Thursday, April 18, 2013

broken, bruised, and battered

                I was at a loss for words the first time I heard the story.  The siblings I had just met who were so full of life and laughter had seen things I could never imagine.  Their father had abandoned them long before they knew him, their mother struggled to support them, and finally she had given up hope and abandoned them too.  These sweet children were found chained to the wall of the hut they called home starving.  It wasn’t clear how many days they had been tied up, but it was long enough that these tiny, malnourished toddlers had resorted to consuming their own feces. 

I was in shock.

This beautiful safe-haven I was visiting for the first time I no longer saw as simply a mission of love…this was a mission of need.  These children needed someone to save them, to find them, to fight for them.  This was the first time I can remember the blood rushing through my veins and the passion building up.  My flushed face grew tense and sad and I knew that something had to be done that was bigger than saving one child just to continue the cycle of poverty and abuse.  This country needs social justice reform.  They need social services to protect women and children like the Department of Children and Families does here in America.  It needs a completely reformed educational system so that they are not continuously mass producing citizens with less than a 6th grade education. 

Drugs, gangs, violence, rape, murder, abuse.  This country has it all. 

What this country needs is support.  It needs help.  The poor in Honduras don’t have what America’s impoverished and homeless have.  Yes, poverty in America is terrible and it is so unjust.  But what America is doing about it is good.  After working at Catholic Charities as an intern this past year, I have seen a lot of sad situations and a lot of very poor people.  What I have learned is that I am not only proud to be an American, but proud of my government for what it’s trying to do.  It will never be perfect and the system can always do more, but at least it’s doing what it can.

Hondurans do not have this luxury.  The government is corrupt.  The rich grow richer and the poor grow more desperate.  If it weren’t for non-profits and religious organizations supporting them with the limited social services they are able to, their situation could be much worse than it is. 

The sad part is, the story of the chained up siblings is not uncommon at all. Nearly all of the children at the Farm of the Child have been sexually abused and beaten at some point in their childhood.

First experiencing the love of God
seated in a Franciscan Sister's lap
This is the girl who first showed me how to climb trees in Honduras. 
She showed me how to use a machete like a true Honduran to crack open my coconuts.
She took my hands and asked me to dance in the rain. 
To enjoy every moment of down time we had together. 
To laugh at myself and to learn from mistakes (which were mostly made with my poor Spanish).

This happy, glowing child was found abandoned in a basket floating down a river as a new born baby.  The woman who found her took her home.  She was subject to much neglect and abuse during the time she was taken in and at the age of three was brought to the Farm of the Child looking like the first picture above.  At three years old, she weighed 12lbs, had no ability to walk, was extremely malnourished, and had numerous rashes and a severe chest infection.  By the grace of God she survived and has grown much since then.  She is a fighter and a survivor. 

Happy, healthy, and growing more and more every day!
It is children like this little girl who have taught me about God’s mercy and love.  I feel sometimes like I have nothing to give these kids. I don’t know what to say to them.  I have never experienced anything close to what they have.  I feel all I can do is hold them.  But I want to fight for them.  I want to go into the depths of this poor country and find those other toddlers, babies, and young kids who have no hope of being found.  I want to bring some sort of justice to the neglect, abuse, and abandonment of these beautiful children who I love more than my heart can bear. 

I wish I could express more of the passion to you that I feel for this mission. With each child at the Farm comes a deep, dark past of abuse, neglect, and profound hurt that they will have to deal with their whole lives.   

This mission is not only one of love and of need, but one of hope. 

The Farm of the Child is a mission dedicated to giving these children new lives, services to assist them in coping with their unimaginable pasts, and a faith to stay with them forever.  This mission can change the very foundation of the country by educating and supporting these little, lost sons and daughters.  The work will be slow and perhaps we will not see the full outcome in our lifetime, but it is a step in the right direction.  It is a much needed step to help guide this third-world nation out of poverty, out of corruption, and out of a lack of respect for human life. 

God doesn’t call us to stay comfortable and help the needy who are easy to help.  He demands we go out and save those who have no hope of salvation.  They are His sons and daughters too. 

Every year, missionaries from all over the country dedicate their lives to this fight.  They give up everything they know for 2 ½-3 ½ years and serve these kids to the best of their ability.  They want to inspire, teach, help, hold, and love everyone they can during their time.  They typically do not expect to grow, be inspired, be taught, be helped, and be held as well during their time down there, but that’s surprisingly what tends to happen when you’re serving in God’s kingdom. 

My heart literally aches for these children as I try to think about and feel their pain.  My heart yearns to serve them and love them and help give them a better life.  I take comfort in knowing that what I am giving up in my life at home in the States is well worth it, as much as that may hurt as well.  It is like the story of the rich man in the Gospel of Mark:

As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; you shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’”  He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”  When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions. –Mark 10: 17-22

I have many possessions.  I have friends, family, and communities that I care very deeply for and it hurts to think of what I will be giving up by leaving them behind for 2 ½ years of my life.  It is not easy.  I don’t expect myself to ever fully accept that what I am doing will be easy because my heart is torn.  It yearns for those children and to save those broken, bruised and battered little ones who have not yet been found. And it aches for my family and for my dear friends who love and support me unconditionally.  But when God calls you somewhere, it is not something you can easily ignore. 

I am not saying that we are all called to do something this drastic with our lives.  By all means, God has a special plan for each and every one of us and if we choose to ask what it is, do not doubt that He will respond.  The reality is that not everyone can take 2 ½ years out of their lives to leave everything behind and serve these little ones.  But if you feel called to support those who can today or to commit to praying for the missionaries and the children of the Farm of the Child you would be contributing to not only the love and support of these abused, neglected, abandoned children, but supporting the future of an underdeveloped nation.  The reality is that these kids are the future generation of Honduras.  Any sort of effective and foundational social reform starts with them.    

“Do not wait for leaders.  Change the world one person at a time.” –Mother Teresa

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