We’ve been discussing the love of God over the past few weeks with our Journey Campaign team. We’ve talked about just how radical, unbelievable, freeing, and powerful the love of God is compared with what we’ve been taught, what’s been represented in the body of Christ, and how lies and perceptions make us feel differently. It’s pretty intense to glimpse and then even live in the abundant love of the Father.
That’s why we are here on the border of Thailand and Burma in the first place. To love and be loved.
In all our visits to our little brick-making village in Burma during the first Journey, there is one little boy who completely overtook every crevice of my heart. His name is Po and he and is five-years-old.
Without shoes, living in a bamboo hut, wearing the same two outfits, cooling off from the sweltering heat in a dirty, trash-filled river, Po smiles all day long. He knows no other kind of life and he’s in love with the life he has. He giggles. He runs. He dances. He sings. He stays dirty. He curiously investigates the world around him. He is 100% boy.
I walked away from the village during our last weekly visit in April, bound for America later in the week, and all I could think about was how empty my life would seem without his smiles, giggles, and hugs. We had our translator and friend tell all the villagers that we would return in 6 weeks, late June, to see them. It would seem like forever.
Weeks later, Christin and I returned with our new summer Journey Campaign team, crossed the border, got a van, drove down the now muddy dirt road to the village, and pulled into a place we no longer recognized. With the coming of rainy season, brick-making had ceased. Families looking for jobs and had moved away. There were only a third of the people left in the village, and Po was not one of them.
In my mind, he was going to come running up the hill, like always, and jump into my arms. The kids that remained were shy and distant. My heart was breaking but retained hopes that next week we could find Po.
Our second trip into the village, I optimistically believed I would see him. The other kids and families began to warm up to us again, so I started to ask questions. I pulled out my iPhone, showed pictures of Po to the other kids, and asked where I could find him. Christin, the team, and our translators were asking around the village about our missing friends. We were told that many had left and would return in the fall after the rains. Finally, somebody said that several families had moved close to a bus station to try and earn money. We asked our translators if they could tell our driver to take us there, but while we received replies of nodding heads and agreement, our driver took us on familiar roads to familiar places. Once again I crossed back over the Friendship Bridge to Thailand and I hadn’t found Po.
Yesterday we went back into Burma, went to our village, and played with the kids who remained. They were engaged, excited, and loved our familiar presence. They were no longer shy. It was good and fulfilling to see my team embrace and love on all these people, but there was still a missing piece for me.
Christin helped me by reiterating to our translator over and over and over that we had to go see the families that had moved close to the bus station. “Ashley needs to find Po. Do you remember Po? She misses him and loves him. We have to find Po.” Everybody got on board. The team, the translators, the bus driver… we are all on a mission to find Po.
This time when we pulled away from the village, we took some different roads, made some new turns and headed into a new area of huts and farmlands. It didn’t look much like a bus station. We saw a large family on a porch, and our translator Mio yelled to them in Burmese, “Where are these families? Do you know where to find them?” I watched as they started pointing down the street and motioning to the left. As we drove by huts and people on the streets I looked for familiar faces. We stopped again and asked more strangers where we could find our friends. One street over, they pointed, but we would have to walk. Out of the van, and down the dirt road, Christin and I walked in search of our missing friends.
We came upon a two-story wooden house, and outside we saw a little girl we knew from our village. Her eyes lit up, her mouth dropped, and she yelled for her family. Soon heads popped out from around corners, and little feet came running down paths to the gate. “There were some of the ladies Christin used to work with making bricks. There’s the lady that used to be pregnant. Look how big little Neh has gotten!”
But where…? Po… where was he?
A moment later, his little legs carried his big smile around the house and into the yard. “Ashley… there’s Po!” My heart. I can’t explain what happened in my heart. He came to me, and I picked him up, and when he looked at me I said, “I missed you. I love you. I will always find you.”
In that moment I understood the love of the Father in a way I hadn’t known before. The way He would leave the 99 to the find the one. They way He must rejoice when the prodigals return. The way He loves so universally and so individually and intimately at the same time. He is Love. He misses us when we aren’t in relationship with him… for whatever reason. He loves us not mater what and He will always find us. I’ve always read and understood this from the thankful, grateful perspective of the one being found, but yesterday I glimpsed the purpose, motive, need, and desire of the one doing the finding.
It changes my perspective and my hope about how God’s love can reach out to all those friends, family members, and acquaintances that are lost. Years of praying and hoping and waiting for breakthrough have made me a little numb. But now I know… He will always find them. He can’t help it. That’s who He is.
He will search out those that I care about, and He will embrace them, look into their eyes, and say, “I missed you. I love you. I will always find you.”