A brother carefully held his sister as they watched The Greatest Journey graduation ceremony begin. The siblings weren’t graduates; they were merely curious observers who had wandered in off the street. They were small and their clothes were dirty, but their smiles were bright as they enjoyed candy and the performance of a local clown troupe. However, they didn’t stay long.
Perhaps they were needed at home, or maybe the late start of the ceremony meant that they had already stayed too long. Whatever the case, they soon walked hand in hand out of the community center. One of the local Operation Christmas Child pastors tried catch them, but they continued on their way. In an act of sorrow, she put her hand to her chest. Words weren’t necessary; the symbolism was obvious. Her heart was broken as she watched them walk out the door.
They left too early. There was still so much for them to experience. They didn’t get to see the graduates in their caps and gowns, hear all the songs, or enjoy a snack with the graduating students. I think the pastor and I were hopeful that they would stay longer so that we could have the opportunity to share our lives with them and they with us. It felt like there was something left unfinished, words not spoken.
I don’t know their names. Maybe it was a failure on my part. My job was to find the story. However, I knew in that moment that them hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ was more important than my curiosity. Thinking back on it, I wouldn’t change anything, but the situation reminded me of something—of a different time and a different place.
I’ve had the honor of standing on the beaches of Normandy, France, and was humbled to walk through the maze of white crosses and green lawns at the memorial. On most of the crosses, the name and rank is carved into the stone. But for some, the name is unknown. The memorial marker to every unknown soldier simply reads, “Here rests in honored glory, a comrade in arms known but to God.”
The name of that young boy and girl may not be known to me, but God knows their names. He knows their life, family, and struggles. He knows the names of those siblings, of every child, just as surely as He knows the name of every man who lost his life on the beaches of Normandy. How blessed are we to have a God who understands pain and loss? How blessed are we that He is able to count every hair on our heads? How blessed are we that He knows our names?
Bob Pierce, the founder of Samaritan’s Purse, wrote in his journal, “Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God.” The image of the brother leading his younger sister out of the graduation ceremony is something that I will never forget, and for me it’s a reminder that our hearts should never stop breaking for those who are hurting and lost.
For every man, woman, and child that has heard the name of Jesus Christ, there are many who haven’t. When I remember that precious boy and girl, I will pray for those who are close to me and those who are unnamed—for the known and for those “known but to God.”