Sunday, December 23, 2007

Luvin's Adventure...

Well as of about 7:30 last night Luvin is at his new "home." I pray it feels like home soon. Not easy to watch a little guy who has about perfected tough and street kid standing there crying because he's scared and because he really really thinks he wants to stay with people that he knows love him. Certainly not easy to drive away.

Regardless the new adventure begins and we pray that this sweet place called "Arca de Noe" (Noah's ark) will be a vivid reminder that God keeps His promises faithfully.

Last year for my birthday Momma Grose gave me a music box and wrote a precious note and put inside it. It plays Jesus Loves Me. How fitting is that. Didn't have any idea that God would use it as a symbol to remind me that He is with us through this. Gina took it off my shelf last night when she saw it and handed it to me and said here it's a sign. On the top of the music box it has this precious little picture of the ark and at the top says, "Noah's Ark" and at the bottom it says, "God Keeps His Promises." I held onto it last night while the song played and we prayed and cried. Have a feeling I'll hold it close to my chest a few times this week to remind myself that He is faithful and that God planned all this before time and will carry Him through.

Please please please continue to pray for Luvin. Scary stuff for a 10 year old who has never had a safe place in his life. Praying for God to wrap him up, please join me in that prayer. This one could use an army of prayer warriors.

I love you all. Blessings on your day.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Update #2 - Luvin

As most of you know, and any of you who heard me speak on my last trip home to fundraise are acutely aware, one of the little guys that God had brought to us a few months ago has been quite the handful. He’s a smart kid and he’s got a great heart that is way sensitive to the things of God, but he’s got quite the rebellious little spirit going on in there at lots of moments. His name is Luvin and you’ve heard me talk about his story on here before. He’s run away from Casa more times than we care to count. The reasons are always different, but most of it is that he doesn’t have regulations living on the streets and Casa has a couple...hundred ;) (we’d never survive with 15 kids without them) and if he doesn’t like the rules at any given time he gets angry and decides he’ll bolt. It’s what he knows and what life has taught him. We are all a product of our environment in some ways.

So…when I had left to go to the States, Luvin had decided he’d bolt again. I was so afraid that would happen. Luvin and I’s hearts connected early, perhaps it’s because I see so much of myself in him and he reminds me what might have happened at some points in my life if people hadn’t believed that I wanted to be different even when all of my actions proved to the contrary. They believed me into being better and it’s what I really wanted to do with him. Desperately wanted. I prayed and tried, God knows I did.

Some folks didn’t understand why I would give so much of my time to this one little guy and take him with me everywhere I went for a while, and give him more chances than “he deserved.” Why would I continue to bother with a little guy who kept choosing to blow his opportunities and chances of a better life. I mean for Pete’s sake out there he had no food and in here he has food and clothes and that should be enough to make him stay. Shewww I know that feeling of having way more chances than I deserve and I have a feeling it will resonate with some of you too. Some of us just had to be given more chances than we deserved didn’t we??!!

It’s so hard though you know because we have a home here where we pray every day to create a safe environment for all of them, and Luvin rocked the boat so much so that some of the other kids definitely felt like their world was shaky. So…we had to make some decisions as a group for the ministry and because it’s early and we do not have some things in place for “troubled” kids who are older, it was decided that we should not allow Luvin to come back after the last time that he left.

So I was driving back into the lane to enter the gate on Tuesday afternoon and I saw this little guy walking down the path toward the gate. He was way skinny and filthy dirty and I think had the same clothes on that he left in, his shoes were way ragged, and his hair was hanging over his eyes and way long, and I honestly couldn’t tell who it was for sure until he got closer. I looked at Jaime who was with me and I said, that could be Luvin, I think that’s Luvin, I’m pretty sure that’s Luvin, and THAT IS LUVIN, and before I could have another thought I was out of the drivers seat and kneeling down hugging this little boy that I’ve grown to love as my own so thankful that he was ok. Took me 6 seconds to figure out what to do next, he needed a shower, he needed some clean clothes, he needed a meal, and so off we went. No child should have to live that way...they just shouldn't.

I thought he was here for a visit, but before the night was over he had shared with Mama Lillita that he was “back at Casa for forever.” Ay no, and the struggle in this heart began. Cause everything in me wanted to say ok, come in you’re safe, yes I want you to be here, and my head knew what we'd all decided was best. Why can't your heart listen in moments like that?? It's just like they don't communicate well, matter of fact I've learned sometimes my head and heart are enemies.

