Wednesday, November 20, 2013

What do you wake up for?

Continuing with the themes from the book, “Nothing but a Thief”, the author at one point says she asked one of the boys the question, “What do you wake up for?”.  It made me stop and think.  The boy’s answer was difficult to read.  He told her that he tried to stay asleep for as long as he possibly could into the day, but eventually his hunger got the best of him and forced him to wake up and go and steal to get something to eat.  It made me think about a life where I had nothing to wake up for.  I can’t imagine such a life, but for these boys it is reality.  It is their every day when they are on the street.  Their hunger is what drives them to move out of the spaces they sleep, forces them to steal, even to take drugs.  In Peru, like many other countries, street kids take glue.  They inhale it or smoke it.  In Uganda, I have never seen a boy sniffing glue because here they sniff kyenge (expired aviation fuel).  Just like glue, it dulls their hunger, keeps them warm at night, eases their fears and takes away their emotions.  I don’t know much about addiction, but at least with the boys I know, I don’t think their addictions are physiological.  I think they are psychological.  A boy can come into a home and quit taking kyenge cold turkey.  He can be fine and not ever want to take it again until something brings up the past or something bad happens to him.  When things get too much for them that is when they go back to their kyenge, to make them not feel anything again.

After I thought about the boys and the ones still on the street, I had to find my answer.  What do I wake up for?  I think the obvious answer is the boys.  And it is true.  I do wake up every morning because of them.  They make my days worth it.  They make my days better.  They make my life better.  They make me laugh with their ridiculous notions and jokes.  They make me cry tears of happiness and joy, as well as sorrow and heartbreak.  They challenge me to be a better person: more loving and giving, more forgiving and considerate.  They teach me how I deserve to be treated and how worthy I am of love.  They protect me, care for me, help me, love me. 

I stop to think about them and their brokenness and how I hope to love them enough each day that they hurt a little less, but when I really think about it, they have done the same for me.  I see Jesus in them every day.  I wonder how I survived 30 years of my life without them in it.  When I stopped to think about my answer, I also realized how lucky I am to have a reason to wake up each morning.  I realized that many people in the world are not as fortunate.  I wake up each day with joy to spend another day doing what I love with people that I love.  Not everyone is so lucky.  I think about life before Uganda.  I didn’t have a bad life.  I had friends, a job, everything was fine.  However, every morning I dreaded waking up and going to my job (probably why I was late every morning). Even though I had everything I needed, I didn’t have a reason to wake up.  It makes me sad for all of the time wasted but I know had I came to Uganda 5 years ago, or even 10, I wouldn’t have been ready and these kids wouldn’t be the ones in my life.  The other night at devotions, our new uncle JP, asked the boys if they thought they were in the home by mistake.  While some of them didn’t get the question, most of them did.  They saw God’s hand working in our life and bringing us all together.  It is still incredible to me that God would know what would make my heart come alive and give my life meaning long before I did.  It is amazing to me that God knew these boys that would be in my life, long before I even knew Uganda existed.

For some of the boys, they are still working to find their reasons.  They had no reason for so long and have forgotten what it is to dream and have hope.  One boy in particular, is so fatalistic, he refuses to make any decisions about his life or have any dreams.  I don’t think he even knows what it is to dream.  When we ask him what he wants to do or be, he answers “I don’t know.  God knows.  Whatever He has planned is fine.”  He still doesn't get that he has all the opportunity in the world now.  If he wants to be a doctor, it could happen.  If he wanted to be a pilot, it could happen.  But instead, he sits and waits for life to happen to him. 

It is one of the most frustrating things because how do you teach someone to dream when they gave up their dreams long ago?  How do you teach someone to hope, when the streets robbed them of their hope years ago?  How can you teach someone that God has good plans for them, when they cried out to God every night for years, and finally gave up because they were convinced He wasn't listening?  How do you teach someone to take an active role in making life happen, when they had life happen to them in horrible ways at a young age?

I don’t know the answers to any of those questions.  I don’t know if I will ever have the answers but what I do know is God gave me reasons to wake up every morning.  He placed them in my life for a reason and has called me to love them.  I know I won’t change them or give them hope, but I can love them.  So each day, I will love them and continue to pray He will take care of the rest.  I also pray that I will never wake up forgetting how lucky I am to finally have a reason to wake up.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Beautiful things

I have started reading “Nothing but a Thief” by Danielle Speakman.  She worked with street kids in Lima, Peru.  I was drawn to the book because even though I feel like I somehow know the boys at home, I don’t feel like I know enough about street kids in general.  I wondered if certain things were just characteristics of these boys, or of all street kids.  I wondered if life was the same for kids on the street everywhere.  What I am realizing is the country is unimportant.  From the stories she shares, these boys could be boys in Peru and the boys in Peru could be here in Uganda.

