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The interviewer sat in a chair a few feet away from Philip: “What is the most difficult thing you face in this work?” The question hung in the air several seconds; a cloud passing over Philip’s face. He composed himself and began, “For me, the most difficult thing,” he paused, struggling for control again, but tears wetting his eyes. “The most difficult thing is when we invest our lives in a child, and we see the transformation; we see the change. We think this one is going to make it, and then a few months later he runs away to return to the streets, or she graduates and falls back into prostitution. It is absolutely devastating.”

It happens. We are never promised that our faithfulness will achieve the results we want. It is not always up to us. Remember the parable of the sower? Our responsibility is to see that the seed hits the ground. We can’t control what happens after that.

But perhaps the failure is not always what it seems.

Back to Philip: “But what I have seen happen time and time again is when one of our former students, who we thought was lost to us forever, approaches us on the street, or shows up in church. They say, ‘When I ran away and went back to the streets, I kept remembering that talk you had with me that time. I knew the streets were not where I should be.’ And they come back, and we see their lives change.”

Even with that, we know that not all the kids will make it; that they will not turn out like we hope and pray they will. And so we grieve for them, wanting more for them than they want for themselves. And perhaps grieving drives us to do more, to ask others to join with us, to grasp every opportunity to change the life of a child. And even as we grieve, we rejoice in the fertile soil, and in the seeds that grow to maturity and productivity.

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