I sat at Gina's that night until long after midnight processing with her and Mama Lillita about what I was going to do...because I knew one thing, I could NOT put him back on the street push him aside and sleep well at night. I couldn't. Nothing in that felt right. I kept saying through huge tears, mama's do not throw their kids to the wolves, they don't. What am I doing? In a few hours time, I'd thought about quitting the ministry here and buying a house and raising a little guy who has never had anyone love him enough to stick it out with him forever. I'd run the gamet to be quite honest. I was wrestling again in ways that I've never ever known before now, because what do you do when you "could" do something about the injustice of the world, but in some ways you can't. Or can you??? You understand my dilemma.

So I brought him home with me that first night and he slept in here on my floor, because I was convinced I could not give him hope that he was going to be allowed to stay. I mean our heads had decided, so what the heck was the problem with my heart??

Took him with me the next day to town and this little guy that I hadn't seen for a couple months was still calling me mama and what in the world other than God makes that even possible. A year ago, I didn't know this little face, and now I won't ever be able to get his face out of my mind. It's embedded in there.

I had spent the next day making phone calls to anyone I knew that might be willing to take Luvin in and offer him more than I was able to here. He needs some men in his world who will show him how to work and be God's man and he hasn't connected with anyone here who will do that. So I was racking my brain and to no avail...people didn't call me back, they had no space, etc.

I was convinced that I was going to have to put him back on a bus to go toward his hometown of Chuloteca where I knew he was selling things on the streets, hadn't eaten well for sure by his thin little self, and wasn't treated well. I was broken.

I called in a sister favor and I said, look Gina, I cannot take Luvin back to Casa tonight, I can't. Is there anyway he can stay at your house for one more night while we try to find somewhere for him to go. (Luvin adores that family so he felt at home with them.) One night turned into two and Mama Lillita and Gina were as committed to finding him somewhere to go as I was, knowing that none of us could allow him to go back to the streets.

So I get this phone call at 8:30 on Friday morning and it's Mama Lillita and she says Jen can you be in here at 10, there's a guy that we knew from a long time ago and he takes in street boys and he wants to hear Luvin's story. We had a group coming in a couple of hours, it was the worst day possible for it to have happened, but all the other things seemed way unimportant in light of this little face I was looking at. So I'm praying the whole way to town, ok God if we're supposed to be doing something different with him please show us but if it is possible this could work, will you please open the doors wide.

So I walked in and waited a few moments and Mr. Samuel came in and from the moment I met him, his face was just kind and for a moment honestly I was puzzled and I, I would not have expected this humble, gentle, kind man to be able to handle the rough and tough street kids, but you could see his passion and love for them in the way he spoke and the things he was doing. It was beautiful. The more he talked and the more I listened, way skeptically in some ways, cause this is like giving away someone you love so much, and you want to know they will handle him with care. I cried, and I told him, sir this isn't about me not wanting this little boy, I just need help, because I feel like we can't offer him what he needs right now. Asked if we could visit and he assured us that would be fine, things like that. Told us about their programs to teach the boys mechanics, and farm skills, and how to build houses, so many things that fit Luvin to a T. He is a hands on boy and he needs that desperately. He will be educated, they do two years of schooling in a year and so he'll be able to catch up for his age. And I just plain liked this guy. Period. He told us he didn't have room really, but that he could see that we loved Luvin and that he had lots of potential and so he would take him.

Sheeeewwwwwwwwwww to say that my heart was relieved might be the biggest understatement of the year. I was at the end of my rope of options...I had no more. I was begging God to do something, show me something I hadn't seen. I wanted to help Luvin but I had no idea how and then God showed up and did abundantly more than all we could hope or imagine. He is so incredibly kind.

So we had promised Luvin he could work with this group this week and we wanted to keep our word, it's important for him to know that he can trust what we say, especially now when we're telling him that this is a good place, and we'll come to visit, etc. So he's here working this week and will go to his new home on Saturday afternoon. We went the day before yesterday to visit with him and after some coersion decided he liked it when he saw the cows and pigs and fruit trees and huge soccer field and I think it will fit him well.

I will continue to be a part of his life, I have promised him that. I told him mama's don't quit on their boys and I won't. I will believe him into being better, cause I feel like it's what God has asked me to do. When it makes no sense to anyone else, I'll remember, I'm sure there were times in my life when it made no sense to continue to believe in this heart cause I'd flubbed up soooo much, and some people just wouldn't quit. Now I realize that maybe it wasn't that they wouldn't but that they couldn't cause when God puts it in your heart and calls you to it, it's compelling. Regardless, we're gonna go the distance with Luvin.

