I first spotted him walking down the beach pushing a wheel barrel. Native coconuts and pineapple spilled over the edge. At first glance I assumed the man with him was his father, and because it was Sunday, perhaps he had come to work with dad for the day. Or maybe not…
Stopping just in front of our lawn chairs, we had a birds eye view to his work for the day. It quickly became obvious that this wasn’t just a day at work with dad. Like an expert, he chopped coconuts, pineapple, cucumbers, and other native fruits into an exotic drink. All by hand, in this little wheel barrel, with knives that honestly scared me.
Everyone in our area of the beach was noticing and chatting it up about him. I remained quiet, observing, and praying. Several individuals walked up to Daniel, just to give him money. Not because they wanted a drink, but because they wanted him not to work so hard. I watched, with tears in my eyes, knowing their honest caring hearts were likely doing more harm than good. I watched Daniels eyes. He didn’t make eye contact. His facial expression never changed. He would take the money, put it in his pocket and keep working.
At one point, an older gentleman on the beach sat in the sand next to him and visited briefly. Almost immediately after he sat down, the gentleman he had originally come with was at his side. I have no idea where he came from, but it was obvious he didn’t want him talking. This sudden appearance only confirmed in my mind what I was already thinking.
When alone again, Daniel began to push his wheel barrel down the beach. I had been begging God for a way to help him and interact without causing him to get in trouble. God whispered, and I quickly grabbed an unopened bottle of water and caught up with him. I gave him the water, and the gesture broke the ice. We talked about his name, and with the most timid gorgeous brown eyes, he told me he was Daniel and he was 8. One look was all it took. “You had me at Hello” I was speaking in my limited Spanish. And he was looking me in the eye and answering. The guy wasn’t his father, or his friend. And he hurt him and didn’t give him any of the money he was making. He knew Jesus and trusted him (and me to pray) and if I could find a way to help him, he would take it. With that, he looked down the beach, got scared, and needed to go. Picking up the handles on his heavy wheel barrel, he left.
I brushed a tear, and headed back to my chair on the beach, in front of our posh resort. I can’t put into words the feeling in my gut. Frantically I reached out to the experts in teh field who I felt might be able to help me help Daniel. What I knew was that he was being trafficked. I had known for most of the afternoon, and our conversation confirmed my worst fears. I we were in the United States, I would know what to do. But here, in Mexico, I was clueless. Nothing felt worse than knowing he needed help and not being able to help him.
As I was praying and waiting for responses, Daniel came back. He sat down where he had been and continued to glance my direction. He opened the bottle of water I had given him and drank long, taking in it’s coolness.
One gulp. He got one gulp of the water I had given him… and then two older boys came, talked to him briefly, spotted the water, and took it from him. I honestly nearly chased them down and took it back for him. He turned and just glanced at me, and hung his head. Again, he is allowed to keep nothing. My heart aches. I think of my littles, and all they have, and of Daniel, and how one bottle of water meant so much to him. (It was 105 heat index on the beach, and he had been there all afternoon!)
It was time for us to leave. And Daniel was still right in front of me. I had not answers or options or safety for him. I couldn’t imagine getting up and walking away. Yet, I knew I had to. We walked over and I bent down to talk. Tom snapped a photo of us, for my sake, and I told him that I was still looking for help, but that I had lots of friends who would pray and that we trusted Jesus to provide answers. He smiled and said I know. With those words, I had to turn, and walk away.
Part of my heart stayed on that beach, with those eyes. Eyes that looked deep within me and spoke with no words. Daniel was on my mind throughout the remainder of the trip.
Fast forward a mere 24 hours, and I learn that the most severe hurricane in history is heading straight toward Daniel. Where was he and who would care for him and protect him?
Tonight, as I tucked Emma in, she wipes a tear and says she has been praying for Daniel and is worried about him. (I hadn’t mentioned him to her since the hurricane) In that moment, God confirmed that he has this. He is moving in his Holy Spirit way, and he used my sweet girl to speak to me. Her prayers were confirmation that God is hearing my prayers. Him moving her to tears as she waited for me to pray was like God saying, it’s ok, he’s on my heart too….
It’s late here. I should be in bed. But instead, I’m up thinking of Daniel. And I’m asking you to join me in prayer. Pray for Mexico, and #prayfordaniel No longer is it someone over “there” or the poor people who shouldn’t have to endure more. Now, it’s eyes that I have looked deep into. Eyes that were being trafficked and afraid and didn’t trust. Yet made eye contact with me. Less than 48 hours after leaving the beach, the hurricane hits (It wasn’t even predicted when I was there!) God is on the move. I trust him. But I also trust that our prayers move mountains. Join me…. Please. And pray for Daniel. #prayfordaniel