No Getting Used to It

There she was, lying on her side on a piece of cardboard. In front of her was a small baby’s bottle half-filled with juice and a box for people to drop in money. She must have been about 18 months old. She was sleeping so soundly that I had to look hard to see if she was breathing, knowing that it’s likely she was drugged. Nowhere to be found was an adult.

Believe it or not, sights like this are “normal” here in the city and always stir up a plethora of conflicting emotions inside—anger toward a mother who would do this to her child; compassion and heartbreak for the state of need and helplessness in knowing what to do.

I’ll never forget one day when the temperature was more than 100 degrees. Two children were “sleeping” on a piece of cardboard in the scorching heat, with no shelter or water, while another begged for money. In other places in town, beggars will carry their drugged infants in their arms (or sometimes dolls—pretending that they’re infants) and weave in and out of traffic begging for money. Children also approach cars at stoplights to wash windows with dirty water and rags, whether you want them to or not. They hang on the car windows until they receive a meager contribution.

I was in one car where a child stood in front of the car with hands on the hood, as if to stop us from driving forward. I’ve also seen the children hang on foreigners’ legs, begging for money while another tries to pick their pockets. Still others will “dumpster dive” regularly to get cardboard and other recyclables or food that the rest of the community has cast off. In many ways, these souls seem like the “cast offs” of the community.

As Alliance workers in the Balkans, this is the situation that we face daily, no matter where we live. Do we walk on by? Do we give money? Do we give food? People say that giving money only perpetuates the problem. Yet Jesus said to give to everyone who asks of us. How can I walk by? How can anyone?

Jesus would talk to them. He would meet them where they’re at. He’d touch their hearts because He knows them. He’d offer to them Living Water and the Bread of Life. He’d introduce them to the Father. But I don’t even know their language (different ethnicities speak different languages in some areas of the Balkans). When I do give water, juice, or bread, do they know that it’s given in Jesus’ Name? Is it enough?

These are not questions that I think I’ll ever be able to answer. But there was something about that little “sleeping” baby that tore even deeper into my heart than usual. I do help as the Lord leads, but at times like the other day, it’s just so hard to take it in. It’s something that I’ll never get used to,though, perish the day that I do.

By an Alliance worker in the Balkans


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