Why Broken Hearts are the Best

She sidles up to him, tiny and silent, shadow-like. Stuart, my husband, towers above the four-year old. They sit together here on hillside playground of her home, the only orphanage on the entire east coast of Nicaragua. She traces the line on his neck with her finger and asks if it hurts. She brings him gifts of miniature red flowers culled from among the weeds and several fuzzy red pompoms.  She whispers her name, “Daricel”, in his ear like it is a great secret, offering this tall stranger her widow’s mite.

They sit there together and the rest of the world fades away. Few words flow between them since her world is narrated in Spanish and Miskito, and his in English. It doesn’t really matter. They understand each other perfectly. His hands, giant when folded around hers, carry a red tinge. Fascinated, she rubs at his palms pressing hard. His skin responds to the pressure, turning white. Her fingers turn red from rubbing so hard. She gasps, thinking for a moment that she has rubbed the red off of his hand and onto hers. They laugh together, the intimacy of this private joke binding them closer together.

I sense her soul, soaking up these moments of father-affection. I can sense his heart too, full and breaking at the same time. The contentment, tinged with sadness in her eyes lodges in my soul. I wonder what happened in her young life that brought her here. Did her parents die in the hurricane that destroyed the port and thus the economy of this city? Does she have a mother somewhere whose heart aches to hold her little girl, but can’t because she has no way to feed and shelter her? Is she one of the little ones rescued out of the hands of a father whose anger at the pain and futility of trying to take care of a family spills out to harm the very ones he aches to protect? She sits on Stuart’s lap, almost melting into him. Tears sting my eyes and spill down my cheeks.

We prayed to be allowed to join God in what he was already doing here in Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, if only for a few days. We wanted to be the hands and feet of Jesus. I realize Stuart is being his lap. Jesus has a soft spot for the smallest and most vulnerable just like Stuart does.

I prayed at the outset of this trip, in the words of Bob Pierce, the founder of World Vision, that our hearts would be broken by the things that break the heart of God. I feel it happening. There is a sweetness to the breaking, like hard ground being broken, readying it for new seeds and new growth.

A couple of days later, we are home again in our comfortable suburban house with a cacophony of responsibilities to distract us. Daricel is a continent away, her world so different from this one that I have a hard time holding the two in my mind at the same time. My laundry churns in the washing machine while I attend to other things. Hers is being lovingly washed by hands calloused from the work of washing for 120 children using a tub of water and a washboard.  I feel helpless in the face of so much need. It is tempting to pull back into my little life, like a turtle pulling into her shell, and forget, Daricel and her sister Dalia, and all the others. What can I do? I am small and so very far away.

Stuart pulls tiny flowers, now withered, and red pompom from his pocket. Souvenirs far more precious to him than anything he could have purchased. With them Daricel generously offered him her open heart.

Jesus’s heart swelled when the poor widow gave what she had, though it was nearly nothing. Tiny Daricel too gave her widow’s mite. Together they whisper in my mind, be like the widow, be like a child, be like Daricel, give what you have. What do I have? I cannot erase the poverty or the pain, but I have prayers, love, some few dollars, to help pay for food, clothes, shelter, and education for Daricel and the 119 others in Casa Barnabe Orphanage. It isn’t much, but it is my own tiny flower.

For more information about Casa Bernabe Orphanage and the other ministries there, visit  http://www.casabernabe.net/index.html

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