Please pray for his transition and ours as well. Pray that God will continue to use us to encourage and love and strengthen a soul that has experienced way too much in 10 years. Please above all else pray that we'll be to Luvin the things God has asked us to be and that we'll honor Him always in the process.

I am so thankful that God goes looking for the one lost and helps him find his way. I am so thankful...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Update #1 - Papi...

I'm gonna spend some time over the next couple of days sending several updates about random happenings because so many neat things are happening, but I have not had a chance to sit down and fill you all in, and so I'm making that a priority over the next day or so.

So many of you have heard me talk about the fact that I have now adopted Honduran family (or they adopted me, I'm never really sure how that works out) but nonetheless, I like it. See some people collect dolls, stamps, trading cards, trinkets, etc. Nope I collect if you will. If you asked me I'd tell you I have family in Ohio, Nashville, Alabama, Florida, West Virginia, Washington State, and our blood lines run different, but our hearts pump with the same passion for things that matter and somewhere in the middle of all of that they became more than friends they became "family." Some of you can relate out there, because you know the feeling of being so linked up in Christ that the title of friend just would never do the bond justice. So now add to that sweet list, Honduras, and this precious family that have just taken us in and loved all over us.

It started with Gina, (my now like a sister just for the record), who has become this precious addition to my world, the lives of these kiddo's, and this place, and you've heard me talk about her before on here. So although I could go on and on about how wonderful she is, I'll save that for another day.

Then came Mama Lillita, Gina's sweet momma, that Gina is selflessly sharing with us. When I tell you she has one of the most gentle hearts and sweet spirits I've ever seen it is quite the understatement, but the best I've got with this limited vocabulary. She is classy in every sense of the word and we are so grateful to have her around when we are soooo far from home and our momma's there. She's a gift in no uncertain terms and we're grateful for her.

Gina's got two sweet brothers and we've decided to adopt them too as part of the package. Saul, her oldest brother is a photographer on contract with Pepsi and he's quite the little artsy fartsy guy. :) Extremely talented guy. Then Carlos Alberto, her younger brother, is about as sweet as they come. He's worked with us on a few teams translating and he's just such a neat kid.

But this email is about Papi...from the moment I met this guy I have walked around telling people he's so cute I want to just pinch his cheeks. It is the TRUTH!!! Goodness he's close to 70 and a doctor who still works every single day helping people, and then volunteers his time for a mission organization every morning. His face just speaks kindness. I was privileged to get to go with their family on a trip to see the site for their project just a few months ago, (sidenote, I thought I would pee my pants laughing at Papi a few times, he's hilarious and ornery as can be) and so I got to know him better through that weekend. Since then he's reminded us at least a dozen times that his home is our home and that we're welcome there always. (You have no idea how much that means when you're way far away from everything that resembles "home") So the other night I walked into their house and I was having a rough day in no uncertain terms. My momma heart was hurting in horrible ways (will post more about that in another post) and Gina and Mama Lillita and I were all sitting in the living room talking, and I had my feet dangling over the edge of the couch laying down and Papi came and sat down at the edge of the sofa and before I even knew what was happening he was rubbing lotion on my feet and massaging them.

Talk about humbled, goodness. My stinky unclean feet and he was willing to sit there for probably a half an hour with gentleness and kindness and speak love through his servanthood. It's funny you know, Papi can understand some English and I can understand some Spanish so we don't have long conversations about anything usually, but I heard a whole lot spoken in that one act. It spoke so much of acceptance and love and encouragement and the fact that sometimes I don't know exactly what to do to help, and my "language" will in some moments be so lacking, but I can always show up and do something to be kind and compassionate. He didn't say a word really, the rest of us talked while he sat there and rubbed my feet. A silent servant. A heart full of love for a God who would have done the same thing from a man who has learned that this is who he wants to be, cause you can see it in most everything he does...the way he loves his wife, the way he loves his children, the way he treats people.

So Papi rubbed my feet and I learned something in the process about who I really want to be as well.

Thanks to all of you that pillow your heads in that Larios house. You have become family, in neat places in our hearts, and I am honored that God's kindness would take us from different parts of the world and place us together to learn and grow together in Him. You are a blessing to us, a HUGE blessing!!

And thanks Papi, for silently serving, and through your actions, challenging me to live my life doing the same.