It was a sort of blank stare with an odd grin. It wasn't a happy grin, though. (Is there a happy grin to be had when you witness this... again?) It was an embarrassed grin. He continued to watch as Rosa calmly called to her boys to carefully drag him from the road and place him in the grass where at least the risk of getting hit by a mototaxi was lessened.
I pulled Rafael in close and hugged his rigid body tight.
"It's ok. You don't have to be embarassed," I spoke softly. "You didn't choose that life for your father. You can be different."
Tears ran down his cheeks and I held him closely.
We knew his story well enough by now. His mother is a hard-working woman with mental disabilities but a woman who cares for her children with what very little she has. Of the dozens of street kids that used to frequent our living room floor, she's the only one who ever showed up looking for her kids at dinner time. She came with a big sideways grin that will light up a room and all the respect one could have, asking if her kids had been any trouble at all. Even though we'd assure her that hers were indeed some of the politest to grace our home, she once gave us permission to "whip them" if we needed to. She had taught them to have respect and she wouldn't allow any differently.
But there was also the time that Rafael told Richard he was terrified to go home. His dad was drunk and he knew what that meant. The bruises on his older sister and his mom never lied.
Today, Rafael watched his father die in front of him. The details are foggy, but he came home to see him struggle through his last breath. And once again his heart was shattered. Rosa said he and his younger sister, Rafaela, were nearly inconsolable. And in a culture of bold judgements and accusations, Rafael has blamed himself for not being able to save his father in that moment, though everyone knew it was to be the end for his father eventually if no major life change took place.
Devastation. The already fatherless left truly fatherless. And while one could say that at least the abusing will cease, there are still so many scars and pains and confusion because this isn't what it's supposed to be like.
Now that very same grass where Rosa's boys dragged Rafael's father three years ago is the front yard of Grace House. And every day kids come to fill this tiny home up to learn and grow and laugh and play. But many of them go home to these same devastating situations.
There are stories I wish I could un-know. Stories that make me feel physically sick because I know that in these moments, as I type this out, horrific things are happening to many of these kiddos. And it feels like just not enough to run Grace House for these 40-50 kids. To send updates and share photos and relay stories, trusting that the Holy Spirit will move in the hearts of Christ-followers to partner with us prayerfully and financially and maybe even physically to do more because it's a heavy load for the three or four ladies who carry it.
Rosa said she's taking in Rafael and his little sister for a while. Rosa, whose home is already overflowing, housing eleven people, only two of whom are biologically tied to her. The rest Jesus' love knit right into her heart.
And here I sit so far away and I wonder to God, almost daily, why He would move us so far away when He knows that our hearts stayed there. He knows that we long to be present to carry this load and speak Truth and Love. And yet He always reminds me. Today a series of circumstances allowed for our close friend Sam, who is also part of the Amazon Network, to be in Benjamin and he was able to sit with Rafael and speak with him, listen to him, hold him. And my heart fills a little. And the sales from necklaces allow us to give extra this month to cover expenses related to feeding and caring for Rafael's family. And my heart fills a little more. And my own adopted daughter rests peacefully in a safe place tonight because God brought her permanently into our home from that very same street over three years ago now. He's working. The fatherless can know the True Father. There is hope.
Because we are a Body in Christ. And we can't all be the hands. Sometimes we're the elbow. Sometimes we're a knee. But always Christ is the Head of the Body and He is busy at work with our small offerings like a tiny little safe house during the week or an overcrowded home with not much more than eggs and rice or a photo shared on social media to spread the word about what God is doing. Because Rafael is important to Him. He was knit together in the womb. And we get the privilege of investing in his life so that perhaps one day he can know Christ, his Heavenly Father, and grow to have his own family and learn to care for his children and teach them the love of Christ.
And maybe through Christ's incredible power we will see this cycle of abuse and neglect in this tiny jungle town broken, for His glory and the good of His Body.
Pray for Rafael, Carine, Rafaela, and their mom, Carla. Pray for healing. Pray for Christ to make Himself known to them in this dark hour. Pray for Rosa to be filled with faith and love. Pray for Truth to be reveled.
Pray for all the kids of Grace House and our volunteers. Pray for more workers to come alongside this work. Pray for faithful donors. Pray for faithful prayer warriors. Join us in this battle for the lives of the least of these.
(Rafael with some close friends of ours, Steve and Debbie.
He could hardly leave Steve's side during their time there.)