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I Like Being Broken

Two weeks ago I returned to America after visiting my eighteenth country. Coming and going is such a part of everyday life now.  It is easy to remember not to drink the water and to calculate the currency exchanges in my head.

 Custom cards, converters, cold showers.

                Things I had never encountered three years ago have now almost become monotonous.

The orphans, the widows, the poor.

I had done this all before.  I felt at home walking among the shacks, alongside the river of trash. The vendors yelling in my face were like meeting old acquaintances. It was comfortable. It was familiar.

To me, Jamaica looked like almost any other third-world country. We lived on the Salvation Army base where there was a nursing home and orphanage on site. One thing I had forgotten was how difficult it was to love orphans at times. They are some of the worst behaved children I have ever had to deal with.


We were in charge of VBS while there. It would have been easier to teach bible stories to a room full of squirrels. I found myself frustrated more than anything. I was irritated with the children that wanted to climb all over me instead of listen. I was annoyed with the street beggars always asking me for money on my way to the grocery store. I hated that I couldn’t breathe in the mornings because the smell of burning garbage was so thick in the air.

One day I sat by a kid named Dwayne. I knew he was trouble the moment I saw him. He had that smile on his face that said he knew he could get away with anything.  He told me his name, he was eight, and then turned around and spit on the kid behind him. He would run around the courtyard of the First Baptist Church while all of the other kids were in class. There were so many of the boys who also did this that I didn’t think twice about him. 

On the last day I sat in the courtyard discussing the evening’s debrief with my co-leader. Dwayne came barreling out of his classroom once again, after biting one of his teachers. As I took him down the hallway for the third time that day, I looked down at this smiling kid. He wasn’t from the orphanage. He was one of the neighborhood kids. He was not forced to be here.  What was the point of our ministry really? It wasn’t to make kids sit quietly in class.

I pointed to a bench in the hall and told him to sit down. “Why are you here Dwayne? Why are you here really?”

He thought about it and then wrapped his armed around me and gave me a big hug. “You.”

I asked him why expecting something wildly inappropriate from previous experience with the Jamaican children.

“Mom,” was all he said.

“You want me to be your mom?” He nodded.

He didn’t have a mom. He lived with his dad and told me he had no one to take care of him. I just looked at this tough little boy who all of a sudden was pouring out his life to me. My heart began to shatter.

After a while I asked him what he thought about Jesus. “He loves me and is good.”

I looked at him again and asked if he REALLY believed that. After staring at his shoes he told me no.

I had to leave this boy. I had to tell him that I couldn’t stay and be his mother. I told him that I couldn’t protect him and care for him, but that I would pray every day that Jesus would. I looked him in the eyes and made him promise to ask Jesus for those things whenever he needed them, because he deserved to be loved and taken care of.

Suddenly my heart dropped in my stomach and I wanted to take this boy home with me more than anything. I wanted to change his life, but I couldn’t. Instead I hugged him, told him I loved him and to stop biting the teachers and took him back to class..

The teachers asked if I had threatened his life because he was an angel the rest of the day.


Jamaica was no longer comfortable for me. I have not gone a day without thinking of that boy.  I went back to the days when I allowed myself to have a broken heart, back to the early days of the Race when I wasn’t immune to poverty or indifferent towards the suffering of others. Somewhere along this incredible journey I had allowed myself to shut down. I stopped the broken hearts.

I don’t want to be afraid of that any longer. God reminded me it’s okay to feel the hurt and the pain. It is a call to action. It is a catalyst for change. It is what brings us alive and opens our hearts to love.

I don’t want to be okay with how the world as it is.


                                          I don’t want to be comfortable.


                                                                            I want to be broken.


  1. Thanks for this! The thought of teaching squirrels made me laugh! But it is awesome to see the love god showed to you through this boy and the love you showed to him!

  2. May that broken feeling keep calling you and the people you work with to action. We keep praying for God to continue blessing you in your service to him. (It was fun to see your folks last week).

  3. Caitlin, how clearly you write! I too want to have that same sense of being broken as you. To be able to see,feel as Jesus does for others. Life can be ah, so comfortable here in my cozy world. keep sharing truth with us. You go girl! I will be praying also with you through the miles for,Dwayne. Montana hugs your way, Cindi & family

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