By Kenneth D. MacHarg - LAM News Service
you don't have some place to channel them, you
lose them back to the streets." Missionary Sue Leak walks through the low
bushes growing on a half-acre lot outside of Morelia, Mexico where she is
building the Victory Center, a facility for homeless girls who live on the
streets. "You lose them to drugs and prostitution and the addiction of
relationships that aren't good for them, she says."
Sue, a missionary with
Miami-based Latin America Mission, ministers to
children on the streets of this city of one million people two hours west of
Mexico City. Every day she sees the pain of children who have been sold by
their parents into sexual slavery or have been abused by a family member.
For many, the pain of living is just too difficult to bear.
"We have some parents
their children to earn the living for them,"
she reflects. "People just don't give as well to an adult begging as to a
child. We have found five and six year olds who are just all alone, living
in the park."
Sue, a native of
Michigan, says that many just run away to escape
abuse or pain. "One little boy we found in the park was definitely
physically and sexually abused. He didn't want to give his name. One day he
just picked a name off a list and started using it. He has never said
anything about his past, he has never talked about his mother or father."
"Latin America is known
be family oriented," Sue comments. "That may have
been true ten or 15 years ago. Today they live together, but they don't seem
to be connected, they don't seem to have that relationship that will hold
them together. I think that alcoholism and drug addiction have been a strong
influence as well in the breakdown of the family."
Sue also points to a
spiritual conviction in Mexico. "When someone
really has a relationship with the Lord, they fight for what is right. When
you don't have a relationship with the Lord, you only fight for your own
rights and don't care about anyone else."
To meet the needs of
girls, Sue is constructing the 600-square
meter, two-story building that will house up to 30 children, taking them off
of the streets and putting them into a warm, caring home in which to grow
and come to love the Lord.
"The government has
why we are constructing such a large building
for so few children," Sue says. "If you put a bunch of street kids in a
small space, they beat each other to a pulp. You give them a little space
and they do so much better."
Children who have
so much that they choose living on the streets
over staying in an abusive situation have special needs and are difficult to
reach. "Most street kids I know are very wealthy...they're good thieves,"
Sue observes. "They just don't know how to manage money. They will buy 30
ice cream cones in one day."
"They don't really need
physical side of things, they want someone to
care and to be committed to them. They want someone to take the time to say
you're worth it." Sue says that most of the street children she works with
have no dreams for the future, they only are able to live for the present.
In addition, they have
little self-esteem. "A lot of kids don't believe
that you can love them just for who they are and they can't love themselves.
They don't see themselves as worthy of having something good happen in their
lives," Sue observes.
By establishing a home
of the city, Sue believes that the children
will be far enough away from the life on the streets that they can be
rehabilitated and returned to a productive life. "We have found that the way
to work with kids is to figure out how long they have been on the streets. A
kid who has been there for six months is a different kid than one that's
been there for two years. You deal with them in a different way."
Sue says that some
will go through the rehabilitation and
withdrawal time in just a month and others are still struggling after six
"The addiction that is
for the kids is mistaking sex for love," she
observes. "They're involved in prostitution. They go through a feeling of
being unloved and uncared for. Many have such a low self-esteem that they
eventually go back to prostitution because it is the only place they feel
Victory Center, Sue is looking beyond to other
needs. "We have a dream of renting a place in the center of town where we
would offer showers and food and Bible classes." A centrally located
facility would give the ministry a base for more permanently moving children
off of the street. "When we do street ministry we are on their turf. But
when you rent a place and bring them on to your turf, you have the right to
establish rules. That way you can see who is going to respond."
But first, Sue has to
an additional $50,000 to finish off the girl's
home. She has run out of the $40,000 she raised previously when an anonymous
donor gave her $20,000 and challenged her to match it in one month. "It was
the most exciting thing to see God show that he had opened the door, because
no one could have raised $20,000 in that short of a time by themselves."
also needed. "I have been praying for a year
for the Lord to bring an older couple to work on the administrative side,"
Sue says. "I love people, I love evangelism, and I do poorly in
administration." The couple would be involved with bookkeeping, personnel
and program organization.
Sue, who worked with
Street Ministry in Lansing, Michigan before
moving to Mexico, finds deep fulfillment in working with street children and
leading them to Jesus Christ. "I guess it's my personality. It's the way
that the Lord has made me and I identify with street people. Scripture says
we all knew sin and we all knew darkness and we all knew what separation
from God was. We are all moving from darkness to light and every single one
of us have been in darkness and we want to draw people to the light."
The Latin America
has approximately 240 missionaries in 15
countries and is seeking to place 300 new missionaries in Latin America in
the next three years. The U.S. headquarters can be reached at Latin America
Mission, Box 52-7900, Miami Springs, FL 33152, by e-mail at email@example.com, or
by calling 1-800-275-8410. The mission's web site may be found at
http://www.lam.org. LAM's Canadian office is at 3075 Ridgeway Drive, Unit
14, Missassauga, ON L5L 5M6.
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