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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

From One Orphanage To The Next



I recently heard a statement from a friend who is in the child caring world that shocked and saddened me.  This friend stated that when big families adopt, it's like the children going "from one orphanage to another".  The following blog post is decidedly bias. Just know that.


WAIT. WHAT?


That was her exact statement, verbatim. I sat  in confusion for a few seconds but thought to "fix my face" before she looked back at me.  I considered my own family of six children - four adopted and two biological - and wondered if she meant me.  Or someone else. Is six "orphanage numbers" or was that comment only directed at the mega families of 9, 10, 11 or 17 children?  

I said nothing. Because I was offended and didn't want to say something I might regret. 

And then I decided to try and be very diplomatic and evaluate her words carefully, considering the people I know "in real life" who have adopted children and large families, and since I direct and live inside of an orphanage, it was easy for me to compare the two scenarios.  

I see, in some aspects, how she is right. In both my orphanage and the large families I  know well,  there are some glaring similarities:  lots of people, piles of laundry, big grocery bills, the need to take turns in the bathroom, fights over TV shows, the last cookie being a big deal ,  running out of toilet paper at lightening speed , people having to wait a little while to be heard, a fair amount of chores for each child to simply keep the place running . . . and those are different and maybe harder paths than small families walk.  

But then I weighed some other similarities: always someone to play with, likely at least one person to take your side, a dying to self that creates good character when the "me, first" attitude has to go, older siblings to teach younger siblings everything from swimming to shoe tying, younger siblings to teach older siblings to be loving caregivers, a place to try out your gifts and talents in front of a larger audience, and ultimately, more people to love and be loved by. 




And the implication in the statement was that placing my precious Mercy House children into a large family was somehow a disservice to them.    That maybe just keeping them in the first orphanage was sufficient if no small families were considering them  since a large family is pretty much an orphanage.

That,  my friends, is a lie! 

 If I know one thing, I KNOW orphanage life. I believe I run a pretty wonderful orphanage. I truly love the children in our center. I kiss them goodnight and make sure all their needs are met. They are happy, growing, thriving people who are getting to know Jesus and are safe from harm. They LOVE their lives here.  They count. Their opinions matter.  I sit up with sick ones and hold crying ones. 

But I would never even try to submit that my orphanage is better than or even equal to a large family. 

You see, parents in large families, there are some things YOU can give my children that I can not.

A new family tree.  A last name that matches yours. A group of siblings who will be there for him long after you and I are gone. Not leaving for their own adoptive homes.  A place to bring his own children someday that is his REAL home and a family that is his REAL family. Grandparents, cousins, crazy uncles!!! 

We at Mercy House are LIKE a family.                             You, my friends ARE a family.

Don't let anyone discourage you, Mothers of Many, from following your dream of adopting a child. Or a sibling group.  

And you, my fellow orphanage director friends, please consider those large families and don't dismiss them simply based on numbers. Really SEE them.  Each individual member.  I realize some of the children in care NEED to be in a smaller family for a number of reasons. But I truly believe that almost any child can succeed and thrive in a large family. Sometimes better. 

So, if you ever hear a statement  like my colleague made above, whether you are in a large family yourself, a single person or married with one dog and two fish, please defend big families. 
In a world that celebrates all kind of families, let's not forget the large ones. 


You have so much to offer! 






Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Fire



In our little shelter for street children, I try very hard to be open to any child referred to us. I absolutely despise having to say "no" to admitting a child in need. They are there. We are here.  It seems an easy thing to open our home to the boys who have no place to go. It is what we do.

The last three children referred to our center were small boys. They were 9, 7 and 4 years old. I felt confused by this as younger children are rarely referred to us.  I assumed that this was the Lord's way of guiding our center to serve younger clientele and we welcomes the 9 and 7 year old willingly. (The 4 year old comes to us next week). These little boys are so extremely cute! They are all affectionate, cheerful little people who want to sit in your lap, be kissed goodnight, play with Legos, watch cartoons and do "little boy things".  

I saw my staff enjoying these children and, in a move that needs to happen more often than it does, reminded myself that Mercy House is NOT ABOUT ME.  The little dudes are happy here and my staff is happy.  They  bring a lot of joy and laughter to our shelter. They light up the place.

