“I found them last summer, looking through the trash for food,” Gesti, pastor of the Church of the Nazarene in Kombinat, Albania, told me in October 2015 as we were on our way to visit the child development centre that his congregation had established. “Two sisters and a brother; the oldest was 12 at the time, and none of them had ever been to school. They live in a single room about half an hour's walk from the church. Their mother is a prostitute and takes her clients home, so during the day the kids go around and look through the trash, trying to find things to eat.”
When we arrived at the CDC – a small rented room with large, faded Disney pictures on the outside wall – the kids were all diligently doing their homework. Gesti introduced me, and the children immediately welcomed me.
Several came up and hugged me, among them the two sisters. Their hugs were long and fierce, revealing how desperately they longed for affection, but also suggesting: I can see that you're different, that you care for me; I feel loved in this place.
For the rest of the story, see Engage magazine.