I have a dilemma. It has come unexpectedly although should have been anticipated from the inception of our residential care ministry to
street children here, in The Philippines.
I am a mother. It's my calling and my joy.
Our ministry center is a nice-sized family home with four large bedrooms. Staff quarters is downstairs (a 2-room master shared by me, my husband and our two youngest children) and two big bedrooms upstairs. One is for the girls and one is for the boys.
We have always conceived that our ministry would run as a family home. We dreamed of these disenfranchised street children getting the experience a "regular, nuclear family". And they do. With one exception.
I love the children in our care. Some more than others because I am human. There is one I would love to keep forever. For no other reason than "I just want to". He's not particularly well behaved. He has done nothing to earn the favoritism. He's just a beautiful boy with a shattered family unit.
My missionary heart is helping him to be prepared for an adoptive family someday. My mother's heart wants to "lose" his documents and keep him.
I have been warned by my husband that the love I shower on this child might make it harder for him to bond with his new family when that time comes. And he's probably right. But something in my heart of hearts just simply can not keep this child at arm's length. He has never ever EVER had a mom of his own. He is ravenous for mother love. He fakes illnesses or injuries and steals glances at me to see if I'm coming to his aid. He draws piles of pictures of his "family" (which always includes me, my husband and our youngest child) and puts himself right in the center. He copies our youngest child (using sign language even though he can talk, folding his arms and shaking his head "no" when he doesn't want something) and it is not in a mean way. It is a blatant attempt just to be like him. Maybe to learn the trick to being utterly adored?
And he knows the facts. He has been counseled, more than once, that Mercy House is not his "forever home" - that we are all in prayer that God will bring him his OWN parents and his OWN forever family. He always says "no. I'm staying here with you" and points to me.
As "nature took it's course", there was not a thought in my mind that pouring into this little boy could have these consequences. I could only see the hole and fill it. I felt like a stand-in or a substitute. And, that IS what I am.
But I am also a mother. So imperfect but a little perceptive, too.
I know real from fake. It's not the "image" of a mother that this little boy is after. It's an actual mother. Right now, it's me.
To top it all off, I am not convinced I am doing wrong. I know this child will move on to a permanent home. He knows and I know.
In the meantime, I want to be a model for him of what a good mother will be and will do. My earnest prayer is that the lessons and the sense of safety and unconditional acceptance will be transferred to his NEW mom and dad when that time comes.
Why do I not feel this way about every child in our center? I have wondered that many times. I never set out to single one child out or to show favoritism. I am conscious of the jealousy that can arise between the children. But of all the children in our care, THIS is the one who will likely go the longest without a family. Some of the others have family. One of our boys has a loving mother, step dad and siblings. They will be together again soon. The family just needs time to get stable. Our girls . . . well, they are girls. Everyone seems to love orphaned girls. They are sweet and girly. They draw the eye of every visitor. Who wouldn't love them?
But THIS child is a boy. Older. From the streets. Formerly a glue-sniffing, thieving, trouble-making BOY. The line for a child like him is short. His teacher at school recently told us he is the poorest behaved child in her class. Maybe that's why he grabbed my heart so quickly. The most hidden of hidden treasures . . . but I can see it.
And I pray, above all else, he understands when THAT time comes. That he is not hurt but is thankful.
This is a risky, muddled business and as a flawed human, it is sometimes hard to separate what God has commanded from what I simply want.
I want what is best for this beautiful boy. I want him to be found by his forever family. I want him to slowly grow into a deep love for them that trumps anything he has experienced here, in his first family love. I want him to stay off the streets and develop a love for his Creator that spurs him on to choose right. I want him to know what it feels like to be highly valued. I believe every one of those things is possible.
So I have begun to pray daily. For all of those. I take special care to pray for his new mother. I pray that she is patient. I pray she looks at him and feels so lucky and blessed every day. I pray she is sympathetic to the fact that he has suffered a lot of rejection and will likely try to act "tough" for a long time. I pray that she adores even the scars. That she understands that he would never have been hers if he had not first been down the road of abandonment. I pray she only speaks well of his birth family, even after she learns about the things some of them have done. I pray that she won't resent me for being so close to him. It was before we knew who she was. It was at the lowest time of a child's life when he is having all his life decisions made for him with very little respect to what he might want. It was at a time when there was nobody else.
Because THAT is who this little boy needs most. He needs her. A mother like that . . .