Hey! I want to tell you a story. I was just in Pittsburgh with about 550 youth at a weekend event and it was an amazing time. Over 125 people responded to the Gospel! Yet I want to tell you about just one girl. I will always hold her story close to my heart. Her name is Serena and she is from Uganda. Due to the abuse in her family, she came to the United States with her mom, whose struggles with addiction and alcoholism lead Serena into the U.S. foster care system. When I met Serena, she was in her fifth foster home. She felt like an object for someone’s wrath or an object for their “affections,” if you will. She was facing much difficulty and was burdened by so much pain. She felt that some of the foster families she lived with only cared for her because of the money. She was struggling with who she is.
On top of this, she also suffered from the effects of sickle cell anemia. I had never heard of this before so she explained to me that a chromosome causes her red blood cells to become shaped like a banana. These cells die early and can block the flow of oxygen to her body. Here is a recap of our conversation:
Serena: “My flesh is actually being suffocated. It’s the most painful thing in the whole world.”
Me: [Broken heart and teary eyes.]
Serena: “Do you know what I hate the most? I have to get blood transfusions every month to stay alive.” She showed me the scars from the transfusions. “But the worst one is right here.” She pointed to a big, black scar on the back of her hand. “I hate it. It’s so ugly.”
Me: “I think it’s beautiful!” I smiled warmly at her.
Serena: “You’re crazy! You’re nuts! What do you mean beautiful?”
Me: “My friend has the same scar right there.”
Me: “He does! His name is Jesus and He has a scar right there, too. It’s a reminder to you and me that no matter what we’re going through, we are loved and there is hope. Every time you look at the scar on your hand, remember His scar and know that you are loved.” I could see my words break through the physical pain and meet her deepest needs. “I can’t take away all the pain, but I want you to know, I think it’s beautiful.”
The next day we were with a group of people, and I heard her say, “See my scar? Isn’t it beautiful? Bob’s best friend and mine have the same one – His name is Jesus.”
It was incredible to see her realize that Jesus loves her. Then I thought to myself, Serena has more in common with Jesus than she realizes. When Jesus was up on the cross dying, it was from suffocation; that’s what the experts say. He was trying to hold himself up and his lungs filled with water and blood, and he suffocated. Why? So that Serena, and you and I, can know we are loved.