Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Struggling with unbelief

Maybe someday I'll be able to start a post without prefacing it when it's a rough one. Today is not that day. This post is a little rough.

I first met Nelson and Moises when they arrived in Nueva Esperanza in August of last year. I found them huddled in a corner, crying. They were brought to NE because their step-dad tried to kill them. Pretty traumatic. But then they arrive in NE, the new kids, and they are constantly being hit by other boys and their food is being stolen by the kids. They were completely shocked and overwhelmed by what they were experiencing. It killed me that there was nothing I could do. I sat with them as they cried and made sure everyone left them alone while I was there, but that's it.

Over the next few months, Nelson learned that in this place, it's survival of the fittest. And survive he did. He became one of the biggest bullies. I would try to get some alone time when I was there and remind him of what it was like when he first arrived, and how he's doing the same thing to other boys that was so hard for him. But in order to survive you need to throw reason out the window. The climax of his reign came when I was there in January. I made sure I was in the center during lunchtime so I could try to prevent some the food stealing that happens. Before we all went to the cafeteria I found Nelson standing over a kid who was crying in the corner. I pulled him away and we went to lunch. I watched as the crying kid got his food, sat down at the table, looked at the food for a minute, then picked his plate up, walked over to Nelson and gave him his food. So, not only is he stealing food from other kids, he's intimidating them before they even get to the cafeteria! But Nelson wasn't stealing the food for himself. All the extra food he got went straight to his brother. Was what Nelson was doing wrong? Absolutely. But he was going to great lengths to protect his brother.

Nelson and Moises (Notice the amount of food on Moises' plate. This was at the end of lunch.)

Fast forward to February and as I was looking online at pictures of new kids at Proniño I was shocked to see a picture of Nelson. He had been transferred from Nueva Esperanza. And he was doing great. Nueva Esperanza has the tendency to transfer the 'bad kids' to Proniño. But then once they're in Proniño, they excel. Because the reality is these aren't bad kids, these are kids that are surviving and you'll do some crazy stuff in order to survive. (Think Lord of the Flies.) When kids arrive in Proniño, they usually spend the first 3-6 months in Nueva Vida which is the first level and it's more restricted. Nelson made it to level 2 in a little over a month. What does that say about his true character?

Nelson on his bed in Proniño with a picture of him and his brother that I brought for him.

The problem is, Moises is still in Nueva and Nelson was his protector. I talked to the Director of Proniño about it as soon as I arrived in March and he immediately said he wants to bring Moises to Proniño. (Insert praise for Proniño!) I talked to the Director of Nueva Esperanza and she said that she just needs to get permission from the judge or caseworker in his hometown and then I can take him. Wonderful! But I had this nagging fear. Things rarely work out smoothly in Honduras. This was on Tuesday and I was supposed to take him to Proniño at 9:30 the next morning. I prayed and I prayed. Got a call from the Director that I won't be able to bring him Wednesday, but probably Thursday. I prayed and I prayed. I emailed a few prayer warriors and asked them to pray. I sat with Moises Wednesday afternoon and felt like it was August again. He cried and cried telling me what he was experiencing. Every single morning he wakes up to a kid on top of him hitting and hitting him. Every morning. I cried out to God that that would be the last day he would experience this. I get a call from the Director saying that I can't take him on Thursday. At this point I'm stressing in my most polite and urgent Spanish that the last day I can take him is Friday. Thursday evening she says "Don't worry. We'll take him there later."

Moises in Nueva in March

And I don't doubt that eventually, Moises will be in Proniño. But how much is he going to have to endure before that happens? I don't normally expect my prayers to be answered exactly how I want them to be. I'm fine with coming to God with a struggle, desire or need and trusting that things will go according to His plan and that His plan is better than mine. But this one has left me flabbergasted and feeling a little empty inside. Everything was all set. All we needed was a simple phone call with the go ahead. Instead, Moises is still waiting to experience some sort of justice and protection in his life.

And I haven't been able to shake this feeling that my prayers for these kids are being sent out into this great void. Or that I'm shouting them at this wall and they're just bouncing back and slapping me in the face. Which brings me to part 2 of this post...

Wilmer and Jen - who he turned into Cousin It

This is Wilmer and he is incredible. He's been in Proniño for 3 years and before that he was a 10 year old crack addict living on the street. He's come so far and has so much potential. He's smart and funny and artistic and strong (but I did beat him in an arm wrestling competition last week. It was a challenge.) And even though he has a rough past he's overcome so much and is now one of the most stable kids in the center.

A painting by Wilmer!

Wilmer 'driving' (steering) my truck 2 weeks ago. Don't worry, we were going 10mph on a deserted road.

