our work

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. 


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. 

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.


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".

Monday, August 22, 2016

HE'S BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!

The title I wanted so so very badly to be able to share for my next blog post is, in fact, the title of THIS blog post!  Arjay is back at Mercy House!  I know some of you precious readers prayed with us for this very thing. For you, I am abundantly grateful.

And here is how it all went down . . .
Three nights ago, I received an urgent text from Arjay's father.  He lives and works far from the rest of the family and his text was begging us to go pick up Arjay from the family home and bring him into Mercy House. Arjay had been fighting with his mother, calling her awful names, pushing her in the heat of anger and threatening the other children in the family.
The mother packed up four of her other children and left the home, leaving Arjay there alone.

We texted the mother and father back and forth and agreed to go  and counsel with Arjay.  We informed the parents that we are not a jail and if he refuses to come into shelter, we will leave him right where we found him. We don't "snatch" kids off the street. Ever.

The following day, my social worker went to the home and nobody was there. She searched the "normal" places the street kids congregate and, no Arjay.  So she came back feeling a little defeated.

Today, we decided to go together back to the family home and have one last counseling session with Arjay if we could find him and with his mother if we could not. After that, his case would be closed for us unless the city task force rounded him up and called us to fetch him.

As we got nearer to the shanty where Arjay's family lives, we could see it was empty.  But right out front stood Arjay!!!! He came running when we called him. He was absolutely filthy.
He told us he has been sleeping in the back of a truck at the gas station because he's scared to be home alone and he's been parking cars for money in the evenings.

Until last night.

He got into an argument with an older street boy last night and that boy tried to stab him!  Arjay ran, terrified, to the Barangay Hall and they took a report from him.  They also informed him that if he continues to live as a street child, he will eventually be killed or jailed.

And then we came . . .
We knew from the look of him that he has not been faring well. He is covered in infected bug bites. He has lost weight. He is much more subdued than we have ever seen him.
But sitting in the back of our white "Mercy House" truck, he confessed that he misses all of us and he really and truly wants to come back. 

That's all we needed to hear!
He shared with us that he had not eaten in awhile and we took him right to McDonald's. After eating, we brought him back to Mercy House with us.
We counseled with all of the kids, reminding them that everyone needs second chances.

And now, he's here.
We have no idea what the Lord will have us do and for how long but we are praying for clear guidance and that we will be able to serve this child in every way that he needs.

What a privilege to get to pick up where we left off.
What a gift!

Don't stop praying for this boy. When God puts a child this heavily on our hearts and troubles us about him long after he's gone, we can be pretty sure that he has a BIG purpose.

So, it is with GREAT joy, gratitude to the Lord, and a little bit of "pinching myself" that I type these words just one more time . . . HE'S BACK!

He cleans up well

Thursday, July 28, 2016

A God of Second Chances . . . And Third, And Fourth and More

If you read the blog post right before this one. You already know Arjay. You know how he came into care at our center and that he was a MAJOR behavior challenge.  You know that he was reunited with a relative who truly wanted to help him and seemed very prepared to handle his high energy and behaviors.

What you don't know is this . . .
after just ONE WEEK with his relative, Arjay ran away.  He went right back to the street.

We were with a visiting medical team at a local pharmacy. I was crossing the street to enter the pharmacy and skipping down the street right in front of me is a very dirty, shoeless, orange-haired street boy.  It was, of course, Arjay!   I called to him and he smiled the most genuine smile and came running toward me.  I wrapped him up in a tight hug and said "I miss you so much" in Tagalog.

I asked him to please come over to the car so Daddy Anthony could talk to him. He hesitated and looked a little fearful - worried he would be scolded for being back in the street.

He wasn't.

We talked to him about the reasons he left his relative's home. We asked what he was doing with his days. We reminded him that he could easily be picked up by the city's task force and placed into a shelter for youth in conflict with the law - a VERY rough place with much older boys and a lot of victimization. 

And then we asked the question that all of this chit-chat was heading toward

"Do you want to come back to Mercy House or stay in the street?"

He thought for awhile, mentioned not wanting to leave his friend who will be alone in the street without him and he said "the street".  
My heart broke a little. I know what awaits him out there. There are dangers he has yet to experience but probably will - assault by police, older men, drug addicts, being robbed or used in awful ways.

But we don't force any child into care. So I kissed him and told him I loved him and he skipped away.

In the two months between that day and today, I prayed often for this child. He never left my heart or mind.  I need more time with him . . .

So, yesterday, my social worker and I paid a visit to his mother to bring her some vitamins for her children. We planned to ask her if she had seen Arjay and if she knows where he is. 

We approached the home and who answered the makeshift door? Arjay himself! 

His big smile revealed how happy he was to see us.  Little did he know, I was probably a thousand times happier to see him.
His mother informed us he had just come home the day before in the middle of the night after being on the streets in Manila. 
She also indicated she does NOT want him there. She has to feed him, and discipline him, and she is too burdened to do either very well.

The Family Home

We offered to have him back at Mercy House. His mother tried very hard to encourage him to go. 
He told us he DOES want to go to school (did I mention he's EXTREMELY smart?), he told us he misses everyone at Mercy House. He kept making eye contact and looking away. Again and again.

But in the end, he was unsure about whether he wanted to come back so we discouraged him from coming.  We told him that he is welcome anytime and that if he showed up outside our gate, he would welcomed. 
But we also told him that he needs to be SURE.  No doubt about getting off the street. No "maybe" or "next time" or "probably".
So, the only thing we can do is pray and wait.
And ask YOU to pray.
Please pray for Arjay to come back.
He knows he is loved and wanted here.  But he also knows there are rules and a bed time and chores and accountability. All things he hates and does not have to contend with in the street. 

