Outstretched Arms


She stretches out her arms to show scars. Red and scabbed over. Her brown eyes look up, a smile plays at the corners of her mouth. There’s dirt on her orange shirt. It looks like a drawing, something that must have been done with a big brown marker or paint or something other than a burn. She holds them there, thin little arms scarred with her daddy’s name and the word father. He burned the words there and she doesn’t know any better but to hold them out to Lori for some ointment.
This favela is called City of God. It looks a lot like Kilometer Six; partly finished government housing littered with trash, rotting fruit, and diseased animals. There are sandwiches and juice to fill hungry bellies that crowd around the truck parked in the shade of mango trees. More juice and more sandwiches to those that want more. This temporary fill, the bread that cuts the hollow feel for a little while, it isn’t going to fix those arms. There are lots of little faces and older faces and faces that are young but with such old eyes, and they hold onto bread and juice and the attention, a hug, a squeeze on the arm, the pictures being taken. They push and shove and crowd around the camera, smiling silly smiles and funny faces and then they want to see, see.
See me. She holds her arms out to show scars.
The truck with the lunch, and the cameras, and the ointment, it leaves. And the kids keep running barefoot in a slum, hoarding bottles of juice and playing tag and waiting until they see the dust kick up again next week. And it would be useless if that’s all it was. Just a temporary fix. But now they have the Word of God. New Testaments, the Gospel of John, all printed in Portuguese and given to everyone who will take one. And sometimes they take the Word and leave the sandwich. They come to the truck and they pass on the juice, but they heard there were bibles and they want one. And they read it and we remember the promise that His word, “will not return unto me void…it shall prosper” (Isaiah 55:1).
When Lori rubs ointment into the scars, another child holds the little girl’s hand. They crowd around and watch and say her daddy burned this into their skin. We’d like not to listen and to pretend it was a big brown marker or paint. But she has scars on her arms and scars inside that can’t be healed by anything but the scars from the outstretched arms of our Savior. His scars, they can fix permanently. They can come in and speak to a little child and tell of a daddy that doesn’t abuse or abandon. They speak of a perfect love that came to stretch arms out to a dark, lost world.
And the hands that reach out to gather up the little children now bear forever the marks of Calvary. And remind our hearts of the darkness, when Christ’s arms were outstretched to gather in the whosoever will, to be wounded and bruised for our sins that by His stripes we may be healed.
When the truck leaves, and bellies are hungry again and scabs peel, they still have His Word. His arms stretched out to show scars.


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