God brought me into Sara’s life when I did not know one thing about her - except for what I observed and learned from her younger cousins. As we spent afternoons crouched on narrow wooden porch steps reading books, learning phonics and doing flashcard math Sara watched from a distance. Many times I caught a glimpse of her watching through a window or peeking around a corner. Day in and day out as our time closed and we walked out to the road she would come. In time Sara began to walk beside me and cut me a half-smile when I shared a kind word and said goodbye to her. I learned the first pieces of Sara’s story from her cousins who shared openly.
“She has never gone to school.”
“She doesn’t have mother.”
“She doesn’t have father.”
“She doesn’t know her colors.”
“She does not know the letters of the alphabet.”
“She does not know her numbers.”
“She doesn’t know how to write.”
“She cannot spell her name”
When I learned that Sara could not even verbalize the letters in her name I overcame my shock and asked her if she wanted to learn them. In that moment those hollow eyes found a spark of life and her smile could not be contained. A few days later Sara spelled her name without help for the first time in her eighteen years of life. In that celebration moment I spontaneously grabbed a permanent marker and wrote her name in the palm of her hand. I then looked her in the eye and said:
“Sara God has written your name in the palm of His Hand and
He loves you very much.”
PAL became the safe place in her day and her first experience with life-giving relationships.
We were not the only relationship that Sara reached out to embrace. One weekend our partner church decided to hold evangelistic meetings on the wall in Plastic City. On the final night I shared a testimony about swimming in the ocean and being caught in a riptide that could have taken my life. I shared how God reached down and rescued me as I literally screamed “Jesus” at the top of my lungs over and over again. When the message closed and an invitation was given all the children huddled up around me. I asked them: “Does anyone want to meet a new friend tonight?”. Sara looked at me with that illuminating smile and said, “Me.” We prayed that night and she found a friend in Jesus. The following Sunday she and her older sister attended church and began a new believer’s class.
The conclusion to Sara’s story, in narrative form, will be posted tomorrow.
**PAL is an abbreviation for Partnership Achieves Learning which is our mentoring and remedial education program to see a glimpse of partnership in action click here for a video