On Finding the Place Where the Children Have Names

It startled me because I actually felt it last night, the groaning of a city. Carlos’ voice expressed it best, a wail that shook the walls: Oh / how he loves us oh / how he loves us and I felt like crying.

Tonight it was there again as we ran with the street kids. Rugby boys, they call them, the dirt-caked homeless kids of the city who sniff Rugby-brand glue to forget the pangs of hunger in their bellies. One of the boys has taken a liking to me and has a habit of flying at me and landing square on my back. He perches on the shoulders of another boy and launches up, up, and away…

I want to wail, but I can’t be heard over the singing of men and women prophesying over the boys in Cebuano: Your Father loves you; your Father has prepared a house for you where there will be no more pain. Hear the voice of your Father… The boys are lying on the ground, resting, wrestling, festering, sweltering. They sing, too, poking each other in between refrains.

I’ve seen this somewhere before. A dream? A crowded traffic circle, bright casino lights, the yellow cast of a sodium streetlamp, the sweltering heat. Twenty street kids, homeless men and women, an even-larger family surrounding them, and the songs. A song, their hearts, the traffic circle, the heart of the city, the children, the heart of the Father, their songs for the Father. They sing, I weep. I’ve had this dream once before. Do the kids dream?

The congregation that we are with is also praying and listening. They are bent over next to each child as they whisper into their ears. A man not much younger than I translates for me: he said thank you God for healing my brother, or that guy said thank you God for being with me another day. I look over and Eric is cradling a girl who has fallen asleep in his arms. Zach is engrossed in a conversation with an old man. Ken carries a boy on his shoulders. We serve rice and pork stew slowly. I wield my ladle with slow, measured strokes in the broth. As it disappears I panic and pray harder.

What is this, Jesus? Something snaps and I want to cry; it’s been so long since I’ve felt this close to the Father. A dream buried from years ago resurfaces and wrecks me tonight. The city groans where the children sleep. I strain to listen; listen, can you hear? They are being birthed. Nobody wants to hold these children. Who will name them—the boy lands on my back and knocks the wind out of me—when we leave? Hurry, the children are arriving. Come and listen to their groans. The Father is close, and he has prepared them a home in his city.

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