But Wilmer ran away on Monday night. I don't know all the details, but it's something along the lines of him getting in trouble and being both ashamed at what he did and angry at what his punishment was, so he left. I'm afraid for him. I'm afraid for what he'll experience on the street. I'm afraid for the decisions he'll make. And I want a miracle. I want to open my email and find an email from Kevin saying that he's been found or he came back on his own. But I have that current issue with my prayers and the wall. So I just feel sick and worried and helpless.

Lord, please remove this weight of unbelief that is dragging me down. Remind me that you love these kids even more than I do. And you want justice for them even more than I do. Please protect Wilmer. Please bring him home soon.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A sweet reunion

I'm back from Honduras and as always, it's bittersweet. This was such a great trip as I got to spend a lot more time with the kids than in January. And the more time I spend with them the more they are opening up to me and oh how I love learning about their lives, their families, their dreams.

There are many stories that I want to share with you, but one definitely sticks out. It's about Tania and Deybi. When I started visiting Proniño last September there was a boy that I was sure that I knew,but couldn't figure out how I could possibly know him.


After a few weeks of staring at him (and him probably wondering 'Why in the world is that gringa always looking at me??') I realized that he looks identical to one of the sweetest girls in Nueva Esperanza.

I asked her if she had any brothers. (Yes.) I asked her if she knows where they are. (I think one of them lives in Proniño.) Eureka! The next time I saw Deybi, I showed him a picture of Tania on my camera. He just stared and stared and stared at her. This started a few months of me bringing messages back and forth between the two of them on my camera. And I thought that this was all I could do...

This trip, as I was going to talk to the Director of Nueva Esperanza, Tania stopped me and asked me to ask the Director if she could somehow see her brother. I figured the chances were slim to none, but she asks for so little that I knew I had to at least bring it up. To my amazement the Director said that it would be ok! So Friday morning I arrived early to the center and then set off for Proniño with an IHNFA chaperone and an incredibly excited little girl. Tania had been taken away from her physically abusive father 2-3 years ago and hasn't seen any family member since.

We arrived at Proniño and Deybi was the one that opened the gate for us. (He earns some spending money every week for doing this chore.) I immediately could tell that as far as he was concerned today was just any other day. I parked my truck and asked him if he knew who I had with me. He looked confused and said no. I said "Really? No one told you?" "Told me what?" he asked. I said that I have Tania with me and at that exact moment she climbed out of the backseat of the truck. The blogging part of me wanted so badly to catch this moment on video or with a picture, but I didn't want anything to distract them from their moment. So instead, I have this beautiful picture in my head of him seeing her, running around to the other side of my truck and hugging her so, so hard.
They spent a few hours together and he gave her a tour and she got to meet all of his friends.

Then she hung out with him as he got ready for school.
Aren't they both just so beautiful??

But the story keeps getting better. The kids haven't seen their mother for years and years. When Tania was still there, one of the Proniño employees asked for detailed info on where their mom's house is. I thought it was a little odd that he was so interested. But then when I arrived on Sunday, there she was! The employee had tracked her down and brought her for a visit. Deybi opened the gate for my truck as usual and then practically dragged me over to where she was so I could meet her. "My mom's here! She looks identical to Tania!!" He was absolutely glowing.
Deybi and Gloria

And I know it seems too good to be true, but the story keeps getting better. When I brought Tania back to Nueva Esperanza she was understandably filled with joy and sadness. So happy to have seen her brother but sad it can't happen more often. She leaned against me and cried for a very long time. She cried for her brother, but seeing him also reminded her how much she misses her mom. But then on Sunday I found out that she's not going to have to wait very long to see her! The amazing employee that found Gloria is planning on picking her up again today with Deybi and heading to Nueva Esperanza so the three of them can be together for a visit. The first time in 6 years!

I am so impressed by and thankful for this employee. It's the one day that he has off every week and he's still 'working'. He's genuinely excited that he has the opportunity to do this wonderful thing for the family. And people like him is what sets Proniño apart from other places. He doesn't see this as just a job. He understands that he is an integral and important part of bringing joy into the lives of these kids. And their joy is important enough to him that he's willing to sacrifice a bit in order to make it possible.

I am so thankful to have been able to witness these reunions and wish that I would've been there today to see Tania's reaction to her seeing her mom. I'm sure it was more beautiful than words can describe.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Just a little video

After getting stuck in Minneapolis then having a 20 hour layover in Atlanta, I'm finally in Honduras!

And here's a little video of what's been happening so far at Pronino...

Looking forward to the rest of the trip!