The closer we came to the call, the more I began to squirm. A single, military reservist, the cop I was riding with had no wife or children to worry about. He gave one dispassionate "10-4" after another to the 911 dispatcher.
"Bus driver reporting neglect..."
"Children allege being home alone for hours..."
"Large dogs heard inside..."
"Mother's whereabouts unknown..."
The more I heard, the more I squirmed. Our arrival revealed the children had locked themselves in the trailer with the dogs. When officers entered, the dogs went berserk, upsetting the children even more. With no adult in sight, Child Protective Service (CPS) was called and we began a forty-five minute wait for the worker's arrival.
With children wailing and dogs snapping, a sadness descended. The children knew the CPS drill better than anyone else on scene. Amidst the hopelessness, I whispered, "Speak Holy Spirit."
The response came quietly,
"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us..."(John 1:14a)
Officers said there was little to do until CPS showed up.
"May I go in the house and stay with them until CPS arrives?"
"Sure chaplain, if you want to."
"I'll go with you chaplain, in case the dogs try to get you."
Together we climbed the stairs and entered a neatly arranged, carpeted home. A brother and sister clung to one another, watching warily. The dogs were loud but I could see that they were in a crate; a flimsy crate that rocked when they pressed their shoulders and foreheads against the bars. Two Rottweiler voices belted displeasure, in concert and cameo, and just like that all eyes were on me.
As the children, dogs and cop watched, I realized there was no plan other than to make my dwelling among them. Sitting crisscross apple sauce, in the middle of the floor, I introduced myself only to be met by a stony silence. Strike one.
A card from a memory game was caught under my foot. To play, all of the cards with cartoon characters are turned face down. Each player gets a chance to turn over two cards. Remembering which cards match allows you to take another turn. Whoever ends up with the most matches wins the round before the cards are shuffled and turned face down to play again.
Sister and brother loosened their grip on the other before replying, "It's a game."
"How do you play?"
Despite the traumatic morning and two blue uniforms in their living room, they grinned involuntarily as play proved irresistible. Over dozens of rounds of matching squares, we broke the ice, learned names and established the timeline for their alleged abandonment.
Mom worked two jobs and left before dawn. She provided breakfast, a cell phone and list of emergency contacts. We found the list and called Mom's sister. Mom made sure they had books and we also used them to pass the time. The carpet was clean and clothes were folded. Upon arrival, Mom's sister divulged some of Mom's struggles: the children had been left alone repeatedly.
By the time CPS arrived, the children had calmed down enough to eat breakfast, collect hugs from their aunt and talk trash as the chaplain lost, again.
"Got him..." the older brother crooned as he scooped up four straight pairs of matching squares.
CPS showed up, interviewed the children and established that Mom had a plan for their care. Even though the bus driver, cops and chaplain thought the plan could use work, the CPS worker said, "I've seen worse. We're going to leave them in the care of their aunt."
We never saw Mom because she had warrants; police contact may have resulted in her immediate arrest.
The family and officers accepted an invitation to make a prayer circle. We thanked the Lord for becoming flesh and dwelling among us, lifted the children in prayer by name and held hands before leaving.
More 911 calls awaited the officer with whom I was riding. His working the computer, cell phone and radio allowed quiet moments of intercession for one family, in one trailer. We trust that Christ will return in the flesh at the Second Coming. Until His return, we gratefully partners with a team of prayer and financial partners make Christ known.
Thoughts and prayers for the brother and sister were interrupted by crisp "10-4" radio traffic on the way to the next call.