Their "issues" are nothing like the issues of the older boys we serve. They are easily managed. We haven't broken up a single fist fight or had to restrain  even one of these little ones in the heat of their anger. I was weighing the benefits of younger kids vs. older kids in my mind and finding a thousand reasons that younger street boys are the perfect kids for Mercy House.

But then, last week, I went into the street to spend time with a former client of ours who decided to go back to the "old life".  And I met his friends.  Actually, I woke his friends up to serve  them and see how they are doing in the unstable world of street life.
Our former client as we woke him up to eat lunch  

Good friend of our client 

His "tropa" - the best friends and literal "partners in crime"
And just like "that", the fire in my heart began to ROAR.  And as my eyes met theirs, I saw what true hopelessness looks like. Again.  And I felt ashamed at the same time.  I had spent too much time convincing myself that these boys are too old, too hardened and too difficult to serve.

That Mercy House should become a place for little kids.

I was prepared to do what has already been done to these young men time and time again- to turn my back because the work is daunting and the success rate is LOW once boys pass the age of 14 or so. They miss the street, and girls, and smoking, and having money. Being under authority gets tiresome to them sometimes. 

If I were not standing in the street, looking at these children, I could have justified it all. But God put a FIRE in me for these older boys.  He has given me a love for them that ONLY comes from him. It is not something anyone could manufacture.  It is as pure and true as any genuine love can be. It causes me to overlook the smell (oh, there IS a smell), and the curse words and the "tough guy" act they like to put on.  This supernatural love causes me to pray for these kids and to always remember their names, even after meeting only one time.  It makes me able to tell them apart from far away when I see them in the street and to remember what they like to eat or the small details of their lives they told me the last time we met.  It allows me to understand more Tagalog in the street than I can ever understand in a meeting. 

AND DO NOT BE DECEIVED. I AM NOT AWESOME. I AM NOT. APART FROM HIM, I AM ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. 

This fire in my bones for these budding young men was placed in me just the same way my faith in Christ was. By HIM, for HIM , through HIM.   I could no more extinguish this flame than I could snuff out my love for my own husband and children, it is there for good, I suppose. 

And they know. These boys know that I love them. They know they matter to me and, most importantly, that they matter to their Creator God. One of the first phrases I learned in Tagalog was "Jesus loves you so much".  I wanted to be sure that as I handed them their meal or their medication, they understood it came, not from some white foreigner, but from their father in Heaven who thinks they are worth feeding and loving and dying for. 

The time has come! We have a gorgeous piece of land that is free and clear. It's ours and it's waiting for a building. And INDEPENDENT LIVING CENTER for older street boys to be built on it. I have to do it. I have to do it for the boys in the photos.  I have to do it for the scores of older boys who are walking the line between street child and career criminal. I have to do it, more than anything, for the God who called us here and who put a fire in me that just will not die!   So please, please pray for Mercy House.  We don't have the staff for an independent living center. We don't have the funds to build. We aren't trained in the finer points of investing in the lives of these boys over age for adoption. All we have is a fire.

  But with the God of "two loaves and five fish", it is enough. 
    
Former client asleep on my lap as we wait for my staff



Thursday, April 27, 2017

Missionary Mama: Raw and Ugly

Have you ever felt like God was calling you to the mission field? Has that notion dominated your thoughts and prayers for a long enough time that you're beginning to believe it's not just an emotional, knee-jerk response to a cool video, a David Platt book or a compelling speaker you were exposed to?

Well, I know where you are if that's you. I know how it feels. I've been there. And now I'm "here" and I want to get agonizingly REAL today about some things you might face if you take that leap. Maybe I'm tying to scare you away a little.  Maybe I'm trying to help you vet yourself before the field chews you up and spits you out.   Maybe I'm just looking for an opportunity for some catharsis and this seems as good a platform as any.   Jury's out . . .

When I said to the Lord "use me" or "take my life", I'm beginning to think that what I really meant was "don't touch my children" and "you can bring me anywhere you want as long as I retain enough comforts to feel safe and connected to my old life".  But "take my life and use it for your glory" was what I THOUGHT I meant.

And God, in His infinite wisdom and unwillingness to play by MY rules, did everything I didn't want Him to do.

And every day is a seemingly endless battle to take my eyes off myself, my circumstances and my own pain and put them on HIM.  Every day.  All the time. Even when I sleep, which is not much anymore.

The root of some of the most tragic pain on the mission field stems from the environment I'm in.

