04 Aug He makes all things beautiful
In 2016 alone, our ministry cared for over 160 children through family preservation, foster care, and crisis care programs. I could use this time to write about our 5-point holistic child care program, our sustainability programs or how we implement research-based best practices with our 14-member staff of both Honduran and American workers. However, today I want to share the stories of a few children who were impacted by the work that God is doing through Legacy of Hope. Each of these, and the other 160 children who have passed through our doors, have a name. They are precious in the sight of their Creator, and I want you to know how He began working in their lives to make something new and beautiful.
These are hard stories to hear. They are full of the pain and despair that the enemy of our souls often uses to steal hearts away from their Maker. But we are called to intervene in the lives of these precious children and youth. Psalm 82:3 says “Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.” At Legacy of Hope, we will continue to put on our armor each day to defend and care for the weak, fatherless and oppressed as we battle against the sin and evil of this world. Jesus’ love has made a way for all of us and we love because he first loved us. Out of His love springs the opportunity for healing, restoration and a new life. Isaiah 43:19 says, “Behold, I am doing a new thing, now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Today I hope to share some of the amazing stories that show how God is making a way in the wilderness for children, youth, and caregivers like me.
We have all endured trials and loss. Sometimes in those seasons it feels as though we are broken beyond repair. When children, adolescents and even adults are faced with ongoing neglect, abuse, or the effects of severe poverty, each new loss shatters the broken pieces of their lives further until they finally arrive at our door and there is often nothing left of those pieces but dust. These children feel like they will never be whole again, and many believe the lies of the enemy about who they are and what they are worth. Here are some of their stories.
I am a 9 year old boy who was attacked by a drunk family member late at night with a machete. I have 11 stitches on my arm and it is red and swollen. Sometimes I sniff glue to make the hunger pains and worries go away, but today there is no way to dull the physical and emotional pain I bear. I am the man of the house, and I am afraid they will not let me go back to my mother and siblings. I worry what will happen to them without me. I believe my name is Worry and Fear.
I am a 16 year old girl who was raped on my way to the market. I left my small village in the mountains to deliver my baby in the public hospital 3 hours away. I spent the last 24 hours alone in that hospital. The doctors treated me like an animal and blamed me for my circumstances. I am struggling to make enough milk to feed my baby, but I will not abandon her. I am full of fear and uncertainty as I wait for social services to locate a family member willing to take me in. I believe my name is Guilt and Shame.
I am a 7 year old boy who was caught alone at the Guatemalan border. When the gangs moved into my village it became violent and dangerous. My mother left our village with the hope of making a better life in the United States. She worked 3 years as a migrant worker picking vegetables to fulfill her promise to bring me to her. She paid my guide $2000 to smuggle me across the border. He was abusive and forced me to walk day and night without food or water. He abandoned me when the authorities began to pursue us, and I was too slow and weak to keep up. I don’t know if I will ever see my mother again. I believe my name is Guilt, Loneliness and Failure.
I am a 6 year old girl who has just been released from the hospital after having an overdose on antipsychotic medicine given to me by my caregivers at a Christian orphanage. Despite 5 days in the hospital, I am malnourished and very dirty. I communicate with few words and shrill screams that are often difficult to understand. I have been labeled schizophrenic and a lost cause. At night I ask to be tied to the doorknob because that is what I am accustomed to. They don’t know that 1 year ago I was gang raped while picking coffee to support my family. When I limped over the mountain in torn and dirty clothes and told my father, he beat me for letting it happen. I didn’t know the men followed me, and they killed my father in front of me. Because of this horrible trauma I have retreated deep within my mind. I think my name is Fear and Shame.
I am a 12 year old girl and the oldest sibling in a group of 8. I was forced to stop attending school after the 1st grade to help support my family. I collect plastic bottles alongside the road to sell to help earn money for food. 6 months ago my mother gave me in marriage to a man 3 times my age for a little money and to reduce the amount of hungry children she was responsible to feed. I am pregnant and afraid. I believe my name is Burden and Disappointment.
I am a 3 year old girl whose mentally ill mother has allowed me to be sexually abused by my step father and other men in my village. I suffer from reoccurring urinary tract infections due to the trauma of abuse. I only know a few words and scream and bite when I am touched or held. When I enter the crisis care center I see a baby doll in the corner and go to him. I pick him up and hold him tight. I find a blanket and wrap him as securely as I can with my small toddler hands. I carry him everywhere I go and try to feed him table scraps. They don’t know that in my mind he is my infant brother who is still at home. I don’t know what he will do without me to take care of him. I believe my name is Cursed and Disposable.
Guilt, Fear, Burden, Disappointment, Cursed and Disposable all arrive at the door of a small white house in a middle class neighborhood escorted by an indifferent worker from the government office. They are dirty, hungry and afraid. They shake and refuse to make eye contact as they climb the steps to the safe house. Their past has taught them adults cannot be trusted. They are prepared for the worst and poised to defend themselves in anyway possible, but God has brought them here to teach them something new. He is about to begin a new work in them and to give them peace and even joy in the midst of uncertainty. He will give them a new name and make something beautiful with the shattered pieces and dust of their lives.
