A Rescue Shop Within a Yard of Hell

His fingernails are really long. Offer him your fingernail clippers.

I smiled politely as I gave him a plastic cup of water and a homemade piece of bread, turning to return to my six homeschool students (three of our own and three kids from the local community) who would be waiting for me in the other building.

Offer him your fingernail clippers.

As I walked across our grassy, pebbly lawn from Jenae’s porch to our Education House that also serves as a place to receive kids from the community, God’s voice hovered over my thoughts like a heavy whisper.

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I turned for the front door of the Education House, walking past the living room to our small one-room classroom where we give academic classes three days a week and where Darwin offers music and choir lessons to roughly 20 kids every week. I would get the whiteboard ready for the kids’ next assignment before they all came piling in after recess. I reached for one of the whiteboard markers, my mind trying to ignore God’s command, focusing instead on fractions and percentages, what I would be writing on the board.

The clippers. Go to him. Now.

Before my marker even made contact with the whiteboard, I abruptly set it down, my little red-faced inner-me shouting Ok! Fine, reluctantly choosing to die in favor of a higher command.

I then walked double-time from the Education House to our home next door – The kids need to be coming in from recess right now! This was definitely not on my schedule. I already unlocked the front gate during school hours and let him in, which I really didn’t want to do, and I even gave him a snack and a drink. Very kind of me, obedient even. Now this?

I rummaged around the chaos on top of my dresser through receipts, cough syrups and bobby pins until I found our one pair of fingernail clippers that we all share. I then briskly walked the couple hundred yards across our fenced-in property past the Education House then the community kitchen/dining room until I reached Jenae’s porch where Javier, a 15-year-old kid from the local community, sat in the wooden rocking chair exactly where I had left him only a few minutes prior.

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I thought in protest This is gonna be weird and extended my arm, smiling an awkward smile again, a sort of please-forgive-me-and-accept-the-compassion-of-Christ-that-I-am-now-allowing-to-move-through-me and said, “I noticed that your fingernails are really long. If you want to cut them, you can use my clippers.”

He looked surprised, as I knew he would. I, too, felt surprised by my action. Afterall, we had not exactly been on each other’s ‘good list’ after some sleepless nights and cranky days that led to harsh, abrupt actions on my part toward him. Plus he had asked our eldest daughter to be his girlfriend behind our backs, which didn’t do much for my desire to keep him out of our home. He had a knack for showing up at our gate at inconvenient times and, for me, in inconvenient ways.

Javier is a lost boy, a kid who only owns one outfit and who lives with his grandma because his parents did not fulfill their duties towards him. Left home or got kicked out because of an abusive step-dad, or something along those lines. He can’t read even though he was in fifth grade at some point. He is disrespectful and tried to touch my daughter under the water in the local swimming pool. The perfect candidate to fall into drug-trafficking or gangs.

This lost boy with long fingernails and dirty clothes gave his life to Christ recently at our home after our dear sister Jenae spent countless hours reaching out to him and loving him the way that Christ calls us to love the lost.

This story and a few others like it were beating across my mind like rain several days ago as we gathered with our faith community in our dining room, all of us sitting in an oblong circle/square. With majestic mountains shielding the backside of our property, visible from where we were sitting, I shared excitedly: “I am content because I know that God is doing something here, even in spite of us, in spite of me. He is truly transforming people – me included! – and He is allowing us to see a bigger vision that just our six kids: lost kids in the community who are finding Hope and Life here.” I repeat, laughing: “Even in spite of us, He is moving here. Even though sometimes Darwin, Jenae and I have miscommunications or disagreements or I am in a bad mood or haven’t slept well, God is doing a work here. I can see it.”

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There is a quote by C.T. Studd that says, “Some wish to live within the sound of church or chapel bell. I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell.” By God’s grace and design, our home is becoming just that. Lost boys and girls – on the fringes of society, some forgotten by their own families, many who cannot read or write, who spend their days wandering around gravel roads, killing birds and throwing stones, are coming to our gate looking for something.

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Sometimes it ends up being a rowdy afternoon of full-out Cops and Robbers, fifteen or so kids and teenagers sprinting wildly around our property, and sometimes it is a group of a dozen kids sitting on our porch to hear testimonies of God’s grace in the world. Sometimes it is choir practice, and sometimes it is sharing our food with our malnourished neighbors who are way too small for their age. Sometimes we have adequate time and energy to plan how to receive them well, and on other days it seems like everything else has to be put on hold in order to be even peripherally present to the lives God has placed at our front gate. Sometimes there are triumphs, like when someone decides to give their life to Christ or a breakthrough is made, and sometimes the kids just lie and steal from us and make too much noise. Sometimes we feel compassionate, and sometimes we just are out of obedience to our compassionate Father.

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 But God is doing something here, even in spite of us. I can see it in our 14-year-old son Brayan’s transformation from an angry, scared boy orphaned by his father and abandoned by his mother to a gracious, helpful young man who has found love in the family of Christ. I can see it in the redemption God is orchestrating between Himself and many lost boys and girls who have come to know Him. I can see it in my husband, who daily is being formed more and more into a man after God’s own heart, a father to the fatherless. I can see it in Marina, a 14-year-old homeschool student who is learning how to read for the first time, who used to carry a spirit of invisibility, fading too easily into the background, who now knows her Savior and has light in her eyes, who now runs and plays. I can see it in myself, this selfish little girl who grew up in dysfunctional luxury, who for the first time is learning what it really means to allow the Good Shepherd to move through her in spite of herself.

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In this rescue shop within a yard of Hell, I feel as though perhaps I am rescued just as frequently if not more so than the lost boys and girls who wander up the long, isolated path to our front gate. My Father has stationed me at this post not only to catch those who might otherwise fall away, but to remind me daily of my own need of constant rescuing, that this Rescue Shop is not run by men with clever ideas but by the only One who can truly rescue, redeem, give life.

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