¨I wish you were my daddy!¨ She nonchalantly said as she hugged Ronald goodbye. It was a day like any other. We had known Jasmine and her family since she was little older than a toddler, and spent many hours with her an the children and youth in her neighborhood in the Lima shantytown of Pacifico. Jasmine and her sister had been there, four years ago to see Ronald and my relationship turn from friendship into romance. She had been to our wedding, and she´d seen us become parents. She treated our daughter as her little sister, and we thought of them as part of our family.
In all of her seven years, Jasmine had never known what it was like to have a faithful, loving father. The men that loved her mother had always been in and out of the picture, and her father was no exception. There was no switching off weekends, switching off holidays or summer. No. Her father’s arrivals were many times unannounced, and sometimes at 2am when he broke into the cardboard-like lean-to that housed Jasmine, her sister and her mom. Jasmine’s father lived just up the hill, following the tiny ¨river´that carried away the sewage and debris of the surrounding area. Jasmine’s mother was the one that provided and looked out for the girls, but she was at work 50-60 hours a week, and that left Jasmine and her older sister either at school or alone in their house.
This was Pacifico, and this was Jasmine’s reality, and the reality of so many like her. I´d like to tell you that in a flash, everything changed. But the truth is, the changes have come packaged in hours of playing volleyball, folding oragami paper and Sunday lunches. Hours of praying and working through the bad decisions that have been made for generations. Days of talking about forgiveness and grace and líving that out in our own messy lives. Days of tears, of joys, of hard work. Years of choosing to show up, to be there, to invite them into our day, our homes, our hearts, our lives.Because, when it comes down to it, that´s what it’s is all about. It´s about choosing to show up, to be present. To invite in, and to enter in. To disciple and love even when it means rejection, pain, hardship and no visible fruit. Because one day, like the day mentioned here, we will see that it IS making a difference. We will see that there is no higher calling that being a father, a mother and that our spiritual children are realizing that.
Before we are missionaries, evangelists, servants, teachers or preachers, we are fathers and mothers. That´s just how it works. We are fathers and mothers to the orphans, the destitute, the neglected, the lonely. Parents to a generation who will grow up knowing what a loving, faithful father or mother looks like, because we will step in and be just that. We will disciple. We will father and mother this generation, and they will know that their God is a loving, faithful father, and they, in turn, will father and mother the next generation.
By: Ronald and Nancy Santillans
If you would like to make a financial contribution to the Santillans, Click Here.