Monday, March 24, 2014

Street Kids and a Mommy's Heart

For almost a month now, I have had the distinct privilege of being a "mommy" to  a bunch of children who used to live on the streets.
As I get to know them, I truly can not believe they ever begged, dug in the trash for food, sniffed "rugby" from plastic bags and bottles or slept in public places in the day time while wandering most of the night.
They are CHILDREN just like yours and mine.  

Haircut Day for Mercy House! 

 They love to do many of the same things other kids their ages love to do.  They want to be outside playing ball, coloring with sidewalk chalk, trying their luck on the skateboard or roller blades or inside coloring and watching cartoons.

But they have borne heavy burdens in their young lives and there are scars.
The children, in the first few days of coming into Mercy House,  showed us what the heart of an uncared-for child  looks like,up close.
                                                                  And it was a bumpy transition.

They fought and argued with one another over EVERYTHING from who got the "red cup" to who took the first shower.  They had absolutely no idea how to play with toys.  They simply hoarded, sat on and hid the things they liked and did not play but protected the items fiercely.
They over ate at every meal.
They stood stiffly when hugged and did not come to us for affection or help with anything.

One of our boys, who has a history of using inhalants to get high had a very challenging experience when our handymen were here. One of them brought with him "vulcaseal", the very item our boy used to inhale to get high when he was living on the streets.  One of our older sons saw this young boy staring at the can of vulcaseal and said to him  "what are you staring at?". 
Our new boy began to cry hysterically and say in his language, "I don't want any!  I wasn't going to get any!" over and over as he ran to the other side of the yard, sunk down and sobbed.
I did not understand his reaction then and, to be honest, I don't understand it now.
Most of the kids who inhale "rugby" here do it because the high over rides the hunger pains. 
Maybe our boy was just having a flashback to what it was like to be hungry. Maybe he was missing the streets. Maybe he was thinking of the friends and siblings he left behind from those days.  We may never know.  He didn't want to say. And that's alright.

Just this week, this very boy has started to open up.  He shared with me some of what he endured on the streets. He talked about the abuse his sister suffered at the hands of a drunk relative- abuse that he witnessed.
He has started to hug me first.
He let me hold him when he was crying and he came to me with a scraped foot! 

And I am trying to figure out how to draw lines and boundaries with these children.  Our hope for all of them is that there is a capable, loving relative who can care for them in the future.  We are meant to be more permanent than the shelter where the police bring the children but still temporary.   If they are declared legally abandoned in court and then become available for adoption, we will work with a partner agency that is licensed to place. 

Two of the children at Mercy House have started to call us "Mommy" and "Daddy".  I know, this is not good.  I didn't like the idea of any of my adopted children calling their former caregivers those names.  I should correct these two.  But they hear my other children calling us these names and I feel cruel saying they are not allowed to do the same.  But it seems confusing to let them.

What if nobody ever comes for them . . . ?  
What if somebody does . . . ?

But my mother's heart is struggling not to make promises or declarations.

I love these kids.  Is it okay to tell them that?   I hope so.  I already did.

Zeke and Ky with 5 of the MH kids

But in all of the learning and wondering and the throes of the daily schedule - which goes from slightly crazy to all-out chaos to a few minutes of peace toward the end of the day, I have to ask myself that t-shirt worn cliche
"what would Jesus do?".

Then it becomes more clear. 
He would love with reckless abandon.  He would say "I love you" to the hurting child. He already has and He's using me to do it, too. 
He would let them call Him "daddy".  Because we already do.  And we have earthly fathers and there's no confusion there as to who is whom.  He would assure them that they are safe in His care.  We know WE are.   He would remind them how beautiful and valuable and pleasing they are to Him, even when they stray.  He tells me that in His word.

So I pray my Mother's Heart for the street child is in keeping with His heart for me.  As flawed and imperfect as I am, I am asking Him to love the street child through us.  To show us what that looks like on a practical, day-to-day level and to keep the boundaries in place.

We are learning but this is no pilot program.

These are lives, real and precious.

Lord, make us your hands and feet and keep us from doing any harm.

For YOUR great fame.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

"You Can't Save Them All"

How well I remember it.   My husband and I were living in The States together with our three children.  We were preparing to adopt a fourth child from a very sad circumstance - a disrupted adoption. 
 When we shared this news with our immediate family, one member  said "we're very proud of you but just remember, you can't save them all".   
At first, I felt a little indignant at that remark.  It stung.  I took it personally and felt the speaker was accusing me of having a "super hero" complex. 
But I understand that statement much better now, thanks to the little boy in this picture. 

This child came to live with us at Mercy House just two days ago.  He is no longer here.
When we met him two weeks ago at his shelter, he was burning up with fever, listless, painfully thin and only semi-conscious. I was so afraid he would be dead before we could get our paperwork in order to admit him.
But he lived.  And got over the fever. And has started to walk.
He is five years old.  And diapered.
We began to fear we had made a mistake in admitting him within just an hour of having him in our home.  He tried to eat paper, toys, the fur he puled from our dog, banana peels from the garbage - anything in arm's reach.
He pulled all the items from our shelves and tried to pull the television over on himself.
He had seizures that we were unaware of.
This child needed his own caregiver 24/7.  He could not be allowed to walk around our home.
He bit me and drew blood.
(This next sentence is NOT for the squeamish - you are being warned).
He reached inside of his dirty diaper TWICE and proceeded to eat the contents with great gusto.
All of this done in complete SILENCE with no eye contact and no response to his name or any stimuli.
This child was in such peril!
His cheeks  were covered with bruises and his body with scars, many round scars that resemble cigarette burns.
His arms and legs were stick thin and his belly distended.

