Grace is her name.
Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, before she could walk, she had to run from bombs, crossing forests, and rivers with her parents. She lived little in Angola. She learned Portuguese. She was happy there, but the persecution made her cross a huge ocean until she arrived in Brazil, with her parents and a sister. Two others, twins, slightly younger than she, her best friends and companions, stayed with her uncles in Angola. There was no money for everyone's tickets.
I met Graça at Praça da Sé, in São Paulo, on a cold winter night. A couple with two small girls wearing light clothes stood out on the street. I approached and asked where they were from. - We are from Angola (they did not tell me their real origin at the beginning). Why are they on the street, where they live? - We were robbed and expelled from where we lived. I later learned that they lived in an invasion, nearby, in the center, with dozens of other families, most of them foreigners exploited by a Brazilian social movement.
I took them home. I offered shelter, warm clothing, food, and, of course, toys ... Graça stood out. She liked to sing, was very smart and talkative, and took care of her younger sister with zeal and affection. The days passed and we noticed a sadness in Graça that refused to leave. Searching for the cause we knew. She was not content to leave her two brothers behind. Along with her father (who was a pastor), Graça prayed every day that she could have her two brothers back… The Eternal, who listens attentively to the little ones' prayer, granted this blessing to the girl. With the support of many good people from God, a few months later the family was reunited.
Grace was happy, finally. She was going to school. She made friends. She sang with her brothers in the praise of the church. One day, however, her father was stabbed to death when he went to work. It wasn't theft, they didn't take anything. It was intimidation. Hate. Xenophobia. Rescued in time, she survived. I stay here thinking about Graça's reaction… having her father attacked, almost dead, here in Brazil…
The last time we spoke, Graça's father asked me for help to go to Canada. It was different. He, who was always kind and loving, was bitter. Depressive, disillusioned, hopeless. He didn't want to live in Brazil anymore. I tried to help as much as I could… Later, I was surprised by the news that Graça, her parents, and siblings were at an immigrant center in Central America. As far as I know, they are, like thousands of others, along the way ...
I don't know what to think or say. I wish I had done more, alerted, insisted ... I don't know what to do either. But I pray. On this 12th of October, I pray for Graça and her dear family that I had the privilege of serving and loving for so little time ... I pray that my life will make a difference and be a blessing. If not more for her, for others, other Thanks ... May coldness, hopelessness, and conformation did not contaminate me. I want to be able to continue to be able to cry and worry about these little ones. Today I remember Graça and pray. Lord, reach it ... Of the many millions of refugees and forcibly displaced people in the world, half are children! Of the millions exploited by the criminal networks of slave labor and sexual exploitation, most are children.
Of the many, many millions who suffer from hunger and acute malnutrition, many are children. Of the countless victims of domestic violence, drug trafficking, wars, many are children. Children are currently being held in detention centers for foreigners, alone, incommunicado, for trying to find their parents who are in another country. There are also children on boats adrift in the Mediterranean, prevented from docking in European countries. There are many children now in the buckets of trucks crossing the Sahara desert, fleeing to try to save their lives. Hidden inside containers, in the trunk of cars ... There are thousands of children growing up in tents in refugee camps. Under the scorching sun or the cold, the rain and the mud. They grow up without horizons, without even a document with their name. There are children trapped in a tiny room, unable to go out even a moment, play, or even speak loudly or laugh because they are in danger of being reported and arrested as illegal.
I already found them there. I can describe them. I saw his frightened look ... In the refugee camps in Lebanon and East Timor. In the prison for foreigners and the tiny rooms in Bangkok. Yes, I found them picking up cans on the streets of Greece to help support their families. I've seen them there, teenagers, boarding (being trafficked) alone, at airports in the Middle East. I found them in the squares in Turkey. In ghettos and stilts in Indonesia. In the street stalls and overcrowded shelters in Boa Vista. That basement in Pacaraima. On the streets of Cracolândia ...
I found them. And for my pain, I only see it now. How did I not understand before? How did I not realize it was you there, my Lord ?! O Father, my Father, Our Father ... forgive us. Forgive me. Strengthen my hands. Give me longer arms, stronger legs, unwavering feet. Give me the blessing.