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Street boys in Senegal find refuge

THIES, Senegal (BP) — Moise Al-Jahani* clutches his green plastic bowl with dirt-crusted hands and shakes its contents side to side. Most street children, like this small boy, end many days with not much more than a few sugar cubes, a handful of beans and a handful of rice.

But Jorge Reina is working to change that for Al-Jahani and other street kids.

Every morning at Reina’s house in Senegal, the bulky Venezuelan man wraps the dirty little boy in a bear hug, slathers spreadable chocolate on half a loaf of bread and feeds him breakfast, along with a cup of milk.

Reina does this for several dozen little boys each day. They show up dirty, barefoot and hungry, and they leave with full stomachs and new Bible stories.

And Reina said he hopes they walk out of his gate knowing that they are loved.

Jesús Guillén agrees.

Guillén, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Redención, a Hispanic church in Houston, supports Jorge’s ministry with finances and prayer. He also goes there to visit each year. He says it’s worth the price of the plane ticket to put his hand on the heads of the street boys, pray a blessing over them, look them in the eyes and tell them how much Jesus loves them.

“Every chance I get to talk to them, I tell them that God loves them, they are important, and He is the one who takes care of them out on the street,” Guillén said.

Their self-esteem is low, Guillen said, and he wants them “to know they are important human beings in God’s eyes.”

Reina said feeding street children bread and telling them about the Bread of Life is why he moved to Senegal. Coming from a long line of bread makers, he knew he had what it took to keep a baking operation going and feed the city’s street kids in Jesus’ name.

Every day, the loaves keep coming out of the oven, and boys with empty bowls keep coming in through the gate.

Reina and Guillén both say they wish they could do more, but the breakfasts and Bible stories are “pretty much all we can do,” Guillén said. “But in the long run, they will remember the seeds that we are planting among them.”

He asked for prayer for the boys — that they would come to know the God who loves them and wants them for His sons.

“Little by little, they understand,” Guillén said.
*Name changed. Ava Thomas is a writer/editor based in Europe. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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  • Ava Thomas