Cycle of poverty for Glue Kids
At five years of age, his body looks more like a three year old’s. Working alongside his two older brothers, this little boy lives on the streets of Poipet. They are part of the Glue kids: children who live on the streets and become enticed to glue addiction. Older gang leaders capitalize on children like this little boy. They are the most vulnerable and can easily be influenced to sniff a substance that lets them escape the horrors of the street – for a while. Once addicted, they will do anything to continue their high. On one of the most heavily trafficked borders on the globe, it’s not hard to imagine what they will do to get more glue.
Abandoned by their dad, this little boy and his brothers are forced to beg – or ‘work’ – for money for the gang leaders as well as their drug addicted mother. His reward? A bag of glue.
Cycle of sustainability
I wish I could say this cycle is up and running on all cylinders. It’s not! But I believe the first gear is engaged. First gear looks like this: Evenings at the border between casinos where these children ‘work’, our indigenous workers and teams bring mats, food, little white boards and markers. We put the mats down on the dirty ground and invite all the glue kids to come eat dinner. They come. They sniff their glue. They hug and kiss us very inappropriately…and we don’t have to wonder where they have learned to be so inappropriate. They sit down, many right in our laps. We put the food on the mat, Cambodian style. Each child is given a bowl and spoon filled with delicious Khmer food. Before we eat, we sing a little song thanking the Lord for the food and these kids. Then we fold our hands and pray before the mess of eating begins. When it begins, it is a mess! Starving children who, because of the glue addiction, don’t even know they are starving. After their bellies are full, we hand out white boards and markers and teach them a letter in the alphabet and give them a chance to practice writing the letter on their white board. Then, we share with them about a God who loves them so much. A God who sees them. A God who cares. Our evening ends and the children return to their normal lives on the streets.
It’s hard. Everything in me wants to fix the situation, to rescue each child. But the work of sustainability here takes time. And the first step in the cycle is just sitting with precious Glue Kids. It includes inviting this little boy to enjoy his messy meal on my lap that becomes filled with rice and broth. All the while, he kisses my cheeks and lips and hugs and holds onto me. It’s not a solution to the massiveness of the issue. But, it’s bringing the fragrance of Jesus onto a little mat in the middle of a dark place and allowing precious kids, like this little boy, to just sit on a lap of someone who cares, to eat a nutritious meal, to try writing letters, to pray, and to learn about a God who loves him. It’s where sustainability begins for children like this.
The next steps of the sustainability cycle here are yet to be. We pray that the Lord will show us a path towards bringing these kids into foster families and then to our slums school where their future can become something much different than their current reality.
Would you pray with us over these precious kids? Pray for God to somehow protect, even in this horrible darkness. Pray for wisdom and strength for our indigenous partners working daily in the middle of such horrors. Pray for ways of escape, even for just one child. And would you join us by giving TODAY? Your prayers matter! Your gifts matter! They are offerings that bring the aroma of Christ and the reality of His redemption into dark alleyways where the stench of urine and glue threaten to envelope the Light of Christ. It cannot, friends! Darkness is being overpowered by the Light of Christ.
I hope you’ll join us in seeing even this hideous cycle of poverty change -- one step at a time -- into a cycle of life-giving, hope-filled sustainability because of the power of the Cross!