The boys don’t always like to share about their lives on the streets.  Especially now that they have been removed from that environment, many of them want to forget that they were ever there.  They go to extremes to forget their past life and I cannot say I blame them.  When you ask them about their life or their story, they never give specifics.  They will only offer that they suffered or were beaten.  They don’t speak with emotion, but rather like they are recounting about a movie they once saw.

Even though the boys refuse to share specifics, I can guess what has happened to them.  I see the scars on their hearts and feel their anger as they lash out.  I experience the aftereffects of years of abuse and trauma.  I don’t need to hear the specifics to know that they are broken inside.  I have started reading these books to know how to help the boys better.  I know that there are people smarter than me and with more experience, and I figure I owe it to the boys to find all of the information possible to help them.

In the book, she tells about a boy that she realized was always around but she just noticed him that particular day.  I can say that the same thing has happened to me many times.  I can think of two boys, Willy and Jimmy, at least that that was the case with but I know there were others.  They were always around but something made me notice them on particular days and from that moment, I was in love.  She hasn't explained why she thought she finally noticed him on that particular day, but for me I know it was God that opened my eyes to them.  He let me see them when He knew I was ready to see them.  God’s timing is always perfect, and I saw them at the exact time when they needed to be seen. 

It is comforting and disturbing at the same time to know that there are other people around the world, working with boys like these ones, experiencing the exact same things that I am.  It is disturbing because I know only a small portion of these boys’ stories, but yet I know how gravely they suffered.  Multiply that suffering by all of the other boys, in the world, on the street and it seems unimaginable that the world can function with that much pain…

I tried to explain to someone today about my laptop and how I wasn't angry at the boy.  I tried to explain that his behavior was a result of suffering and everyone in his life betraying him but she couldn't get it.  It isn't easy allowing brokenness into your life, but beauty that comes out of it is so worth it.  I think you can only understand that when you let the brokenness in and see the redemption first hand.  I know that in time, this boy will come around again.  We will love him even more than we did before and eventually, he will believe he is worthy of the love.  He will begin to heal and trust.  Things will be different for him, because we never gave up. 

In the book, she talks about waiting for a certain boy to meet her and him refusing to show up several times.  Each time he had an excuse and each time her heart broke.  She equated it to how God waits on us.  He is waiting for us day after day, but each day we disappoint Him.  We come just close enough but then run away or make excuses because our shame is weighing us down.  It makes sense.  This boy is so hurting and broken that he doesn't believe that we really love him or maybe he does know and that terrifies him more because he doesn't believe he deserves it.  Whatever the reason, I will continue to wait because I know beautiful things will even come from him.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A broken heart and stolen computer

When I came to Uganda, I figured that my heart would be broken many times, every day even.  There have been times over the last 3 years that I thought my heart would never heal.  Some of the boys have made epically bad choices and ripped my heart out as a result.  But each time my heart has healed and we moved on.  Even though I know these boys are broken and hurting, even though I know that as a result they will hurt me, there is nothing that can prepare me for the heartache that they give me sometimes.

This week has been difficult.  On Monday, I was already ready to call it quits on the week.  My greatest fear is that I am breaking these kids further instead of helping them to heal.  One of the boys made a mistake last week and everyone was furious at him.  He ended up running away because he knew we were all angry.  My policy is to never chase a boy down.  It sounds harsh, but these boys are all old enough to know the consequences of their choices and if they don’t want to be at home, we let them go.  As a result, they always come back and have a different attitude than when they left.  When they are gone, those are the longest days of my life.  I miss them every second, but I know that it is what is best.  This boy stayed gone all weekend and we were just waiting for him to come back.  Sunday night, my laptop went missing.  At first I thought it was one of the boys because they were watching a movie earlier, so I didn’t panic.  A little bit later, I was awoken by one of the boys telling me to move my computer because someone was just in the compound.  When I told him my computer was already gone but I thought it was one of the boys, he panicked and started checking with the other boys.

Unfortunately, it turned out to be true that someone had broken in and stole my laptop.  Our first instinct was that it was the boy that ran away because he was still staying around the neighborhood just not with us.  So the uncle and boys went to find him.  Turns out, he wasn’t the one but at least he was finally home.

When we discovered it wasn’t him, we all knew who it was and my heart broke.  We had been letting a boy come and stay at the house every once in a while.  I have known this boy since I first got to Uganda and the uncle even longer.  I love this kid so much and was just wondering how to help him.  Monday morning, our suspicions were confirmed.  It was in fact him.  The worst was he brought two other boys to the house to rob us.  They were going to take other things but all they could get was my computer because I left it on my desk by the window while I went to talk to the other auntie.  The good thing was we got the computer back but they moved so quickly, that everything had already been erased.  (On a happy note, because they moved so quickly, all of the problems with my computer were fixed.  Problems that I was told in the US couldn't be fixed without buying a new motherboard.) I am sad for my photos and my work but nothing compares to the ache I feel in my heart for this boy.  We were probably his last hope.  He has screwed up all of his other chances with other people and I was just hoping that it would be different with us.  I don’t blame him for taking my computer.  I can’t imagine his life.  I have never been so desperate that I felt like my only option was to steal from one of the last people that still loved me.  