WHERE He has placed me has the makings of struggle.  

We are in a very remote village of indigenous people high up in the mountains of a province. It is breathtakingly beautiful here. It is also menacingly isolated.
We have no wifi (gasp, faint, seize!).   We have a little personal "hotspot" type deal that has to be loaded and runs out unexpectedly.  If we skype, watch videos or download anything, it is akin to revving our engines and watching the gas meter drop before our eyes. And you may think "whaaa, First Word problem number 23, 455"  but, people, that wifi is what connects me to my kids, my family back in 'Murica and the friends I left behind and our supporters. When it has to be policed and monitored and makes a dent in the budget,  I hesitate to use it.

When I hesitate to use it, it's lonely for me.  But yet, I'm never alone here.  Never.


The language barrier is another tricky aspect of being here. I am starting to pick up the language here pretty well after four years. I understand a good bit of what is being said. The daunting part is answering.  Tagalog is a language that is so much easier to understand than to speak. One verb can be conjugated 80 ways!  The precious kids in my center understand my fumbling, silly, Taglish and I'm not afraid to try new words on them. But when it comes to adult conversation - my pride just won't let me try too much.    I have Rosetta Stone. I need to make the time to use it.  The language barrier contributes to the isolation factor. A lot. The notion that people speak English in The Philippines isn't exactly accurate. Many do. But the kind of conversation my heart longs for just isn't.  I want slang and deep words and culturally saturated talk. I need my BFF for that.  And I'm pretty sure she has moved on. I would expect that.

The distance from my two biological kids is crushing.  The fact that we moved to The Philippines with six kids and are down to TWO under our roof is panic inducing! Yes, it's normal that kids grow up, they start their lives, they find their own paths - blah, blah, blah - but my kid have been, for a long time, some of my closest friends. And I feel the distance tangibly. The corners of their lives where I am not allowed are screaming at me through our skypes.  They have pain and they don't want us to worry. They have expenses but they don't want to ask their missionary parents to chip in. They have physical complaints but know our insurance isn't good enough and so, they don't mention things until they are GLARING and we want to hop on a plane and "fix it".




The fact that I'm the leader is another double-edged sword. I run a shelter for street boys. I handle the staffing, the schedule, training in behavior management of the kids, leading of staff devotions, meetings with adoption officials and social welfare officials, traipsing around in the hot, dirty streets to meet suffering kids (the BONUS of the work, right there. The TIP TOP IN love job) , the donor contact, the newsletter writing, the child sponsorship updates . You get the idea. And the reason I don't sleep. And, sheesh, I sound like martyr right here. Like I'm a contortionist who has figured out how to pat herself on the back.  NO! That's not why I unrolled the list. Not even close. I say that because, the pressure NOT to crack, flip out, turn over a table and run from the center screaming profanities is often looming.  If the leader falls, the whole house of cards tumbles down around us.  I've seen it in churches and secular business. When those in leadership can't get their schtuff together. Everything crumbles. Fact!

My own family who is here serving alongside me. The enemy does a bang-up job of opening that Pandora's box of Mama Guilt and there's no shortage of reminders from flesh and blood people that I have my own kids to "worry about".  Do they not think I know this? It's a teeter-totter of balance to have an abused, neglected, slow-to-trust child coming toward you at the same time your well-loved, cherished, adored OWN child is coming toward you. Who to reach out to first is not the obvious "your own" or "who needs you most".  It's a minefield in the heart and mind of a mother who already feels like she's not enough for either of them.

The perception of the people around us is difficult to swallow. We are a bank to some (ha! The Irony . . . ) , a novelty to others, a status lifter for some as the idea that you have foreign friends elevates you in the culture.
What I'm not is "just me".
There's a city nearby that is filled with missionaries. They often place their kids in the same school and attend one of two or three churches. They have a missionary community. I came here vehemently NOT wanting to join that community. Maybe it didn't seem "radical" enough for me if I lived here and had a bunch of white friends and put my kids in private school. To tell you the truth, it looks pretty appealing to me about now.  I envy those missionary Mamas who have friends right in their neighborhood with no agenda except to be friends.

