A Young Boy and the Start of a Movement

Lately, I’m honored to welcome several storytellers here to theRunaMuck. Today’s guest is Chris Marlow from H.E.L.P., and you’ll recognize his ability to tell a story right away. What’s even even better is to meet him in person.


We hopped off our plane from Cape Town, picked up our rental car and began the long, 15 hour drive into Harare, Zimbabwe. As we drove, I noticed the large sprawl of Johannesburg – cars, buildings, freeways. I felt like I was in LA, not Africa.

We headed to the border and along the way we picked up John and Orpah. Little did I know, that in just a few days, John and Orpah would become heroes to me.

At this time, Zimbabwe, once the bread-basket of Africa, was known not for what it had, or used to be, but rather for its extreme poverty.

It was a country on the verge of becoming a failed state and a country that had no economy, little food, no gasoline to drive. The political tension could be cut with a knife.

These are the stories that are told on CNN, BBC and NPR. But those people have never met John and Orpah. While still in South Africa, we filled multiple jerry-cans with gas, loaded the van with as much rice and beans as possible, picked up a few toys and headed to the border. In just a few short hours, I would meet 30 orphans of whom John and Orpah helped to rescue.

After driving frantically for hours under the starry night of Zimbabwe we finally arrived in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe. Our final destination was an hour away. However, Pastor John asked if we could stop to visit some kids who hang out at an abandoned gas station. It was 4AM and we had a van full of food and gas. I was not so sure about all this, but Pastor John insisted, so we did.

We stopped for maybe 3-4 minutes. These would be the 3-4 minutes that would forever change my life. As I was getting out of the van, we were swarmed with young kids. I felt like a rock star, it was immediate!

One nameless young boy grabbed my hand, looked me in the eye, with a sense of humility and desperation that I’ve never seen before and he said these words that would forever change my life.

“Sir, thank you for visiting my country. I’m really sorry it’s in the state that its in. I don’t want to beg, but I have not had food in days. Is there anything I can do to work for you, so I can have a meal?”

I was confused, overwhelmed and tired. I looked at this humble boy (created in the image of an almighty God) and said these devastating words: “No, I have nothing for you!”

I pulled my hand away from his hand, got back in the van and drove off into the night. His stare has never left my mind. His voice still echoes in my soul. His pain will always be with me.

As we drove away, I was devastated. No one else in the car knew what was going on, it happened so fast. But for me, it seemed like an eternity. As if an Angel showed up in the middle of Zimbabwe to introduce me to something so close to the heart of Jesus…orphans!

I was having a conversation with God…I was mad, angry, bitter and broken! How could kids be hungry in such an age of wealth? How did I read scripture for so long, and do so little to care for the orphan?

That brief encounter with that unknown, approximately 10 year old boy is why I started an organization that would H.E.L.P.  rescue orphans, restore their hope and renew their communities.

As we drove away, it would only be a few more hours until I met 30 more orphaned kids. They had very little in this life. Crammed in a home, their shoes had holes, their stories seemed straight from the pit of hell; abuse, abandonment, death, rape, suffering, hunger and disease.

I was only in Zimbabwe for a total of 36 hours. Since then, I’ve spent over 36 months dedicating my life to serving orphans and solving the global orphan crisis. Instead of 30 orphans, we now have over 100 kids at that home. They all go to school each day, they smile, laugh, play, and more importantly they know they’re loved by many.

I never met that young boy again. I hope someday, we will both be walking the streets of heaven. I hope one day I will get to give him a hug, tell him I’m sorry for leaving and let him know that his story started a movement. A movement that includes caring for orphans all over the world, a movement that includes this little conference in NW Arkansas, where hundreds of people gather to pray, think and process how we can end the global orphan crisis.

I hope to see you in Arkansas this February, and maybe you too can one day meet this young boy from Zimbabwe in Heaven? Until then, take a moment and meet the some of the original 30 kids that I met in Zimbabwe.

Zim Water: Orphans in Zimbabwe are raising money for clean water.

 Our kids in the back of the truck on their way to the river for some playtime!

Photo Credits: Blanca Garcia

About me


Living as a FCIT
December 16, 2010


We are THAT family
Reply December 21, 2010

What a redeeming moment for you, Chris! I know exactly how that *moment* feels-the one that rescues you from yourself. Beautiful story. Looking forward to February!

Reply December 21, 2010

I love this story Chris! I know exactly how you felt as you pulled your hand away from that boy. I can't wait to see you again in NW Arkansas so that we can talk more about this movement...

Thank you Amber for sharing Chris' story here!

Reply December 21, 2010

As long as I've known you, Chris, I've never heard the beginnings...that exact moment you realized you were ruined. Love this story - probably because I recognize the breaking.

Reply December 21, 2010

I think that's right, Elora - the breaking point.

I've never been to Africa, but it's amazing how contageous a righteous brokeness can be.

Thanks for sharing your story with us, Chris.

Reply December 21, 2010

No matter how many times I hear this story, it still gives me chills. I love how God can use one little moment to completely transform our lives. Thankful for your heart, Chris!

Reply December 21, 2010

Thank you for the story.

Chris Marlow
Reply December 22, 2010

Thanks everyone.
Amber, I think we need to make that "Africa" trip happen soon...or Haiti :-)

Elora: I guess I need to share it more? Funny thing is, I share this when I speak. And I still cry EVERY-TIME :-)

Kristen: Well said, I may have to use that. "rescued from yourself."

Dan, can't wait to connect in NW Ark. I'm planning a trip to Florida in 2011. We need to hang!

Reply December 23, 2010

Beautiful and heart-wrenching.

Reply December 27, 2010

Amber, thanks so much for sharing this space for this purpose. Chris, thank you for sharing your story. Even though I'm ministering in South Africa (and our ministry is stretching into Zimbabwe) this still tugs at my heart strings. The fact that your "moment" moved you to *action* is the most inspiring part!

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