The worst was when he came back to the house to apologize to me.  Maybe he realized the consequences of his actions, maybe it was just an act.  I don’t know.  But his apology seemed sincere.  He sobbed as he told me.  He looked more broken than usual.  

I don’t believe in giving up on people, especially these boys.  But it is hard.  So hard.  To try and try and try and have the result be the same is defeating.  It makes me feel like a failure and makes my heart feel like it can’t take anymore.  I don’t know what we will do with the boy that stole the computer but I told him I still loved him and forgave him but we were all upset and just needed time.  I am sure that this won’t be his last time to disappoint me, but still we will try again.  After all, things are only things but people are people and his life is worth more to me than any photo or document. 
When the boy that ran away came back, we sat down as a family to counsel him about his behaviors and encourage him to change.  Like I mentioned before, sometimes I worry I am breaking these boys more than I am fixing them.   As I sat in the meeting, watching a boy that I love so much hurting, I wondered if we actually broke him.  He wasn’t the vibrant boy I knew, but just a sad shell.  As one of the boys spoke, I was reassured that maybe we were doing more good than harm.  He told him how lucky they were to be here because I know how to forgive.  He told him that if he was in any other home, they would have chased him away by now but I keep giving him chance after chance because I love them all like they are my own children.  At least he gets it.  At least they know how much I love them and how much I am willing to fight and sacrifice for them.  

Things aren’t really better, but I cling to hope.  Hope that they will get how loved they are.  Hope that this time it will be different.  Hope that they will heal.  Hope that they will change.

Monday, November 4, 2013

A new family

This past week, I had a disagreement with one of the boys.  It was something simple that started over one of the puppies but quickly escalated because he is a bit dramatic and I am really stubborn and wanted to prove my point.  The result was we didn’t speak for the better part of last week.  Neither of us willing to concede, we just avoided each other.   Good thing this isn’t a parenting advice blog…

Anyway, we finally made up last night.  He came to my window and informed me he needed to talk.  I invited him in and right away, he said he was sorry and told me he made a mistake and wanted to be forgiven.  I told him that I had already forgiven him and was just waiting on him to talk to me.

I love this boy more than anything.  We have a long history together and I worked so hard to get him to love me.  I prayed, I fasted, I begged God to bring him close but on the streets he was just far enough away.  People warned me about him.  They told me he was stubborn and loved to fight.  They told me he would never survive in a home and couldn’t change.  I knew better but I didn’t know how to reach him.

I am so thankful that he is home with us.  It took so much work but I am glad he is here.  As we sat talking last night, I told him “Life is better when we aren’t fighting, isn’t it?”  He quickly agreed.  Life is better.  Today he didn’t have school and he was glued to my side most of the day, asking for help with his work, teaching me Luganda, listening to music in my room.  Life is better with him in it.

Last night as we talked, I reminded him how he used to not like me and asked him why.  He laughed at first and told me I knew.  When I told him I didn’t, he got quiet.  Finally he said, “Because you were going back to America and you were leaving me in kivulu.”  I forgot what a risk it was for these boys to love.  Maybe I never understood to begin with.  But he didn’t want to like me, let alone love me, because he knew soon I would be gone and I would be one more person that broke his heart.

As we continued to talk, he told me many things.  Sometimes, I forget our situation and where these boys came from because this is just life now, we are just family.  But sometimes one of them will come out of nowhere and remind me just how lucky we all are and how special our situation is.  He told me that he loved me because I gave him his life back.  A sixteen year old, telling me he has his life back.  Why did it even disappear to begin with?  He was 14 when he came home to me and spent I don’t know how many years before that on the streets, without hope and closed off because he had been hurt too many times before.
He began talking about his family and saying he had none.  His father wasn’t a good man, he died a drunk and his mom is gone too.  Before I could even offer that we were family, he told me, “Except you.  I only have you.”

Yesterday was Orphan Sunday.  It was supposed to be the day that Christians around the world came together to work and advocate on behalf of the millions and millions of orphans in the world.  Did you know that if only 7% of the world’s Christians adopted one orphan, there would be no more orphans?  These boys are all I have and I am all they have.  I can’t continue to care for them without your help.  By committing to giving only $10 a month, you will help to feed a boy one meal a day for the month.  Want to do more?  Consider sponsoring one of the boys and getting to know first-hand how amazing they are.  You will be helping to change their lives and let them know that they have someone else.  Please prayerfully consider making a difference in their lives.  Visit our website for more information.

Thank you in advance for wanting to help change these boys' lives!