Our pastor said it well a few weeks ago, “New York sidewalks are a mine field.” He’s right. You have to keep your eyes out at all times for the hidden traps: trash and dog poop.
But there’s something else there too… if you look carefully… pennies!
I have found more pennies on the ground here than I can count. I always stop to pick them up and ask myself, “Why are there so many? Why doesn’t anyone else pick these up? Are they too dirty because they’re on the ground?”
No. The only logical answer I have come up with is...
They’re not worth it. They’re just pennies.
Ok, they’re just pennies, but they’re still money, no? How much money would have to be sitting in the street before someone stopped to pick it up? A quarter? A dollar? 5 dollars?
A few weeks ago three young girls from one of our sites went missing. The next week, one of the girls showed up to Sidewalk Sunday School and told my leader how they had run away to meet a boy they met on social media. The oldest of the three (who was only 13) had been raped.
When I heard this story, my heart broke. I had a million questions. How did this happen? How long did it take someone to notice they were missing? How little guidance must these girls have in their lives to consider that a good idea? Has the 13 year old been told that this was wrong, that she’s not an idiot, and that she’s worth more than that?
The following week I found a cluster of three pennies on this same site. I thought it no coincidence. I thought about those three girls and wondered if anyone still cared that this had happened only a week ago. I wondered if it even made the news, and if it did, what did people think? ”Just another girl raped in the ghetto” ? “Just another group of missing kids in the ghetto” ?
But they’re still money, no?
Just kids in the ghetto…
But they’re still kids, no?
They’re not just statistics, stereotypes; they are not their surroundings. Get past the rough exterior of dirty language and bad behavior and you'll find they’re kids.
They like Ninja Turtles and Batman.
They get scared about reading out loud in class.
They like to make funny faces and play with your hair.
They just don’t have many people celebrating or valuing their childlikeness. The vast majority of the kids we serve are just like these pennies: often forgotten, overlooked, and deemed “worthless”. So they try to prove or find their worth in all the wrong ways. And even though our purpose is to tell and show these kids another way, knowing that at the end of the day, they have to go back to their environments --- the poverty, drugs, violence, cursing, stealing, broken family structures, etc.-- the question that inevitably comes to mind is the same as that with the penny:
Is it worth it?
I am convinced that most people don’t pick up the pennies because the amount of time and energy it will take to stop and pick it up – though it’s not a lot—is still worth more than one cent. You have to stop what you’re doing, bend down, and lose 5 seconds of your day for a coin that can’t even buy you anything. A penny by itself isn’t worth much…
But what happens when it is saved and invested? It grows. Pennies become quarters, quarters become dollars. But this takes time... a long time.
Is it worth it?
The same could be said for these children. What could happen if these kids were saved and someone invested in them, if someone stopped to tell and show them they have value because God says they do? More than we could ask or imagine. I saw a glimpse of it just last week when I studied the parable of the persistent widow with a few teenagers, and listened to them pray for each other. (pictured above) And this week, I witnessed a little boy take the dollar he had just won as a prize and donate it to the Ethiopian street kids fund we have on our trucks.
(One of my teammates is from Ethiopia and she works with kids there. She teaches the NYC kids about their situation and invites them to give. I love this because it teaches our kids about the world, that a little goes a long way, and that even as kids, they can be a part of what God is doing around the world and can help other kids.) I digress...
But, I think most people don’t “stop” because they know that to see real change and growth is going to cost them time... a long time. And it will. These moments I just mentioned are the fruit of people sharing Jesus and loving these kids for years.
The founder of Metro Ministries, Pastor Bill Wilson, writes:
“What does it cost to save a child? The longer I live the more I realize that the cost of reaching a child cannot be measured in dollars and cents. We can only rescue a boy or girl by giving them a portion of our life.”
Is it worth it?
I have been beyond blessed to be surrounded by people who have dared to answer this question with a resounding “YES” every day for years. And I want to say “yes” too.
I want to say “yes” every day that I am here with these children in New York, and every day that I am with those in Uganda in a few months because we serve a God who said, “YES – you are worth my one and only Son.” And He said this not while we were righteous, not while we were good – but while we were still sinning against Him.
In other words, we were of no value to Him, only a cost.
But God’s economy isn’t like ours.
God leaves the 99 to find the one.
God will pick up the “penny”.
May you be reminded of the Lord’s great, personal love for you today and ask Him to open the eyes of your heart to see the one He wants you to go after the way He did for you.
Thanks for listening to my two cents ;)