I remember very vividly the first time I saw him.
Mariclene had been our breakfast visitor for a while and on occassion she would show up with one of her biological siblings so they could also devour eggs and bread, often their only real meal for the day.
He was butt. naked.
His long, seemingly highlighted, curly hair reached his shoulders and he had this wild-eyed look on his face at all times. He was about two years old at the time and couldn’t say a single word. He always came toting his little broken riding toy. (And if another child tried to take said toy, screaming and grunting quickly ensued!)
He was the cutest thing, though remarkably reminding me of a modern baby tarzan.
Richard and I would joke between the two of us calling him “O selvagem”, meaning “the savage”. Because between the naked buttcheeks and the grunts, well, he seemed pretty savage!
His two big sisters cared for him, but mostly Mariclea, his older sister. She was eight.
She would walk with him down the street and fix him a bowl of “farinha” and water. She brought him “home” and just looked after him in general.
She was EIGHT.
Fast-forward to our first Grace House meeting nearly three years ago. We were discussing everything: who would be in charge of daily decisions, what would a meal plan look like and so on. And then it was brought up, “What do we do when we are at capacity and there is STILL a need?”
We all just sort of sat there. Because you want to say, “We will just take them anyway, of course!” But there is this part of you that says, “What about a place to sleep when the floor is already full? What about food when you are already dividing up the pieces of bread? And, perhaps most of all, what about truly providing love when Rosa is already stretched so incredibly thin?”
We kind of just left it there because who really wants to address that? We’ll just cling to James 1.5 when that moment comes...
So here we are, reading James 1.5 and praying over it, asking God to give that generous dose of wisdom. Because yesterday we got word that little “savage” has been returned to his birth mother. And that’s a really bad situation.
For the past little while, he has been with another woman in Atalaia, a little jungle town about 45 minutes from Benjamin. While we knew that this was also not an ideal situation, we knew that at the very least he was being fed, had a place to sleep, and was going to school regularly. Sometimes, we just have to rest in that and God’s grace to fill in the gaps.
But now, the woman who had taken him in has left her husband for another man and returned the boy to the biological mother as though he were an object that she had just gotten tired of. I wish I could say that this is unusual, but it’s not. These types of situations happen all. the. time. Parents and caregivers are caught up in the poverty cycle and are very detached from their children. So to pass them off to another is often a mindless, heartless action. It’s more like a reflex when times get tough. One less thing to worry about.
So the boy is now with his biological mother and she does not want him. She has made that clear not only through her words, but through her actions. She has already given away Mariclene to us and three of her other biological siblings to Rosa, as well as another fourteen year old boy who lives with another family, (though he mostly roams the streets). She does not have a stable home. She sells herself and her things to feed her drug habits. It’s a terrible situation for a child.
It may seem like the obvious thing to do is to bring him to Grace House. I hear ya. I wish so much that it were that simple. But to say that Rosa is at capacity is an understatement. She currently has 11-12 people living in her 1,000 square foot home with no running water. Most nights there are 2-3 to a bed. The actual home of Grace House cannot yet be used to house the children because God has not sent us house parents yet to be full-time caregivers. This leaves Rosa to continue to manage her own home as well as the 40+ kids that show up Monday-Thursday for the program. Additionally, she feeds 10-15 kids those days as well. And through various circumstances, all of her full-time volunteer help has had to step down for one reason or another, some health related, some job related. This has left Rosa, her middle son Pepeco, and their neighbor, Eliana, to carry the weight of about 50 kids.
All of this leaves us in a quandry. We know that Jesus’ heart is for the children of this town. We see that throughout scripture. We know that He provides. And yet, we don’t know what to do. Because all of these physical circumstances don’t even touch the issue that children from this background have massive emotional and behavioral needs. Taking in a five year old boy with attachment disorders and survival instincts is a task for a family, not a single lady already at capacity.
So that’s what we are praying for. Against all odds, we are praying for a godly family to take in this boy and truly, deeply love him. He needs that.
My heart aches, y’all. I want to take him in myself. Having passed through that valley within our own family, I recognize the immense struggle a family would be facing to accept him in and the reality is, most aren’t able or willing. But we are praying in faith the God will send one, against all odds.
Please pray for this situation with us. Pray for wisdom, faith, hope, and a family to care for this boy whom we all love dearly.
This is a picture from about two years ago of Mariclene with four of her biological siblings.
The boy in the front is the boy at risk. The other three already live at Grace House.
He is only about three-years-old in this picture.