The perception of the people back home  is always in the back of my mind. Have I become one of those weird, cultureless missionaries to them? The ones with the sensible shoes and the funky accent who prefer long skirts and asks them for money in round about, back door ways?  Do they feel funny telling me about their vacation or showing me their dog's new dress because, well . . .the starving street kids and all?    Do they pour their $6 coffee into a Kangaroo cup because they feel wasteful and unspiritual drinking that caramel machiatto in the presence of a missionary?  Sometimes I feel that. Often it's in my head I'm sure.  Not even a reality.
Do they feel sorry for me because instead of being a home-owning, miata-driving Mama who spends time filling up my cart at Target and Aldi, I've morphed into a chick who borrows her kids cars and sleeps in the guest room at her parents house?  Not sure if that sounds pitiful or spiritual right there. It is what it is.

And trust me, mission-minded friends. I could head right back up to the top of this blog post and spiritualize EVERYTHING I've shared as a struggle. I KNOW all the verses about "losing your life to save it" and "counting everything as loss" and "not looking back after picking up the plowshare" and "taking up your cross and following Him".   I know them by heart. They are ABJECT TRUTH.

They never change. HE never changed.


I have changed.  This is not a cry for help. I do not believe I am burning out. I love, adore and breathe the work that we do here.  Part of my lack of sleep is my excitement to get started each day. Promise.

But for those of you feeling THE CALL, I want to crack open the back door and let you peek into the messy part of the house.   I want to be raw and real with you about the painful side of serving God in a place that isn't your first country doing work that sweeps you up like a tidal wave.

And  I also want to encourage you to CLING to the relationships you have before you go. Cultivate them.  Take the time. Hone them. Cherish them.  Because the ones you skip out on in favor of some lesser "task" are likely to be the ones you crave when you get neck-deep in your new life.

Trust me on that.  Please.


And top-of-the-heap advice to my"called but not yet moved" friends: keep your walk with the Lord as first place. Every day. Even when you don't feel like it or your facebook has 27 notifications or your kid wants "cuddle time" during what was intended to be your "quiet time" with your Maker.

There is NO SUBSTITUTE for a deep, abiding walk with Jesus. No touchy-feely song and no sitting by a stream.  NOTHING sustains the heart, calms the mind, renews the vision and banishes the arrows of the enemy like time in prayer and meditating on God's word.

Trust me on that, too.

And so, now you know.  You still coming? I'll bet you are. Because His voice rises above the noise and you know it.















Saturday, February 4, 2017

Broken World



The world is broken. When sin entered this place in the Garden of Eden and everything straight was made crooked, there was nothing mankind to do to help itself. 

None of us is immune to the pain that living on a broken planet delivers. 

We have all been injured.
Remember hurtful words thrown your way? Betrayal by a spouse or family member ?
Someone you trusted sharing your secret pain for his own gain?
Injustice and prejudgement directed at you in times you had no power to defend yourself?

But we have also caused injury.
We have gossiped. We have chosen to believe gossip. We have lied.
We have stolen. We have been prideful and smug when humility was called for.
We have hidden behind the name of Jesus in an effort to avoid reaching out to people who live their sin out loud and proud. We have kept a record of our own good deeds and trotted them out when it suited us. We have been silent when we knew we should speak. 
In short, we have inflicted harm on other human beings. Sometimes on purpose and sometimes by accident .


The child in the picture above is almost sixteen years old! He is about 4 feet 6 inches tall and weighs 64 pounds. He is a severe asthmatic and has been in the street for many many years. Abuse at home drove him into the street as a young child and there he remained, fashioning a sort of family for himself out of other street children.   We met him at an outreach in his city at Christmas time and we had no space for a new child at the time. To be honest, I was also a little afraid to admit him, although he asked very respectfully.  We have met MANY respectful, adorable, endearing children only to discover AFTER admission that they are way too much for us in every way imaginable. 
But this child, who can neither read nor write, found me online and had a friend write me a plea to help him. 
And then the city social worker formally referred him to us. Whether he asked her to or she just happened to choose him from the scores of street children in their city who need help, we have not quite deciphered.  All we know is this child kept coming up in our work and we could not ignore him. We told him the date we would be in his town and he messaged again the day before asking if we were still coming. My heart could barely cope with this kind of hope being placed in us. 
He was asking for rescue from a life that was too hard for too long. Sin broke his world and he was asking us to help do some mending. 
And, for us, saying "no" would have been sin. 

