Azaria Spencer

He gave His blood

Sunday evenings often find me sat among family, Christian brothers and sisters, lit by candle light sharing in God’s word, fellowship, worship and love. Last Sunday was no different, it was my first Sunday back in Guatemala having had a few weeks back in the UK with family and friends over Christmas. It was a beautiful evening, the air was warm and as usual there was a sense of peace within the walls of Union Church.
I sat between close friends at a small round table, centred with a single candle, Bibles and service cards scattered between tea, coffee and snacks. I have always felt at home with the informality of our contemporary, ‘worship experience’ service. As we prepared our hearts to share in the Lord’s supper, which I have found to be an anchor in my life as we partake in remembrance of His sacrifice every week, our preacher spoke of Jesus’ blood.
It was like a light went on in my head and my heart. I have known and understood Jesus’ sacrifice in new ways throughout my Christian walk, as with many things new revelations come and new understanding is revealed. Now I was understanding the cross as a ‘blood sacrifice.’
The reason why this stood out to me in a new way is rooted in the heart of the work of our street team here at SKD Guatemala.
Last year our team were helping a young man who has been through some horrendous ordeals in his life on the streets. Including being stabbed, shot and the latest being run over. He is a medical marvel because after what he has been through, it is incredible that he is still alive. I remember visiting him in hospital with Ben shortly after he had been run over. His leg was badly damaged, and he needed blood to be donated for his operation. Ben and other team members supported him through his recovery and gave blood for his medical needs.
Unfortunately, even after being given other options and opportunities the draw of the drugs and the false freedom he felt from his life on the streets lead him straight back there.
I recall talking with Ben and hearing how he had been supporting this young man for some time, the different ways he gave his time, attention, care and love to him. He even gave his blood. I was inspired to write a piece that captured this complex relationship of giving of oneself to support someone who takes and yet change does not come. The struggle to keep on giving, the struggle to sacrifice more. However, I rarely got beyond the title, ‘I even gave my blood.’ There didn’t seem to be a way into this heart-rending battle.
Until last Sunday as I sat in Church, about to drink and eat in remembrance of Jesus’ ‘blood’ sacrifice. I saw a new glimpse of the depth of pain it cost to give blood for a humanity that was so underserving and slow to change. Yet He still gave His blood, knowing the cost and the truth that many would still reject Him and make light of His sacrifice.
The challenge is real, to give as sacrificially as Jesus, give of ourselves, our time, compassion, aid, love, support, finances, resources, talents and even our blood. If Jesus was willing to give His life, then maybe we can be willing to give more of ourselves, more freely, regardless of the outcome. I am inspired by people like Ben who are able to give so much of who they are and are willing to even give their blood to support someone else and love them. Even when, especially when, there is no guarantee they will appreciate it or accept the help and make changes in their lives.
To give freely without reservation or condition.
Because He gave His blood.

Castle on a hill

There is a scene in the famous play and film, ‘Les Misérables,’ where a little girl named Cosette is singing and dreaming about a castle on a cloud. At this point in the story she is living with a couple who own pub and are treating her very poorly. She escapes to her ‘special place’ and dreams,

“There is a castle on a cloud
I like to go there in my sleep
Aren't any floors for me to sweep
Not in my castle on a cloud

There is a lady all in white
Holds me and sings a lullaby
She's nice to see and she's soft to touch
She says Cosette I love you very much
I know a place where no ones lost
I know a place where no one cries
Crying at all is not allowed
Not in my castle on a cloud”

Her dream is to be safe, to be happy, but above all to be loved. Her story continues, and she is rescued from her troubled life and she goes on to be happy and indeed loved.

Recently I visited a children’s home here in Guatemala, I was with our street team and we were visiting a little girl who has been rescued from the streets. She is part of family with many difficulties and has suffered a lot in her young life.
She was often the one who her mother would take out her anger on, both verbally and physically. Her older brothers were increasingly taking her to the streets and forcing her to do solvents with them. They themselves are only children. If anyone needed rescue it was her.
Fortunately she was rescued and now she literally lives in a castle on a hill. The children’s home where she is now living is just outside the city on a hillside surrounded by trees and beautiful views. The girls house is a brightly coloured pink and purple castle and every little girl that lives there is seen as a princess. Her future is looking brighter as she is now in a safe place, where people care for her, treat her well and love her. Like all children deserve, like all people deserve.

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It saddens me to think that unlike Cosette this little girl probably didn’t have a place to escape to, a place to dream of. She probably didn’t know that she could dream or how to do so. Thankfully now she can learn how to dream and see those dreams turn into realities.

