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.
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 . . .