Last year I met a girl named Liliana. Like the other street kids, Liliana lives in the sewer pipe which is about 100 times more disgusting than you'd think. Last year I recall cleaning her arms off where she had cut herself with razors in a suicide attempt. This time around, she recognized me and told me that her three kids were no longer living with her in the sewer, but had moved to an orphanage. She was trying to do better, but was still living down in the filth under the streets. It was bittersweet to see her again. It's easy to leave Bolivia every year and forget the struggles that people go on facing, even as I moved to NYC and started my crazy adventure a world away. I almost wish I hadn't seen her, because then maybe I could believe in the illusion that she'd escaped her crummy life.
Last week, I had the opportunity to pray in Spanish with a different boy from the street. He was so high on glue that he could barely sit up straight. He was crying, then he was laughing, then he was holding my hand, then pushing it away. It was heartbreaking. The scars on his wrists were what made me cry. It's that bad for him that he either must sniff glue to numb the pain or try to end his own life. It just doesn't make sense to me how there can be so much suffering in the world, and so much indifference from God's people.
And then there was Enrique. An 11-year-old with the widest grin, he looked like a normal kid but his ratty clothes and dirty body told a different story. Patty and Larry (Patty's Bolivian, married to Larry from Atlanta) spend every single day trying to get kids like Enrique to come off the street and into their home. It's warm and safe there, he'd have plenty to eat and an education… but for the street kids, that choice is much harder than it seems. Though the street is a violent, filthy place to live, some of the kids know no other option, nor do they trust anyone enough to try something else.
Patty and Larry's daily sacrifice on behalf of the street kids of Bolivia is possibly the most beautiful act of service I've ever seen. If you could see the way they interact with the kids, never flinching because they might have AIDS or tuberculosis, never giving up on a kid even if it's the 100th time they've asked him to come to the home… it's just beyond words what they do. Please pray for them and the unbelievable task they have before them.
To learn more about Bolivian street kids, read When Invisible Children Sing.
To help Patty and Larry's ministry, check out http://casaalfa.org/index.php?id=operation_restoration