The gate clangs open and my foster mother receives me with open arms and welcomes me into the home. She tells me I am safe here, but I cannot believe her because I have learned that adults are not trustworthy. I keep my distance and wrap my arms tightly around my body in an outward expression of the walls I have constructed to try and keep myself safe. She shows me the house and explains the ways that she will keep me safe. She gives me food, a warm shower, new clothes and shoes. She sits with me and gently combs the lice from my hair. She spends her days filling me with words of encouragement and tells me how much God loves me. She tells me and shows me that I am precious despite my angry words and actions. Somedays I try to push her away but she never leaves. She tells me God knows my name, that He loves me, and that he has a good plan for me. During the day I work to learn to write my name or add small sums. I participate in art and other therapeutic activities as I process my trauma and pain. Each night I sleep in a warm and comfortable bed; this is the first bed I have ever had and it is beautiful to me. Everyday promises are kept, pain and fear are released, and I begin to know for the first time the unconditional love and sense of belonging to a family. At first the soil of my heart was dry and packed, nothing could grow there, but during my time here seeds have begun to take root and tender shoots of faith and hope are beginning to emerge.
I am a foster mother who has accepted the call to step into the lives of these children. I receive them and love them as my own. They are mine for this time that God has ordained. I have heard their stories and I love them in the midst of their brokenness and doubt. My own heart has been broken again and again as I am bombarded daily with suffering and pain. I weep and share in their loss, because some days my grief cannot be contained and many nights it overflows in a resounding sobs as I plead their cases, and my own, at the foot of the cross. My prayer warriors at home cover me in prayers and encourage me when the day has been too hard. My financial partners make sure there is always food, clothes, medicine, and well-trained foster mothers to care completely for the children who so desperately need it and who are constantly arriving at our doors. Through the prayers of the faithful and support of our partners, we are strengthened and empowered to continue to plant the life-giving seeds of the gospel in the dry packed soil of the hearts of these precious children. We know that only God can soften their hearts and cultivate these tiny seeds to reveal what He has planned for them and to complete His work in them.
God knit each one of us together in our mother’s womb and the Bible tells us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Not one of us is unknown by our Creator. But the sin in this world has left us broken. With every lie, violation, beating, rejection and abandonment, the fragments of our lives are shattered and smashed again and again until there is nothing left but dust. When life has caused a child to be so fragmented and broken that they feel it would be impossible to pick up the pieces, God is there. And when we as adults struggle to look past the pain, fear and brokenness, we wonder if there could be hope for healing. But our God looks at those same fragments and dust. He bends down and gently scoops that dust into his hands. With a sovereign nod He begins His work, because dust is something that our God chooses to work with.
In John 9 we remember the story of how Jesus heals a man who was born blind. His disciples asked him, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus said, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. Jesus spit on the dust and, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool.” So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.
Jesus could have spoken and healed him, but He chose to use the dust.
With nothing but dust Jesus is able to heal and restore.
With nothing but dust Jesus creates a new thing.
He heals so that we will see and know His goodness. And so that our testimony will praise him.
As our foster mothers and families hear and accept the call to care for the fatherless, those in crisis and pain, they need the body of Christ to surround them. We are not all called to do the same thing but we are all called to do SOMETHING. What is your gift? What are you being called to do? We each have a different role to play in caring for the weak, poor, oppressed and fatherless. What is your role?
Just like each one of our children in crisis, you and I were orphans alienated from Christ, but He welcomed me into His family just like He did to each one of you. As the church we are commanded to care for the fatherless. We each have a role. Some are caregivers, some are encouragers, some are prayer warriors or supporters. As we come together to care for these children we give them the opportunity to see and experience in the natural the goodness of Christ as we become His hands and feet. As these children are welcomed into our earthly families they can begin to better understand the goodness of God. When they know their worth, not in spite of their brokenness but in the midst of it, they will see that He is faithful and ever present. Step by step they will be overcome by His grace and grafted into the supernatural family tree that is rooted in Christ.
As they leave the safety and care of our foster parents, the children and their caregivers know that the future is uncertain. But most importantly they know that wherever their path may lead, they will take with them the seeds that have already started a new work in them. They know that their foster mother and others will continue to pray a covering over them. They know that their Heavenly Father will never leave them or forsake them. They have learned to trust that God is able to redeem their loss and brokenness. God used the dust of their lives to make something new and beautiful. They have been given a new name. They are called loved, valued, smart, kind, creative, resilient, cherished prince or princess of the most high God.
They carry in their hearts these words:
I have been set free in Christ. (Galatians 5:1).
I am no longer a slave but a son, and as a son, then you are also an heir through God (Galatians 4:7).
I am chosen, holy, and blameless before God. (Ephesians 1:4).
I am redeemed and forgiven by the grace of Christ.(Ephesians 1:7).
I don’t know about you, but as a caregiver to wave upon wave of children who come from hard places, it is often too easy for me to hold on to the hurt and the questions. Have you ever done that? The pain is familiar and expected and it sometimes feels easier than facing the unknown. But that is a trap. Jesus has made it clear that these are things I was never meant to bear. He reminds me in Matthew 11 that “my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” He urges me to leave my burdens at the cross. Everyday that I submit to His calling, Jesus is doing a new work in me. He is continually making things new and showing me light in the midst of darkness. He is always ready to take my shame, pain, fear and to give me hope and joy in return. Just as He calls my children, He also calls me chosen, holy, free, redeemed and forgiven. When we allow Him, He is able to use the dust of our brokenness to do something new and to create something beautiful.
Will you choose with me today to give him your dust and let God do something new in you? Let’s choose again to trust Him to carry our burdens. Let’s step out refreshed in our faith and overwhelmed by his grace so that He will give us testimonies that will unquestionably speak of His goodness and bring Him glory.