Street Children: Living on the Edge

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The Book of Daniel – Part 1

So we start with the obvious:  Street children, the victims of human trafficking, kids forced into the drug trades live very different lives than you and I. But I think sometimes we forget just how very close to the edge their lives take them.

The edge.

The edge from which there is no coming back. The edge that is not just fear, despair, or pain.

The edge that is death.

They have told us for years that the life expectancy of a child on the streets is only three to five years. We know that is true—that deep-down-in-our-hearts know—because we have seen it happen too many times. A child is brought to us, but the lure of the streets is too strong, or he misses his family, and he runs away.

And then, inevitably, he dies.

I want you to meet one of these kids. He is living very close to that edge. You will see his life through the eyes of my friend Corenne. Her husband is Philip Smith, CEO and co-founder of Hope Unlimited for Children. Their family lives in Vitória, Brazil, ministering to the boys at our Hope Mountain campus.

This week and next, you get parts 1 and 2 of the story.

I pray there will be a Part 3…


Little Daniel. How can you be so young and be addicted to crack?  . . .

Can he ever have a normal life?  A few weeks ago, his father came up to the mountain without authorization, and persuaded Daniel to run away with him.

Daniel is so little, and so cute. His Dad did not really miss him, but missed using him to beg for money to feed his own drug habit.  During his Dad’s visit, Daniel fought with him, but then – filled with regret – he took off after him. They hitchhiked as far as Rio (seven hours) before his Dad got drunk and left him at a gas station.

Abandoned, again. And by his Dad, whom he wanted so badly to please.

Daniel slept at the gas station. In the morning he asked the attendant to help him call a policeman. He asked the police to please find a way to get him back to us.

When Daniel finally got through to us on the phone, he sounded so ashamed, and so defeated.

It took three days to finally get him back, but the moment he entered our cafeteria, I gave him a big smile and hug.  Then, the lump in my throat got the better of me. Cupping his little head in my hands, I raised his down-turned little face to look at me.  Words wouldn’t come at first, just tears, as I said “Daniel, don’t you ever run away again.”

His tears flowed too, and he finally responded, “I won’t aunt, I promise.” Of course, he did so in much more of a tough guy way, but the strong, unrelenting hug said it all.  I told him that someday he would be old enough and strong enough to help his Dad, but not now…

He’s an incredible kid. Before he ran away, he made an appointment to talk to Philip. When the time came for his meeting, Daniel was waiting at a cafeteria table. He thanked Phil for meeting with him and then said, quite matter of factly, “The other kids are teasing me because I am missing my front tooth.  I am hoping you can help me get my teeth fixed.”

Daniel can’t read.  In fact, he is just learning the alphabet – and how to hold a pencil. But that has nothing to do with his intelligence. Can Daniel ever have a normal life?  Yes he can.

And he will.  It’s not just wishful thinking.  We have seen it time and time again.

“If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature, the old passes away and behold, all things become new.” 

It has now been a month, and Daniel remains firm in his commitment to be different. He understands. The light bulb went on. As they say in Brazil, “o ficha caiu” or the token fell into the slot.

He got it.

I cannot take credit at all, but I know that in an instant, through a very small act – a moment where our eyes locked, and he knew he was really loved, really wanted – he changed. He is open to hear that he is loved, and that his Heavenly Father has a plan for his life.



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