Joy in the Morning

“Joy happens where two poverties meet” I read posted under a Facebook photo.

I think for a while, and nod my head in agreement. I see it happening here in Lima, Peru.

And I felt it last Monday at Cerro Azul beach, jumping into the chilly waves with the
children from the Juniper 20170116_102417Tree Children’s Home, watching them enjoy the cold of the Pacific ocean.

‘Maia’ and ‘Lila’ holding hands and jumping in the waves.

‘Lucas’  having races to see who could stand up first and longest on the surfboard.

‘Milan’  content to just  lie on the surfboard and be pushed again and again into the rush of the wave. ‘Otra vez! Otra vez!’ She pleads, till I’m sure my sunscreen has worn off hours ago.

‘Victoria’ timidly watching from a safe distance, and finally convinced to get on a board and give it her best try.

I stand with the cool waves lapping, the midday sun keeping the perfect balance between 20170116_143058hot and cold.  Pushing surfboards out to the waiting instructors, cheering wildly at the success even if it was a split second before the wave knocked them over. A more picture perfect day South of the Equator there could not be.

Joy is spilling all over this beach.

Just the night before we had been listening to the stories of these children’s lives…filled with neglect, abuse, sadness. Such a contrast to the laughter and joyful shouts all around me.

‘Amy Jo! Go for it!’ I hear. And the instructor is motioning me out. It’s been 3 years since the last time I went out alone with a board. So much waiting and falling and I barely got up. Can I do it?  But the instructor tells me exactly where to position my toes, paddles me out over the breaking waves, and positions me for the perfect run in. ‘Wait’ he says’till I say ‘Ya’, then you go! I look back, see the wave coming and start paddling…ahhhh too soon! And I miss it. But he patiently repeats ‘Wait till I say ‘Ya!” y tu puedes!” The wave is coming, I hold onto the board with tight grip, listening and resisting the urge to look. ‘YA!!” I feel the push, stand and sail in toward shore to whoops and cheers, several of them my own.

And I think back to a journal entry I wrote 3 years ago.

“Surfing…so like waiting on life, needing to be ready, positioned, watching for the opportunities to come, ready to throw everything into ‘catching the wave.’ And all that waiting…so worth it when the power of the wave comes.’

20170116_144257So hard to wait. But so worth it. I am so thankful for this moment, for these children who have been rescued from so much pain, who have been given the gem of a day at the beach. I know that this day, and the  joy they share even through their own poverty are  a gift to the lonely places in my own heart.

“I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.”Mother Teresa once said. And there at Cerro Azul beach, I saw so many letters being written. From house parents serving picnic lunches, instructors patiently teaching, big siblings helping little ones.  From the children, their courage to try new things, their laughter,  their discoveries, and their joy.

amy-jo-and-macarenaFrom God Himself who whispers to my heart:

‘Weeping may endure for a night, but JOY comes in the morning’ 

I have stepped for the moment into their world and their lack..and they have stepped into mine. And maybe that’s where the morning dawns.




Broken Balloons

We sat on the covered canvas swing, trying to avoid the middle-of-the-day heat from the South American sun. I had the privilege of spending the morning with Danielo, my little20161227_122641 charge, who had a hesitant smile that I was trying hard to coax out of him, little by little.  He had been born pre-maturely, with only 5 months of development before he entered into the world, one he would have to navigate with out hearing, or speaking.

I was learning some sign language that he knew…and also that when he wanted to make himself understood  (for instance when he didn’t want to give up his place behind the wheel of the little plastic car.)… he had a stubbornness that would put a ‘burro’ to shame.

A friend had counselled me as I packed for Peru, ‘Bring balloons, there will always be birthdays to celebrate when you’re there!‘ And as I got to know Danielo, I realized that a balloon was one of the things that made his little smile appear. Perfect! I  also learned that it was of utmost importance to have multiple balloons in my bag, or my policing duties on the playground would scale up a notch. Yesterday I may have had to run up a slippery metal slide at lightning speed to separate two little boys (but not in time to stop a bloody nose)…when one communicates only in sign language, and the other arrived the day before from a neglectful family situation and doesn’t know sign language, there’s bound to be some frustration.

But at this moment I was enjoying a moment of calm with Danielo on the swing, showing him a puzzle to coax him out of the heat of the day.

POP!!! The green balloon he was clutching tightly exploded and he looked down in dismay. His lips pursed together stubbornly and he quickly held up the balloon to my mouth with the clear-as-day-message ‘My balloon!! Fix it please!!! Put the air back in!! ‘

Oh Danielo! I can’t! I smiled at his quick thinking solution to the problem and his determination.

If only I could. If only broken balloons were that easily fixed!

20161228_134829But wait! I signed to him. (That’s one sign I quickly learned.) I have another one in my bag…just a few puffs and voila, you can hold a brand new balloon.

If only I could. If only I could fix your broken world Danielo. If only I could put the ‘pieces’ back together and give you a family, a mom , and a dad, that would welcome your birth with joy and provision for all your needs, all your many challenges.

But sometimes things are so broken…they cannot be put back together the way they were. I can’t ‘fix’ the broken balloon. I can’t give Danielo back his Mom and Dad.

‘The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me…he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted”

Jesus came to do what I cannot. To put the pieces back together…to mend what was broken. No, here in this life, everything will not be like it was. It will not be exactly as it should be… but one stroke at a time on the canvas of our lives,  as we offer the pieces to Him, He restores and mends what was broken.

‘All these pieces, broken and scattered, in mercy gathered, mended and whole…’


He came to heal , to add beauty where there was brokenness.

And  He calls us to join Him, to follow the strokes of His brush on the canvas of the
lives around us. I see it happening here, at a children’s home in Lima Peru.  Smiles are coaxed out, one hug, one cup of ‘jugo de mango’, one brightly coloured balloon at a time. A signed conversation, help with a hard task, a  celebration of accomplishments. And with the touch of the Master Artist, all together these strokes will make a beautiful canvas.