It was with great sadness and a decent amount of defeat that we had to call his referring agency and inform them we were not equipped to keep him and the other children safe.

Being bitten by a child who eats his own feces is a terrifying experience.  I now know this firsthand and pray I never experience it again. SIDENOTE: Do not "google" anything related to human bites unless you want nightmares.  END SIDE NOTE.

In fairness to the referring agency, we ASKED for this child.  The last time we saw him, he appeared to be dying of an untreated illness. We intended to get him to hospital right away. His file says nothing of seizures, pica or the other behaviors we witnessed.

He was on the streets with an older sibling and I have no idea how this child did not get hit by a car or fall into some deep ravine. He has no safety mechanisms.

So, yes, we took him back yesterday.  He did not seem to notice or care. He is in a place much safer for him, with plain rooms empty of all but a few beds and mattresses.  He has a teenage caregiver assigned to him 24/7.  He sleeps beside her. She feeds him. She was very happy to see him return.
But we care.
Now we must care for him from a distance.
We will buy him "onesies" and pull-on pants so he can not access his diaper easily.
We will take some teething rings and baby toys to him next week so he can, hopefully, bite those items instead of people.
We will pray for this boy, and the sweet girl who cares for him.
The cruelty of poverty, homelessness and lack is manifest in this situation in countless ways.

We will remember the words that once stung and now rang true.
You can't save them all . . .

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


Dear Friends, Family, Readers, Loved Ones, Donors to Our Mission and Curious Bystanders,

If you have been a friend, cyber or otherwise, for any length of time, you know that our family made an enormous move nine months ago. That move took us from Holly Springs, North Carolina - place we loved and felt so safe and secure, to Silang, Cavite Philippines - relatively unknown in every aspect for us.

We came here with a sending organization called "The Bartimaeus Project". This project is focused on serving children with blindness and visual impairments who live in orphanages here, in The Philippines.

We have taken children to eye appointments, purchased eye glasses, conducted weekly classes in our center and sponsored a life-changing surgery for a child.  We have loved being a part of those things.

There have, of course, been struggles. We are not finding many children in orphanages with blindness or visual impairment. Most orphanages don't accept them. So we opened up our service model to include some children with additional special needs - cerebral palsy, down syndrome, general learning disabilities and other issues.

Every day, as we drive to  serve the children in orphanages, we are struck with the same burning question.
We are doing work we enjoy but . . . let me put it this way . . .
have you ever had an itch in that "chicken wing" area of your back? You can scratch "around" it but you have trouble hitting the exact spot?  When you finally hit it . . . OH THE RELIEF!!!

Well, a friend took me to a shelter for street kids a month ago. Young kids, aged 5-14. Kids who milled around in a room with little to do.  I asked about the plan for these children. I was informed that if a more permanent place existed, they could go there. They are not being educated, tucked in at night, loved on or truly invested in. They are in a "holding pattern" - in the throes of being completely abandoned.  They are in limbo of the worst sort. We were undone upon meeting them.

WE FOUND THE ITCH and now we're going to scratch it!

Effective today, we will be opening our own orphanage/shelter for children in crisis.
We will no longer be serving under The Bartimaeus Project.

There are no ill feelings between us and the BP.  We know that they are doing good work and handling all donations with the utmost care and wisdom.   We know the board members are genuine in their love for the Lord and their desire to do right by orphans with blindness and visual impairments.

We also know we have to meet the needs in front of us that are the most pressing.
We are confronted daily with the plight of children with no place to call "home" and no consistent food, support, spiritual guidance  or family structure. 
So, with some sadness and immeasurable excitement, we share with you that we are starting our own orphanage/ shelter!
We are hiring a full time social worker.
We have taken children in already (details in a later post)
We are almost finished with our our Social Work Development Agency application
We even have an operations manual
We are stepping out in faith

This is even scarier than selling all of our "stuff" and moving out here because we are doing this without a board of directors. We are investing the last of what we have to shelter children who, currently, are at immense risk of harm, abuse and exploitation.

This is a childhood dream-come-true for me!  Ask my mother.  Many of my Barbie games growing up centered around Barbie and Ken taking care of 15 children! I believe God put this type of love in my heart as a child and it has taken me years to soften up and allow Him to cultivate it to this point.


To join us in funding care for these children, log on to , make your donation via check or online and listen to THIS:  American Helper retains only 1% of donations made through them and 99% comes DIRECTLY TO US IN THE FIELD!!!! We donated through American Helper regularly before our move to The Philippines. They fund Children's Garden, the home that lovingly provided for our precious Ariel before he was ours. We know the people handling the funding and they are people of integrity. We knew our donations went right to CG because we were thanked within just a few days of donating, most of the time.
This is such a welcome change for us in ministry.  Something we needed. 

If you choose to support us financially in the endeavor, please make a note on your check or your online giving that says "ESQUIVEL FAMILY" -- and 99% will come to us and the children at Mercy House.

Now, more than ever, we need your prayer support.  We will be sending regular newsletters so if you are interested in receiving them, please send an email to:  We can share a lot more in an online newsletter than we can on social media - including pictures and write ups on the children in our care. You'll want to meet them!

Stay tuned! Buckle up! Come and see what the Lord will do! I can't wait!!!!!!!!!!