"And to him who knows the good he ought to do and refuses to do it, for him, it is sin"
James 4:17


And just like with all of our children, as they start to trust us a little and they start to open up, we learn details that are crushing. 
Our children have been the recipients of some pretty shabby fallout from the sin of others.
And sometimes they have been the ones to injure others.

The challenge for us as a ministry is to seek the Lord daily for wisdom in helping these children "unlearn" the imprinted habits in their minds and focus on living lives that please God rather than self.

Ironically, it's the same challenge we face on a personal level every day. Even as long-time followers of Christ who are educated in His word and know how He calls us to live. 

We, as missionaries, are not immune to the effects of this broken world. Much to the contrary, we often feel like weary soldiers trudging uphill with a very heavy pack at the end of a day of fighting. 

We are attacked from inside and outside.  And sometimes we lash back. Sometimes we fail at loving like Jesus.  But when we succeed, we give Him the credit.   He works in us as He sees fit.

And in the first sentence of this post, I typed the phrase "there was nothing mankind could do to help itself."  That sounds awfully hopeless.  But here is where what appears to be bad news is actually good news. The best. 

No, we can not free ourselves from the bondage of sin. We can not free other people. We can not stop the cycle of sin in the lives of the children we serve. 

BUT JESUS CAN. AND HE DID. AND HE WILL. 

The only hope for any of us, on any side of the social justice equation in this sin-sick world is Jesus Christ. Only He can forgive. Only He can restore. Only He can make us whole and fill those empty places in us that we seek to fill with lesser things. 

In the light of these truths. We are all on an equal playing field. Pope and missionary and street child and perpetrator.  We all need Jesus. 

Do you know His forgiveness? Have you been restored? Are you seeking to fill your life with lesser things and wondering why they never satisfy?  Only He can truly satisfy your soul.

Sometimes I make the mistake of believing this blog is only read by Believers, firm in their faith. But it dawned on me that I have not shared the gut, core, baseline reason for the work we do here. 

It is all about Jesus. His rescue of us from our own sin. His ongoing sanctification of us. His patient forgiveness of our blatant rebellion. His sacrifice that fills us with the hope that we can turn and offer to others. 

So, precious reader, if you have any questions about your own place with Him. About your position as forgiven, unforgiven, unrepentant or made new, please PLEASE reach out to someone you know as a trustworthy follower of Christ. Or email us (nikki@mercyhouseph.org) and ask those questions that have plaguing you about your own salvation.   

He loves you.  

"And THIS is love, not that we love God but that He loved us and sent His son as a payment for our sins".   1 John 4:10 




Tuesday, January 24, 2017

When The Door Closes

The child in the photo above is barely six years old.  I did not know him then. He was a neglected child who lived in a cemetery with his drug-addicted parents.  His father was eventually put in jail and his mother did unthinkable things to survive.

And then, a shelter opened in his town. This shelter catered to street children, shared Jesus with the kids, fed them, loved them and helped them to have a life very different from their lives on the street.

 Then something happened.

The shelter had to close. 
We have no idea why this vital, one-of-a-kind place in a town where there are many street children and few resources for them had to  close but it closed.  And that precious little five year old who was just turning six found himself back in the cemetery. With a mother who could not mother him.

He was on his own.

For three years, from six until nine years old, this little boy was abused on the streets. He was taught a skill that brought much money but robbed him of his human dignity and his identity as a little boy.   
He was broken again and again. 

And in order to separate himself from what he was engaged in, and to assuage the pain of the life he was living, he turned to solvent and marijuana and other vices. 

By the time we met him, he was nine years old.  Those pretty white baby teeth were replaced by decayed adult teeth.  Those sparkly child eyes were hollow as he sat in the local government office waiting to be brought into our shelter.  When we walked toward the bench where he was sitting, we observed that he was too high to hold his head up straight.  His eyes would not focus or fully open.

Our pre-admission counseling was going to be completely useless at this point, we realized. This child could hardly gather his thoughts to simply answer the questions "what is your name?" or "how old are you?".  

