortable and there are many mosquitoes”.
He went on to tell us how he only gets one meal a day, if that. His dad works out on the street all day parking cars and washing windows, trying to earn enough money to buy dinner for his family that night. Jon said his one wish is to be able to go to school so his family wont have to live on the street anymore.
We talked for a while and then I asked Jon if he and his family wanted to come eat lunch with us. They were so excited. Naturally, we went to a restaurant with all you can eat rice!
I expected them to plow quickly through their food. After all, who knows when the last time was they had a full meal. One of the boys ate his food up quickly and kept asking for more rice. Luckily, it was unlimited!
But Jon and his mom didn’t eat quickly. In fact, they didn’t finish their food at all. With half his food still left on the plate, Jon grabbed his stomach with his hands and told his mom it hurt. She let him pack his food into a bag and take it to go.
I’ve heard before that when you’re malnourished your stomach shrinks down so small that you cant eat a normal meal anymore without feeling sick. I realized thats probably what was happening to Jon and his mom. They don’t ever get to eat more than a handful of food each day so for them- a piece of chicken and a cup of rice was more than their stomaches could handle…
Can you imagine?
I learned later when we were talking to Jon’s mom that Jon isn’t even her real son. Jon’s real mom left him in her care when he was 6 months old and she went to Manila. Jon’s mom said she would be back for him in a few weeks. 10 years later…she still hasn’t come back.
My heart breaks for Jon, his family, and hundreds more just like him living right now on the streets around me. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in how wrong it all feels, distracted by what feels fair.
But I know God sent me into this place to bring Hope, not to be consumed by injustice.
There IS hope for Jon and all the kids just like him. My God is their God too. As I continue learning and praying about the best ways to provide these kids with food, education, and safety from the streets, I cling to the promises of my Father…
He sees them. And He loves them so much. He will never leave or forsake them.
“These things I call to mind and therefore I have hope: because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning- great is Your faithfulness! I say to myself- the Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.”