Sunday, September 20, 2015

Buried Alive!

I need to share some straight talk with my blogosphere friends today about a dreamy statement I made many years ago. A statement that copious numbers of Believers and just plain old do-gooders make.  A statement of which I had no real grasp  when it was made. One with BIG ramifications:


I said those words when I was a teenager.  I said them again in college. I repeated them less-often as a young, busy mother but began to obsess on them after our first visit to The Philippines in 2005.   Finally, after much praying and selling and planning, we started our orphanage.

I love it. I love the work. I adore the children. I have a sense of purpose and usefulness that can only be described as "REAL" but the flip side of this life as Mama-to-Many is not at all like most would imagine.  Most days, I feel I am being buried alive.  And it's ok.

The kids here are wounded by terrible histories of abuse, neglect and abandonment.  They sometimes act out.  They need a LOT more attention than the average, well-nurtured child. They will do pretty much anything to get it.   But I love them. I get to kiss their scars. I get to remind them they are beautiful and valuable and accepted.  Some of them have never felt that before and when they start to believe they are worthwhile,  they almost appear to grow taller before our eyes.  And bloom.
On top of the treasured work of helping the kids heal, there is paperwork. A LOT of paperwork. I am abundantly blessed to have an amazing social worker who is more than capable of doing the bulk of the paperwork but we all have to do our part. The processing of a child for international adoption is a succinct art.  Every document must be properly executed, dated, submitted and updated. We have a strong commitment to making sure the children in our care are ready both legally and emotionally for a new family. This takes a whole"village". Professionals inside and outside Mercy House take part in the task and they take it seriously.   They have to.  It's precious human life.  There is no room for error.

Our precious social worker with some of the MH kids
And aside from the children and the paperwork, I am a wife and a mother. That didn't stop when we decided to open an orphanage.  Unlike some directors, we choose to live inside the orphanage with our own family and our Mercy House family. Why? Because we simply need to be close for the children in care to have continuity. Staff may come and go but it is our prayer that "Mommy Nikki" and "Daddy Anthony" offer a little peek at how it feels to have caring adults who stay.  Our prayer is their only move from our care is into their FOREVER families. It does not always work that way but that is always our goal.  Finding the balance between the roles of orphanage Mama, wife and mother-to-my-own is beyond challenging. Sometimes I have to put off the ones who deserve first place because there are emergencies of the melt-down kind.  Okay, not "sometimes".  "Often". I pray they understand. 

And then there are these street boys. Children taking care of themselves. They are often hungry and always dirty when we go to see them. When I look at them, I envision them in a school uniform, well rested, doing their chores or homework inside Mercy House.  I imagine clearing out a drawer for some clothing for them and getting that first "goodnight" hug when I tuck them in. I can not sleep some nights for thinking of these kids. I have lost a lot of weight since meeting them because, when I know the faces of children who are hungry,  my own food loses it's luster. It is something that is hard to explain if you don't live it.  It hurts a lot. But not nearly as much as being 11 and having no parents protecting you must hurt. We have to do more for these boys.  It is a fire inside me.  I have always believed that if you want to change a society, reach the boys. Help them to become responsible, Godly men and to start a new heritage. I want to be a part of that for these street boys. But it takes time, money and some other priority slipping down the list a bit. Sacrifices.

The issues of handling birth families, staff problems, anyone getting sick and, of course, the fact that we just bought land and are fund raising to build a permanent structure - ALL OF THOSE and more are scoops of fresh earth that have me buried alive.
This is such hard work.
Do I want to quit? Sometimes. Do I miss my life as a happy American driving my own car to Taco Bell and strolling through Wal Mart whenever I want? For sure! Do I feel like I'm only 1/2 alive sometimes for the ache of missing my two oldest children who are in the US? Every day.

But I believe I will never leave. I assume that, someday, I will die here in The Philippines doing this work I love and helping children know their God and find their families.  I will be serving with my husband and whichever of our own children feel called to be here. I wish they all did.

So, friends. When you say "I want to start an orphanage",  I hope you are wiser than I was. I hope the sacrifices and pain don't take you by surprise.  I pray you understand what you are REALLY saying when you utter those words is "Lord, I want to be buried alive".     Because you will be.  And you might even love it.