Like a pet owner holding open a bath towel trying to catch a wet dog darting around the room after a bath, I braced myself and studied her moves to determine which way was she going to go. She is wearing a dark pink t-shirt and jean shorts and her long gangly legs are barefooted. A tactic, I am sure, to ensure speed and agility as she leaps and bounds escaping every adult through the crowded gymnasium at our ministry’s sports camp. Nine years old, her skin is olive toned and her honey-colored hair pulled back in a low pony tail. From my teaching days, I knew the look in her eyes, that says, “catch me if you can!” She giggles the whole time, and when I finally “capture” her, I lock her in my arms and drag her back to her assigned group leader and say, “this one is a pistol!” And right on cue, she wraps her arms around me for a tight squeeze and runs off to join her group.
She is one of 120 kids on average at the sports camp, but her…”spirited” attitude made a lasting memory on us all. Everyone knew Daniela’s name. She was the one who snuck in every age groups’ line for a drink of water, and had to use the bathroom three times during every devotion time. A Pippi Longstocking of sorts. When all of the kids were supposed to be sitting on the bleachers taking a break and watching the adults play volleyball, there’s Daniela on the other side of the court as if she might join in the game! (Yes, another high-pursuit chase broke out!) But not just that, she had these eyes that would absolutely light up when she smiles. And that’s not just something nice you say after something really bad happens to someone. Because the thing that keeps me up at night, the thing that I can’t reconcile in my mind, is that the light in her eyes might be gone forever.
They say that Daniela and her three siblings are experiencing Acute Stress Disorder, and soon they will most definitely transition to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. That’s what they call it after you experience something like what these kids have gone through. Tuesday morning of this week, the kids witnessed the gruesome murder of their mother by their father with a hammer in their home. We’ve heard that the kids found hiding places as he threatened to kill them, too. By the grace of God, their mother’s killer fled the place and the children survived. Daniela was taken to the hospital and was sedated to cope with the pain. But now she’s back at her grandmother’s house, which is next door to the home where the tragedy took place. And all in one day, they have lost their mother and father and witnessed something no human being should ever have to see, let alone a child; and the worst part, for me, is that they don’t have their mother to hold them through all of this pain!
There is no DCF here, or no school psychologists. No social worker will place her in the care of trained professionals. For a girl like Daniela who grows up in the barrios of the Dominican Republic, there is no restitution. She needs so much more now, and she needs it quickly, or the damage can be forever irreversible. She needs her Heavenly Father more than ever. I don’t know what we can do for them, but I pray that the seeds planted in her at church and at sports camp that week are enough for her to seek the comfort promised in the Bible. I pray God will provide the children with a trained professional as they sort through their emotions. I pray for continued safety and protection for this family and that they will be placed in the care of someone good. I pray that God continues to break our hearts for what breaks His, for surely God is grieving for these kiddos now. It is not a coincidence to me that Daniela captured all of our hearts just a week before. Please lift these angels up, that they will one day find peace and comfort again. That the twinkle in her eyes will one day be restored, and she will use this oh-so-painful process for the glory of God.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18