Freedom now or a future later? 

That is the burden of choice placed on the shoulders of a 12 year old who has neither the insight nor the maturity to make it. 

We covet your prayers. What a joy it will be if the next blog post I write bears the title "He's Back".

We don't give up easily. We pursue. We forgive. We love hard and overlook offenses.

After all. They are still just children  .   .   .

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Never Enough

Admission Day

 April 19, 2016. The local government in our new town contacted Mercy House seeking help for placement of a 12 year old child who had been on and off the streets for FOUR years. Do the math . . ... FOUR YEARS. That means he began to live the life of a beggar, scavenger, self-protective, "look out for number one" child at the age of eight. Eight . . .

He was so guarded when he came to the center for the first day. He had tears in his eyes but would not let them fall.
The other children tried to welcome him and offer him clothing from their own closets since we live far from the market now, didn't know he was staying and needed a little time before shopping.
He refused the clothing. He tried to fist fight with the biggest resident we have.

On the first day.

He needed to establish himself as "top dog" so he would not be hurt or taken advantage of.
He wouldn't look in our eyes when spoken to.  He would not come when called.  He wanted nothing to do with us.  He asked our caregiver how he might get back to the place where he was in the street. He asked if there was a jeep or a bus from Mercy House to the street. 

We informed him that there is no bus or jeep but, as we tell all the children, we are not a jail. If he would please just stay for one week and if he is still unhappy at the end of a week, we will take him wherever he wants to go within reason.  He agreed.

By the end of the third day, he was coming when called. He gave a few reluctant hugs and started to obey us when we asked him to tend to his personal hygiene.  His resistance was wearing out.

By day five, we asked him if he would like to have a visit to his family home and be a part of some counseling and planning for his new, better, brighter future. 
He agreed to go.
His "home" when he was not in the street

This is the home he led us to. Inside was a mother ready to give birth any day, a grandmother and many young siblings.  We talked and prayed with them and left feeling pretty hopeless. The needs were OVERWHELMING and the notion that this child could ever return here was dismissed. He was not wanted or tolerated. He had caused too much trouble and the family was exhausted.

We Understood.

We expected this child would live with us while we started the long road to either family reunification or adoption. We planned for his school enrollment, had his medical check up completed, fashioned a nice bed, purchased clothing and shoes and prepared for a minimum 2-year stay with us.

And that was fine. It's what we do.

Although this child proved to be one of our more challenging in regard to behavior, and seemed to have little desire to change, we continued to include him in every aspect of life at Mercy House- chores, tutoring, church, devotions - and he made all of those things a LOT harder than they had been prior to his arrival.

And then "Auntie Andrea" arrived from the US.  He liked her immediately. He wanted to sit by her and hold her hand. He showed more affections to her than he had to any of us up to that point. 
Thankfully, she allowed it. And even MORE thankfully, she bought him his very own Tagalog Bible.

We discovered he is an excellent reader!

Auntie Andrea went back to the US and he missed her. But he continued to read the Bible she gave him. He asked us to help him find John 3:16 and Romans 8:28 and Matthew 25:40. This child who seemed to NEVER be listening and rarely to be engaged in his environment was like a sponge, soaking it all in and keeping it in his own quiet way.

And we saw changes in him that we now recognize as a child starting to understand he is loved by God and created for a purpose.
Just a month into his stay with us, the "big boys" of Mercy House were invited to go to a Christian camp a few hours from our center.  He attended.  He came back very excited about the things he had learned. He told us he wanted to follow Jesus and have a life that is committed to him.

We were thrilled. 

Generally, "Daddy Anthony" will counsel with children who are expressing their desire to follow Jesus. We want to be so careful. No "easy believeism"!  We want to make sure they understand what they are expressing and that they are discipled. We want them to know what blessings are bestowed on them at the time of salvation and what the cost of obedience amounts to. 

Before we could have that conversation with this child, we were informed that a relative came forward who knew little of the severity of this child's situation and when she found out, wanted  to assume responsibility for him!

We were happy.
And sad.

This is what we DO. It's our greatest joy when  a child can be united with biological family and raised in his own country and culture. Yes, we love adoption. But it's not "first choice".  

Our hearts were both joyful and heavy as we met together with the biological relatives, local government representatives and realized this family was serious, committed and understood the needs of this child.  I never knew you could have joy and sadness at the same time until beginning this work.

You can.

Our Last Day

So, yesterday, we said "goodbye" to this precious treasure of a boy and entrusted him to his biological relatives. But more than that, we entrusted him to his Creator who still has that plan and  purpose for this life.

But, for me, it just wasn't enough.  Not enough time with this child. Not enough discipleship. Not enough training in manners and study habits and how to be respectful to others.

He wasn't "done" yet. 

I wasn't done yet.

But God, in His infinite wisdom, placed this child in our care for just one month and eight days.

For me, never enough.
For our Heavenly Father, who could do all of this without our help, no doubt, it was
Please pray for this child and a successful upbringing in the care of his relatives.
Please pray they are humble enough to call us if they need us.
We begged them to.
Part of me hopes they do. The selfish part who really loved getting to watch this boy change and grow. 
Now that I know this boy, I can not imagine him wasting his potential in the street when he is brimming with possibilities.

As always, thank you for supporting our work at Mercy House so we can be here when called upon in situations like this.
Without YOU, praying and giving and keeping us encouraged by reaching out, we're done.

To financially support our work at Mercy House, please click the link below:
Mercy House 

Or log on to: www.mercyhouseph.org under "donate"