Street Children: Is There Hope?
Note from Randy Alcorn: The following information is from Action International, an outstanding international ministry that, in addition to doing many other Christ-centered and strategic works, specializes in reaching out to street children. I have met many Action International staff members, and I believe in their doctrine, ministries, and dedication to the Lord. I highly recommend that individuals and churches help support this worthy ministry. (See the end of the article to find out how to contact Action International.)
We all have heard about the global problem of street children, but just how serious is the problem? What do the experts say?
Who are the street children?
Street children live or work on the streets; they make their living by selling flowers or cigarettes; some watch cars, others sell their bodies or engage in crime. They often work in groups and are found in commercial areas, especially where tourists are found.
What is the street children scene worldwide?
There are 100 million street children in the world [today] and by the year 2020 they will have reached 800 million in number.
By the year 2000, half of the global population will be children, 2 billion of whom will live in extreme poverty or be at risk.
The UN estimates that 1 million children enter the trade of child prostitution each year.
According to the United Nations, by the year 2000, the street children situation will be one of the worst crises facing the nations of the world.
What about in the Philippines?
The cities of the Philippines have an estimated 1.5 million children living or working on the streets and Metro Manila alone has more than 75,000.
There are an estimated 60,000 prostitutes under the age of 18 in the Philippines. According to the Bangkok-based “End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism” (ECPAT), there are at least 100,000.
How do we relate to these huge numbers?
Let’s put it this way--if you counted one street child per second, it would take you over 1,157 days, or three years and two months, to count the 100 million street children of the world. If one missionary could minister to a group of 5,000 children, then 20,000 missionaries would be needed--just for street children ministry.
Taking the street out of street children . . . Is there hope?
In Metro Manila, one of the world’s largest cities, the ACTION Urban Street Ministries team faces an overwhelming task of reaching Filipino street children for Christ. At times it seems as though this task is impossible. We are sometimes asked why we “waste” our time and money working with street children--it seems hopeless. But we believe there is hope . . . it is found in Jesus Christ.
What is our vision for bringing the Gospel to Filipino street children?
Our vision for all USM ministries is to ignite and encourage churches--both in the Philippines and abroad--so they will join us in loving street children, and spreading the hope of the Gospel to them and their families. ACTION/USM has developed its entire ministry on this truth from the Bible: “the Gospel . . . is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes . . . .”
How do we reach these children?
Answer: One at a time . . . like Jose.
Here is a true story of how the various ministries of ACTION/USM worked together along with a local church to help one street boy and his family.
Divisoria is a tough part of town, well known for its sprawling open-air market, its harbor, multitudes of people and crime. Street kids and families are everywhere. Our research has shown that very few of them are being helped. Divisoria is a desperate place.
When ACTION/USM was planning to hold a camp for street children, we wanted to recruit kids from Divisoria. We networked with local churches who also desired to help the kids that they had met during their street outreaches.
When the workers from a church in Divisoria went out to recruit campers, they tried to recruit 14-year-old Jose. Jose was from a very poor family and had dropped out of school. He spent all his time hanging out on the streets. When the workers approached Jose’s father to get permission for camp, Jose’s father Pedro--a violent, unemployed drunkard--cursed the workers and accused them of having bad intentions. But the boy’s mother gave permission.
At camp Jose was only one of 60 campers, but he was one who trusted Christ to be his personal Savior. His life changed! Before he trusted Christ, he had no hope for his future and lived without direction. However, when Jose returned to Divisoria, instead of hanging out on the streets, he started hanging out at the church’s drop-in center and attending Bible studies and helping however he could. People at the church saw that Jose was a changed boy and that he needed to get back in school. They took action and helped him get started again.
Jose’s parents were impressed by the change in their son’s life as well as the loving concern of the church for their son. Pedro’s heart was further softened when ACTION and the church provided a free medical clinic for street families. When ACTION conducted a camp for street families, Jose’s entire family attended and they also trusted Christ. Today Pedro’s whole family is fully involved in the life of the church and have dramatically changed. Pedro is no longer involved in crime and drunkenness but is joyful and full of hope. He now assists the church and ACTION whenever there are ministries for other street kids and their families.
There is hope!
Only the power of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ can accomplish this in a family. How many other street kids and hurting families will Pedro and his family touch in Christ’s name? That, my friends, is a hope-filled question!
ACTION/USM ministries include:
Provincial home Training for workers
Action International Ministries: How to Contact Them
U.S.A.: P O Box 398, Mouintlake Terrace, WA 98043-0398; (425) 775-4800, www.actionintl.org
Canada: PO Box 280, Three Hills, AB TOM 2AO; (403) 443-2221, www.actioncanada.net
United Kingdom: PO Box 144, Wallasey, MERSEYSIDE CH44 5WE; 0151 630 2451, www.actionuk.org
Philippines: PO Box 14220, Ortigas Center, 1605 Pasig City, Manila; (632) 531-3709, www.actionph.org
New Zealand: P O Box 5263, Christchurch, New Zealand; 011-643-355-7514, www.nz.actionuk.org