Let the Little Children Come to Me

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the
kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” Matthew 19:14 (NIV)

Born in a Sao Paulo favela (shanty town) Etyena is one of the least of the least, a little girl who is numbered with the approximately one-hundred and fifty million children in the world who would be broadly called street children. When Luci, a Christian educational psychologist working with Projeto Calcada, first met Etyene she learned that Etyene was being sexually abused by the mother’s boyfriend.

Luci has dedicated her life to loving the street children. Using SGM Lifeword’s Pavement Project  materials with which she’s been trained, Luci began to counsel Etyene. The Pavement Project counselling helped Etyene find words to tell her story and identify her trauma. After drawing a picture of a dog being violently kicked, Etyene said, “I am in pain . . . like a dog that has been kicked.”

With Etyene’s trauma identified, Luci used the Pavement Project picture cards; applying the Bible story to Etyene’s situation. Luci and Etyene met several times over many months and through the Pavement Project process a sense of self worth and the knowledge of God’s love began to germinate in Etyene’s heart. Healing and emotional restoration ensued. Two years later, at ten years of age, with the mother’s boyfriend no longer on the scene and the family regularly attending church, Etyene drew a new picture. This picture, unlike the first that was drawn in black in the bottom left corner of the page, is full of colour and fills almost half the page. Etyene, dressed in a beautiful dress, depicts herself with a smiling face. Standing next to her is Luci and Jesus. The background to the picture is coloured bright yellow, and describing the picture and her life today, Etyene says, “Now my life is full of light . . . the light of Jesus.”

Sitting on a worn out couch and sipping a small cup of steaming black Brazilian coffee, I listened intently to Luci. Davi Kruklis, my colleague who was translating, tried to keep up with her animated and passionate report of the positive things that were happening in the lives of hundreds of children from the favela because of Pavement Project. In the background I could hear some kids in the courtyard as they laughed and played. The joy of the children was in marked contrast to the grime and grind of life in the slum. Ignoring the drug lord’s stooge who was keeping an eye on us from a three story tenement alongside a stream of effluent, I gave my full attention back to Luci . . .

Who will speak up for the little ones? Who will care for the helpless and abandoned? Who will exercise justice for the marginalized? Who will reach out to the street children of the world? Hopefully we will . . .

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