And against our general policy, where we have to see WILLINGNESS on the part of a street child to be admitted, we admitted him. The government social workers pleaded with us. This child was in terrible condition and they wanted very much to see him helped. They knew him and cared about his life. They tried many times to find a shelter willing to take this boy and came up empty. 
ADMISSION DAY




On admission day, this child said very little.  Even as the drugs wore off and he began to process what was happening, he was resigned.
He came to us without shoes, in filthy clothes wearing shorts that were split up the middle.  So our social worker and her husband took him, first to their own home for a shower and when our social worker's sister-in-law saw this child, her heart was so touched that she gave him the flip flops right off her own feet. A nice pair. 
This young man was then taken to a nearby shop to buy shorts and a t-shirt. When a slice of pizza was ordered for him and he sat at the table with Mercy House staff, he began to cry.   Our social worker was worried that he was feeling anxiety about coming into shelter but when she asked him what was wrong, all he could muster was "I'm just happy". 






This child has a unique and hard story. It is harder than that of most of the children we serve. It is scary in some ways to admit a child with this kind of background. It has stretched us and required specialized training for our staff and extra vigilance.  And he is worth it. All of that and more.  This child's life has driven us to the feet of God in prayer and made the phrase "give me wisdom" my own opening and closing sentence.
But it has also energized us and renewed our commitment to street boys,  The three years between the closing of the former shelter and the admission to ours were devastating for this boy.  If we did not trust in the power of the God of Universe to redeem lives, we would say this child's prognosis is grim and his future dark. 

But we DO trust. And we know that amid a broken and depraved world where adults use children and people often do what appeals to the blackest places in them, a light shines.

John 1:4 says "In HIM (Jesus)  was life and that life was the light of man"

It is with eager expectation we wait to see what plans the Lord has for us in the life of this child. He is prayed for, he is receiving counseling, he is fed and clothed and is learning to read for the first time ever.  He goes to a school program that is catered to his situation. 

And, just as with every blog post or newsletter, we share all of this as a segue to one massive prayer request.

Please pray that we are NEVER that shelter that has to close down.  It can happen. We have seen it. It happens for any number of reasons. We pray it doesn't ever happen to us.  We know it could. That is just the reality of this type of ministry. 

Please pray with us that we can see this child, and all of our children, through to the culmination of God's great plan for their lives.

Is it adoption? Family reunification? Independent living with us until they are self-sustaining adults?

Only the Lord knows those answers. 

Please pray that we are found faithful.

Let there never be another "three years of damage" while a child waits for another shelter to come along. Let us be there, Lord, to catch them when they fall. 



Thank you to our prayer warriors and supporters. This is what YOU do. Thank you for caring
about "the least of these".  Matthew 25:40



 -Mercy House












Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Harvest


"Then Jesus said to His disciples 'The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few', therefore pray earnestly that the Lord of the Harvest will send out laborers into the harvest".
Matthew 9:37-38


It was only two days ago that my social worker and I walked upon this scene. Eight or nine boys between the ages of nine and fourteen, asleep on an overpass with traffic whizzing by below them. 
It was 10am. The boys were sleeping so soundly, thanks to a night of using solvent, that they didn't hear our voices around them. Or the traffic. Or anything.  
We began to shake them gently and say "gising na, kuya" (loosely: "wake up, guys") to each of them.
Some awoke with startled eyes as they saw me, a foreigner, standing there. Others fixed their gazes on the city social worker, whom they had met many times in the past and were leery of.  Several looked at my own social worker as she assured them that nobody was here to hurt them or take them anywhere they don't want to go. 
All of the boys sat up eventually, and huddled close together.
One younger child tried to get up and run and a male worker from the city who was accompanying us grabbed him as the child flailed around in terror. 
I asked the man to please let the child go.  I was afraid he would jump from the bridge into traffic. 
He released his hold and the child ran as fast as he could AWAY from the place he had been soundly sleeping just moments before. 
And my eyes were drawn, as they always are. To the feet of the children sitting before me.

A true street child can always be identified by his feet. There is a level of "dirty" that a child who has a place to go home to every night just can not achieve. I knew these boys were not ones who went home often, if ever.  I knew they were the ones we were sent to serve.  

