He Will Never Leave Them

“Leave your fatherless children; I will keep them alive. Your widows too can depend on me.” Jeremiah 49:11

Field Story by Shannon Pannell

What may have been a statistic before you arrived this week, I hope by now have faces and names. Their eyes may connect with yours, and even if you don’t have words, you know something is happening.

For me, it happened for the first time over 14 years ago in St. Petersburg, Russia. I felt what it meant to hurt for what hurts God. I still marvel at the God of the universe who knits us together with His children for such a time as this. The shepherd who leaves the 99 came after each one of us, just as He comes after the ones you might meet on a mission trip.

After a week of holding hands and laughing in spite of language barriers, I looked around at the 40 Russian children I had met, and cried, because after 22 years, a seven-year old changed me. Little Yura, too skinny for a typical seven-year old, shared his berries with an American who had never been hungry in her life. I knew I had nothing to give these children, but I know a God who does. As the bus pulled away, I caught Yura’s eye. Lord, I pray for the rest of Yura’s days, that he may trust you to do miracles in his life that I will never see.

This was the first time I can remember Jeremiah 49:11 becoming a reality. “Leave your fatherless children; I will keep them alive. Your widows too can depend on me.’” I physically left that day, but God never has. I have visited Yura, who is now 21 years old, many times over the years. God doesn’t come and go on visits, He literally never leaves. What God did for me that week, and what He can do for you in this one, cannot be severed. His eye is on every one of us and on every child around the world. He will not ever desert us.

God used Yura to open Shannon’s heart to the fatherless. Perhaps, as you read Shannon’s story, you thought of your own little Yura. Whatever the case, may you spend this week remembering that the fatherless you’re meeting do, in fact, belong to Someone.

As you develop new relationships or deepen seasoned ones, rest in assurance, just as you’ve never been left behind, the child or teen God is calling you to love will never be left behind either. When you aren’t with that child or teen, remind yourself God holds each child when we cannot. He comforts when we are afar. He reminds them they’re deeply loved, when we are not there to say it. He never leaves. Hallelujah.