A year ago I stood with my Outreach team in a remote rice village on the outskirts of Bali, Indonesia. This village was well known for its famous rope swings. All throughout the town we could see them strung up by coconut trees and scattered among miles of rolling rice terraces. Like the stone steps of Machu Picchu, the rice fields climbed above the village shops and houses, creating a botanical canyon people paid to get lost in. The village market was full of quaint little shops and food stands. It wrapped like a delicate ribbon around the tourist attraction in a rainbow of metal roof buildings.
As we hopped out of our grab, I could feel the spark of possibility pulse within my team. We came to the village to spend an hour doing street evangelism. Like always, we split into teams of two or three and set off into the village. I paired up with my team leader, Amanda. Before we dispersed, we spent a moment praying, asking God to direct our time. After praying and listening, Amanda looked at me focused and determined.
“I feel like God wants to show His power through healing today. I got the color yellow, like maybe we should go up to a woman wearing yellow.”
I smiled and my heart raced with anticipation. We already witnessed one healing that week, but I was hungry to see more.
I said, “This is going to sound weird, but I feel like God gave me the words ‘fish’ and ‘cafe’, like maybe we’re supposed to go up to a woman wearing yellow at a cafe that sells fish?”
We both laughed and started walking into the market. Amanda turned to me and shrugged.
“Well, I guess there’s only one way to find out.”
Thirty minutes flew by without luck. We tried talking with women wearing yellow, but most of them couldn’t speak English. The few that could weren’t interested in having a conversation. Disheartened and confused, we stopped at a bathroom to pray and ask God for more clarity. While praying, God gave me an image of the alleyway located beneath the cafe where we started. Running short on time, we decided to hi-tail it back in that direction.
As we turned back, it started to down-pour. Rain clouds relentlessly barreled out of thin air and hit us like a brick. Minutes later we were soaked. Cold, wet and defeated, I turned to Amanda.
“Maybe I didn’t hear God well today.”
Though doubt crept into both our minds, we kept walking.
By the time we reached the alleyway, everyone from locals to tourists alike, were gone. Just as I was about to give up, I saw four girls taking shelter under the alleyway balcony. They seemed to be around the ages of eight to thirteen. I looked closer, suddenly recognizing them. It dawned on me that they were the same girls that tried to sell us tourist pamphlets earlier. We passed them at least three times during the course of the hour.
I nudged Amanda. “Do you think we should go up to those girls? They’re the only ones here.”
She looked at them. “Yeah, maybe. Do you want to pray about it?”
I said yes, and we prayed. After taking a moment to listen, we both felt sure God was leading us to them. We walked over. I smiled, my voice wavering as we approached.
“Um, hi! My friend and I are both Christians, and as we were walking by, we felt like Jesus told us to come and talk to you.”
They stared at us with kind, cautious eyes. I couldn’t help but wonder what was going on in their heads. It must have been a bizarre sight to see two soaking wet American strangers approach them in an alleyway.
The smallest girl smiled and motioned for us to come closer.
“Come, get out of the rain.”
Eager to get out of the rain, we crouched under the balcony alleyway and started talking to them about Jesus. We told them that Jesus sees and loves them even when they feel unseen. They not only understood English, but genuinely seemed interested to hear what we had to say. After a minute or two, we asked if they had any physical pain or injuries. We said that Jesus not only cares about their hearts, but also their physical wellbeing.
The smallest girl raised her hand and pointed to a spot on her back. Then Amanda’s eyes got wide and she turned to me.
“Look, under her raincoat. She’s wearing a yellow dress!”
I couldn’t believe it. Then I looked closer at one of the older girls. My jaw dropped. The girl wore a hat with a huge orange fish embroidered on the front. In that moment I looked up with realization. We were standing under a cafe.
“Amanda, all the words we got really were from God!”
She laughed, “I know!”
Fueled with renewed faith, we turned back to the little girl in the yellow dress and asked if we could pray for her while putting our hands on the injured part of her back. She nodded in agreement.
As we prayed, the injured part of her back grew warm under our hands. She squirmed a little as her back grew warm. When we finished praying we asked her how she felt.
She screamed, “Warm! Warm! Warm!” and pointed to her back.
Turning to her friends, she grabbed their hands and placed them on the healed part of her back so they could feel it too. We laughed and asked again if she felt better. She said yes.
Then we asked the rest of the girls if they had anything we could pray for. Two of them backed away, scared and shy. The oldest one approached and told us she needed new school shoes because her old ones broke. We laid our hands on her and prayed that God would provide school shoes within the next week.
Afterward, we shared that healing doesn’t come from us, but from the power of Jesus who lives within us. We told them that God hears their prayers and promises to be with them, even in the darkest times.
My heart softened as I looked at the little girl in the yellow dress, wondering where she came from. Was she an orphan? Why did she have to work in a place like this at such a young age? These questions floated around in my head as we waved goodbye, and walked up to the patio cafe.
Ringing the water out of my hair, I looked at Amanda.
“We must have walked past them at least three times. They were right there in front of us this whole time, and I didn’t even see them because I was looking for an adult.”
As I spoke these words, I heard a voice inside me say,
I always saw them. I always see the least of these.
Suddenly, I felt God’s heart for children, orphans, and ‘the least of these’ hit me as hard as the rain against my skin.
In all honesty, I wasn’t surprised that I walked past them three times. I was looking at them, yet I never truly saw them. Unlike most of my Outreach team, I wasn’t passionate about children’s ministry or working with kids. But God, in His mercy, made me walk around the entire market, only to come back to where I started, in order to teach me about His Father heart for children. This realization pierced me with newfound humility and awe.
As I sit here at my kitchen table and write about this experience exactly one year later, I realize how profoundly impactful that moment was. I needed that revelation just as much as those kids needed to see God’s healing power.
Even though I’m a million miles away from the little girl in the yellow dress, I often picture the joy radiating from her face after God healed her. Sometimes I still see her in the faces of the kids I’m watching, or the children passing me in the grocery store aisle. When I do, I reflect on the Father’s heart; and I remember that He communicates, even through the strangest of words. He never stops searching for us, through hidden alleyways and remote tropical villages. No matter where we are, or what condition we’re in, His love always find us because He knows when to look down.
As these memories wash over me, I see Jesus bending down to a child’s level. Peering into the eyes of a little girl in a yellow dress, soaking wet and shivering, He wraps His arms around her and whispers,
I see you. I’ve always seen you.