These young men listened intently as my social worker explained to them that we were invited to come to meet them by the city social welfare office. We told them that the staff there was worried about them growing up on the street and wanted to help them find a new way of life and a safe place to be.  The boys were clearly skeptical at first. We told them we have a shelter where they could eat three times a day, go to school and church, have clean clothes and stop taking care of themselves and worrying about being hurt. One of the young boys said "I'll go" before we even finished our introduction.  His name is Rico and he was overtly ready to get off the street. 
Just a week before this visit, we admitted a friend of these boys. His name is Dreamboy (yes, given name) and he was exactly where they were, just one week prior to this encounter.
This is Dreamboy on admission day.  This is how the boys on the overpass know him. He came with us to visit his friends. 
The boys were clearly impressed with the outward changes in their friend. His cleanliness, his "real" shoes - the obvious improvements that came from just getting off the street.
Dreamboy was treated to a wonderful brunch by the city social workers on our return visit. They, too, were so relieved and impressed with the "new him". 
But what is harder to convey, are the changes that are happening inside a child when he goes from street to shelter. His confidence, the way he reverts back to being a young child again, the way he seeks affection from adults almost instantaneously.  And for these boys on the overpass to understand any of that, they would need to trust us enough to come and see for themselves.

And FIVE of them did!

Five boys from the overpass piled into our Mercy House truck and came with us for lunch and counseling.  Some were clearly hesitant while others were plainly giddy.  
As we finished our counseling and prepared to organize the paperwork with the city, the city social worker came to our van with some bad news.  One of the boys would not be able to come to Mercy House.  He was an older boy, 14 years old, and he was from a neighboring city. The social worker who was helping us had not been able to notify the city of origin that the child would be moved. Without their acknowledgment,  we could not move the child.  We had to wait.  
The disappointment on the child's face was crushing as she told him he had to get out of our truck and stay in the street a little longer while permission was obtained. We were devastated. But not as much as he was. 
In solidarity, two of the other older boys decided to stay with him and "look out for him". So they, too, left our truck, with solemn faces,  and we were left with two boys. 
We tried everything we could think of to bypass the city of origin, to plead with their secretary to help us and to get the helpful city social worker to be the one to authorize the admission. But in the end, because child trafficking is so rampant here, we had to wait. 
And so the two boys in the picture above, Rico and Kaking, were the two who came with us and became the newest members of our Mercy House family, just two days ago. 
These two twelve-year-old children have lived on the street for years. They have engaged in crime and substance abuse, like most of the children we serve.  But upon admission to Mercy House, all they wanted to do was color in coloring books and play with Legos!
Seeing redemptive work right before your eyes NEVER loses it's appeal. It is hard and draining work. The children are extremely hyperactive. They have terrible manners. They don't know how to "be" inside of a home with functioning family member.
But they are HERE. They are not sleeping one more night in a dirty overpass that smells like a  gas station bathroom.  They aren't begging for one more bite of food from anyone.  

They are here. 

And just yesterday, friends from Children's Garden, a shelter for older street boys, returned to the overpass and admitted three more of the friends we met there. In just two days, FIVE children were rescued from the street and given the chance of a lifetime - a LIFE beyond the struggles of the street.

Please pray for us as we serve these children and make plans to return to their city to meet others.
Please pray for God to send us TWO new caregivers who understand what a street child needs.
Please pray for Him to send us more "laborers".

Because this HARVEST is way too plentiful.  How we wish it wasn't. 
And the workers are SO SO FEW. 

Thank you for reading and praying and caring and giving.

Your part in this rescue, if you are doing any or all of those things, is massive. 

So, thank you!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Who Cares?



In 2013, my family sold all our stuff in America to embark on a life in The Philippines, the country of my husband's birth.
That life was to be  committed to serving children in orphanages who have visual impairments or blindness.
We had an organization of sorts, that committed to helping us raise our support. We had some money of our own to help us get started and we had a good working knowledge of the country's orphanage system as we had already adopted from The Philippines four times prior to our "big move".
But we were not prepared.
We were not prepared for the ministry God had already expertly carved out for us. And it was not with visually-impaired children.  It was the most unlikely, under-served, cast-aside group  that we have since come to love with all of our beings.

STREET BOYS

We were led into this ministry in the most unusual way.  Every Saturday, we would drive to the orphanages where we were already serving a child or two, pick up the children and bring them to our home for a day of classes that included academic tutoring, Bible study, a healthy meal, art and physical education.  Many Saturdays, after the long drive, we would stop at McDonald's for a treat after the last child was dropped back off at his orphanage. At McDonald's, we noticed many dirty, loud, seemingly "high" boys in the parking lot begging or helping to park cars (guiding them and expecting a few pesos in return).  One day, my husband invited three of them inside for lunch. One was a much older boy living as a girl. He was wearing very short shorts, a little bit of makeup and jewelry clearly intended for a female. He was with two younger boys.  Not only did we invite them in, we talked to them about their lives. We asked where they slept and how they made the money they needed to buy food.  They were very open with us. Shockingly open.
Open enough to break my heart in a million pieces and make me wish I had a shelter to invite them into on the spot.


