Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Rad Dad

It seems I have found myself off on another adventure again.  I am in awe of how much Jesus loves each of us and gives us the best gifts if we just let Him.  He knows me perfectly. 

I’ve only been here for 6 days, and already I am realizing just how hard it is going to be to leave.  Many of you (assuming anyone is reading this) know that I am in Manta, Ecuador serving at the Shekinah Foundation.  I have been confused as to what this place really is, but from what I have gathered and hopefully present correctly is that it is a home for Social Services, mas o menos.  Kids who are at-risk, abused, or otherwise unable to live safely at home can find love here at the Foundation which is able to house 25 kids (although sometimes they have taken in more) from birth up to 18-years-old.  Some have been here for a little while, others a few months, and a few just days.  Some are able to return home after a situation is resolved, and others live knowing they can never return to the places they used to call home.  For these kids, adoption is an option.  Due to the nature of this place and the safety of the kids, I cannot share their personal histories nor their faces with you all, but I hope to be able to convey a bit of the impact their lives are having on my own already. 

I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into when I came here.  I knew I would be helping out at what I thought was an orphanage for 3 months, and I knew that it was probably going to be hard, but I definitely didn’t realize just how challenging it would be.  I was preparing myself to be devastated by the tragedies these kids have had to live through and acknowledging that my Spanish would hopefully improve, but that’s about all I knew.  Now I see that it is SO MUCH more than that!
The kids have already grabbed hold of more chunks of my heart.  It’s amazing how God can tune our hearts to fall in love so quickly, but one thing I didn’t think about was just how much loving hurts.  You can’t escape it.  If you love someone, they will hurt you in some way, at some point, whether they mean to or not.  And these kids have been hurt time and time again.  Those that were supposed to teach and protect them, didn’t.  Those that they thought would remain, left.  And here I come scampering into their territory for a short 3 months with little ability to communicate with them and expecting them to love and trust me.  Ignorant. 

I’ve realized in the 3 days that I have worked there that I am going to hurt these kids.  I wish it didn’t have to be this way, but its unavoidable.  I am going to leave, and only God knows right now if I will ever return.  If they choose to love and trust me during my stay here, I am going to be another person who has come and gone in their life.  Already I have felt the tension of them shutting me out as a way to protect themselves, and I can’t blame them for this.  You can’t lose what you never had, right? 

The thing is, we were made to love.  We were made to have relationships with others, and like I said before, this can be painful.  I don’t want to be another one who has let them down.  I won’t ever stop loving them, but they won’t always believe that.  I’ve been humbled in these 3 days, and I can only imagine what 3 more months will do.  I was told and have definitely come to believe that you cannot lead well without having relationships.  This is so true.  I want to lead and serve these kids well, but I have realized that before anything can happen, I have to focus on each individual child and find a way to connect with them.   This, I believe, is scary for them, but at the same time so wanted and needed. 

I mentioned earlier that this is more challenging than I expected.  I love kids, but I’ve never had to deal with so many at one time or for very long.  Kids are awesome, but kids are also hard.  They have already expanded my perception of love.  For this, I am grateful and ready to continue learning. 
What I am beginning to realize is that Jesus really is the only one who will never fail us.  Ever.  What I want more than anything is for these kids to believe and experience this.  I want to be a reflection of Jesus to them that so compels them to trust Him with all of their hurt and doubt.  He is the only one that will never fail them if they just are willing to trust and rest in Him.  Martin Luther said it best in his Exposition of Psalm 147, “Our works are God’s masks, behind which He remains hidden, although He does all things.”

This boy here has a tight grip on one of those chunks I told you about earlier. And this sight made me very sad at first.  His shirt reads, “Rad Like Dad”, but knowing his story, I know this is a complete lie.  His biological father is not rad; I can think of few that are worse examples than him.  But as I was contemplating this and how horribly wrong the shirt was, I remembered that he does have a very rad Dad.  So rad, in fact, that there is none better.  Like I said before, I am in awe of how much God loves us so perfectly.  Pray with me, that he and the other children here would truly know just how loved and admired they are.  And pray too that I would continue to learn and love just a little more than even I think I can.  More to come, friends.  Until next time. 

Fun facts:
-        Drinkable yogurt is delicious. 
-        When nothing else is working, tickles are a good option. 
-        Ironically, Uno is kind of a hard game to explain when your Spanish is limited.   
-        Naps/rest times being hated by kids is a universal thing.
-        I did not make the boy in the photo pose with the frisbee like that.  The stinker was trying to stop me from taking the picture.  Little did his 4-year-old self know that it was actually perfect for me to share. :]

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