Like this little girl, rescued from an abusive life, and Cosette we all desire to be loved, we need to be loved. How incredible is it that we can be, that we are? We are loved by a Good Father, a love that is so great, love that is unconditional, that is pure. What a gift.
We don’t need to dream of a castle on a cloud, we can be rescued and know that God has already prepared a place for us in His mansion. A place where we will be safe, happy and loved, a place even more beautiful that a princess castle on a hillside.

Watching him walk away broke my heart

I have just got home after a normal Wednesday night working in prevention on the streets.
Prevention work in the streets in one of my favourite activities and I usually leave feeling uplifted and joyful. However, tonight was different, and I want to share with you why.

We, the team and I, got ready at the centre as normal, preparing the games and colouring activity. Tonight we were celebrating ‘the day of the child’ with the children so we had a giant Micky Mouse pinata with us too. We gathered together by the door and spent some time in prayer before walking to ‘la quinta’ the street in ‘la terminal’ where we do our activity. As we walked I was amused to think what people must be wondering as they saw us, a group of adults wearing matching T-shirts carrying a massive pinata, not to mention some of them pale faced Brits.
We walked through ‘La Terminal,’ passing the brothels and the bars. The stench of urine worse than normal, due to the humid air. Seeing the usual, prostitutes stood in the street, men urinating wherever they wanted, unattended children all over, people sleeping in the street and the general hum of people busying themselves. I often forget that it isn’t ‘normal’ because it has become part of my life here, my new kind of ‘normal.’
As we approached our destination, a particular street corner marking the side street we use for our activities, some of the children spotted us and ran. I bent down, opening my arms and readied myself for the impact of an excited embrace. I scooped the little boy, who had chosen me as his target, up into my arms and lifted him in the air. We hugged, and I asked him how he was. I carried him in my arms the rest of the way. You can already see why this is one of my favourite activities. I love being with these children, they lack the love and attention that so many of us take for granted and to be able to spend even a short time with them is such a huge blessing. They crave hugs and cuddles, to be held and carried. They are still young and in need of physical affection, as we all are.

Within minutes there were 10+ children with us and the activities began. Coloring, face painting and skipping. As the first 20 minutes past more and more children arrived and we continued to play and chat. Due to the draw of the pinata more children than usual were with us along with parents. We have recently had around 50 children but tonight there was at least 60. A giant pinata would definitely get my attention too. Among the children we work with on the streets there is always a group of children from our centre with us too. They live near by and come to play and some of the bigger ones help us too. Tonight, some of our older girls were helping us with crowd control, which we really needed especially when it was time to hit the pinata. In a semi organised fashion, smallest to biggest the children took turns to have five hits. Watching the little ones try and hit the pinata was very sweet. About half way through the group the pinata split open, spilling sweets everywhere and mayhem ensued. Thankfully we had plenty to go around and manged to hand out sweets to all the children and some parents too. Even a few passers by got some sweets to take away.
After the sweets it was time for a quick snack and drink before we finished. We would usually have a song and short Bible story but it was a special celebration tonight, a bit of a party I guess.
Now it was past 7 and getting dark and a lot of the children are under 5 years old, so we sent them to their homes, giving out hugs as they went. As many of them left we stayed to chat to a few of the parents and the older children from our centre.

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I noticed a few of children from our centre hanging around with a slightly older boy on his bike. He was clearly the ‘leader’ of their conversation. I have seen him before, he often hangs around during our activities on the streets. He makes me nervous. He is that bit too old to be hanging around. I noticed one of the young boys who holds a special place in my heart (I know I shouldn’t have favourites) with this older boy and contemplated intervening. They looked like they were getting ready to go off somewhere together and I didn’t want him to go with them. I wanted them all to go to their homes. I sat conflicted, should I intervene or should I not, I didn’t want to overstep after all I am not his mother. In the centre he listens to me, he respects me, he loves me, but here it could be different. Now we were on the streets, where the rules are different.
I asked Duncan, his mentor, to have a quiet word with him. A better option than me talking with him. Duncan found out that he had been locked out of his house until 9pm because his mum was out working and had the key. His mum is a prostitute. So, he had no choice but to be out until she got home and in turn I had no choice but to let him be. This is the life he is used to, it isn’t strange to him.
Watching him walk away, in his adorable little shorts with his tucked in polo shirt, a 9-year-old boy left to play in the streets till 9pm, my heart broke. It ached inside my chest, heavy and burdened. This little boy is one of many whom I have come to love deeply, and I don’t think it will ever be easy to watch something like this. I don’t want it to be easy, the pain makes it real it challenges me. It drives me to do more to bring change. To strive for a better life for them.

My evening of fun and games, playing with children in the streets had suddenly been hit by the reality of the situation. The whole reason why we do what we do. I was reminded why I am here, why I do this kind of work, why it matters. And I was reminded once more what it costs.