That was very naive thinking on my part. I now know you can't just walk around inviting children off the street to come and live in a shelter but, at that time, I just felt a fire light in my heart for these boys. And that fire didn't die. It only grew as we passed more and more street children and began to really NOTICE them. It exploded in me as we visited a government shelter that rounds up these children periodically. We started to look for them everywhere we went.  We began to talk to them. Buy their lunch. Ask about their hopes and dreams for the future. Ask what they wanted to be when they grew up.
The saddest revelation of all . . . not one of the children we asked could come up with a single thing he wanted to BE.
Ask any American child what he wants to be when he grows up. You will get answers like "a doctor", "an astronaut" or "a ballerina".  They have a dreams. Goals.
Ask a Filipino street child and you get stared at like you have three heads!
Who has time to think about what he wants to BE with a first-grade education and what-will-I-eat-today on the brain?
Now, ask that same child how much he can cash in a kilo of scrap metal or plastic for and you'll have a conversation! Ask him which restaurants give out their leftovers at the end of the day and, watch him brighten up!
For us, that was  just unacceptable. For us as parents, as Believers in Jesus Christ and simply as human beings, the life these boys were living was not okay.
So, we contacted our local Department Of Social Welfare and Development to find out what we needed to do in order to open our own shelter for street children. We contacted our initial sending organization and shared our passion with them for these street boys and were informed we'd need to part ways. And it was with much stress and some fear that Mercy House was born.

One of the biggest discouragements as we set off to reach these boys came from a well-meaning friend who is very wise in terms of fund raising. We knew we would have to raise our own funds as we no longer had a sending organization. This friend said to us "it's easy to fund raise if you have babies and girls in your care. People love to donate to babies and girls. But older boys? It's going to be an uphill battle."

I believed her.

She has experience in this arena.  I felt like we were doomed but, as long as our own initial funds held up, maybe we could help a few street boys turn their lives around, expose them to the gospel and do a little "good" before we had to go back to the US, tails between our legs, and start our lives over.

 Because WHO CARES about street boys? They are dirty, rude, spend their days bugging local vendors, sniffing solvent from plastic bottles to get high, committing theft and vandalism, peeing in public, cursing at each other loudly while patrons try to enter and exit stores and restaurants.
They have often been put into government shelters (from which they run away at first opportunity), been involved in sexual crimes - either as victims or perpetrators, and been rejected again and again by their families and then by the public that surrounds them. There is a nickname for them here that translates to "fog boys" because they just hang around pointlessly.
They are an annoyance here as you can't stop at a stop light without some of them washing your car windows and expecting payment, whether you wanted your windows washed or not.
So, WHO CARES about boys like this? They aren't little anymore. They should take responsibility for their own choices!  Maybe they LIKE living on the street!
Who cares?  God cares.  He loves these boys. He made them for a purpose. He gave them life and has a plan for them.   They may not be tiny, helpless babies but they are just children in so many ways.
When we bring them into our center, we get to see, up close and personal, how they shift from "thug" to "child" in a very short time.
We get to watch a miracle each time a street boy comes in and begins to submit to our authority, come to us for help, let us meet his needs, TRUST us to be kind and take care of him! We are privileged to watch their disbelief and then understanding as we teach them that God loves them and that their lives can be a testimony of redemption.  That they were made with a PURPOSE.
Three years into this ministry. It still hasn't gotten "old".  We are revived with each new admission.
We are astounded every time a child, who has been his own "boss" for so long, accepts discipline and correction without running away or lashing back.   We are humbled when one of them expresses a desire to have his sins forgiven and start a new life as a follower of Jesus.
And getting to baptize a child whom we once fed on the street!!! There are few joys that compare!

We have found, underneath all the problems and poor adult choices and petty crimes, lies a precious child who longs to redeem some lost years. He wants to play with action figures, draw and paint, be tucked in at night, have his cuts and scrapes bandaged and just be a child.
So, if you live where they do, and  you see a street boy, take a minute. Talk to him. Ask him what he wants to be. Ask him why he's working instead of going to school. You will definitely be surprised at HIS surprise.

Because people usually don't. They just keep moving. It's only "fog".