The more days I am here, the more of the children's stories I hear and learn about. The stories aren't pretty, there is nothing beautiful about them except for the love they carry with them and the ability to overcome their pasts. In a short film I watched recently (The Butterfly Circus), it was said "the greater the struggle the more glorious the triumph," everyday I spend with these kids I see their struggles but also I see them overcoming and opening doors to that glorious triumph that is empowered by the love of Christ.
We were having our weekly Bible study this past Monday and it ended up being a time when we just shared a verse that had been on our hearts, or one we had come across recently. One of the verses (I don't even remember which it was, it is not written down in my notes- whoops) had the word overcome in it. I have come across that word so many times this past year in scripture, when we studied Revelation it came up very often, "he who overcomes, I will grant him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne." (Revelation 3:21) Why I like the word is the power behind it, and because Christ overcame death so we too will be able to overcome sin and through that we will get to be with Christ. So much is packed in one little word. Which leads me to the beginnings of a child overcoming a horrible chain of events that he didn't start.
Nelson, is the oldest of three boys, he is 11, Luis is 8- almost 9 and according to him I should take him to pizza on his birthday, and then there is little Anthony who is 5 and one of the happiest kids I know. Nelson has as special place in my heart, as do all the children here, but Nelson and I have a connection which I am hoping will grow over this next year so that I can invest in him and help him on his journey. These guys came to Casa de Paz around January. Their parents had been involved in drugs, which went downhill and the boys had to witness and be subject to people who wanted to make a point no matter who was present. Anthony young as he is I pray the memories will just fade away, there isn't any evidence in his daily life of trauma. Luis is the same, he is just an 8 year old boy rough, wild, and crazy as the rest. Nelson, however, is having to deal with more, the details I will not share, but they are inexcusable- I have a hard time seeing people who lay a finger on a child in the eyes of Christ.
Such events in a person's life don't just go away, and solely being in a better situation with love, school, family, and friends doesn't make it all go away, it becomes a great struggle. A struggle, though I think we are beginning to see some hints of a glorious triumph. When Nelson first came to the house, I was told he fought a lot and had a great deal of trouble with anger, it is evident he still has trouble with the anger as I am sure with many other emotions. I have also been told that sometimes he gets these urges to run away, and when you take him into town you need to be careful, and keep a hand or a very steady eye on him, and don't talk to anyone in town.
The first time I witnessed Nelson in any kind of a mood, was this past Saturday. Along with Bruce and Abby, I took the older kids-about 15 or so, to one of the parks (the only places with trees) to Slackline. It was a great time, all of the kids absolutely loved it, none of them have quite got the hang of it yet to stand on their own, they will be ready in time and we have many more days to practice! After about an hour or so, it was getting close to the time when we should head to get ice cream and then home to make it in time for youth at church. And as it seems with any group of kids we ran into a he-said-she-said ordeal he-hit-me-she-hit-me, etc. The he was Nelson, which really wasn't a big deal. I told them they both needed to take a seat and a moment.
After 10 seconds Nelson decided to walk over behind a giant bush- not cool. So, I proceeded to follow him, and remind him that he needed to stay where I could see him, and he needed to listen to me, and I told him to sit over there, not where we were standing. He said no. Again I told him he needed to return to the original spot I asked him to sit at for the same reasons previously stated. Again no, so I had to grab his arm with the intent to walk him back to the group. He fought back, pulling with all his strength- these kids are all muscle, I also feel at this point his pride kicked in. This gets to the point where I do not like discipline and stuff. I am afraid to let his arm go because I don't know if he will run, but I really don't want to drag him back to the group for total embarrassment on his part and force on mine. But we aren't close enough to everyone else to do anything else. So, I am left to almost drag a fighting child back to the rest of them, the whole way he is pulling against me, trying to knock me off my feet with his, attempting to pull my hand off his arm, and hitting me. But the whole time this went on I didn't like it, and when I looked in his eyes I could tell he didn't want to hurt me, but I could also see deep rooted pain.
We finally were close enough to everyone else that Bruce noticed the struggle and came to offer his assistance. I had to tell everyone to head to the camby, we picked up the slackline and headed home with no ice cream, because that kind of behavior is unacceptable, especially outside of our walls. When we got home I told Nelson to wait for me and we were going to go have a talk with the mom- as I do with every kid that misbehaves in a manner which requires more than a stern talking to or two minutes off the playground. He did not wait for me. He walked to the swings and sat down on one. I walked over to him- there has to be follow through- and told him he needed to get up and come with me to the house, he replied again with a no. I told him that it is going to be a lot easier if he comes with me now, I was not going to force him into the house, but mom would know that he didn't listen to me a second time. He continued to swing.
I found mama Maria and told her in my broken spanish (my spanish is more scared of adults than kids) the events of the day. Nelson was basically on house arrest for the rest of the day, and I retreated to my house. Having to do that to a kid, especially to do that with Nelson just killed me. I struggled with it for the rest of the day. I saw him a few times and wanted to talk to him when I was at the boys house later that day, but didn't. At church the next morning I wanted to talk with him, but didn't. I wanted to talk and walk on the way home, but I didn't. Our eyes made contact several time during the day, and I could tell he was sorry and wanted to talk and I am pretty sure he could tell I wanted to talk too. I ate dinner with the kids Sunday night, and happened to be at the same table as Nelson, cause Greisy pulled me into a seat beside her which was directly across from Nelson.
During dinner glances were exchanged, and little smirks because the two little girls are just plain crazy. During dinner I decided that we were probably ready to talk. So, immediately following dinner I walked with the little boys to their house and threw them around for a little bit, and tucked them into bed. It was buenas noches for the rest of the boys, but when I got to Nelson I asked him if he would come outside with me for a minute. I got on my knees so I was mostly at his level (he was a bit taller than me then), and I begin to speak in my best spanish. I told him I was sorry, but that he had to listen to me especially when we are in town, and that I wanted to be able to take him places, and have fun. I told him that I do not like to have to do that ever, but I had to Saturday but I did it because of love- half way through he said he was sorry too, and before I could finish and say I loved him he said he loved me and gave me a huge hug- I had some wells. It was one of those hugs where you just keep holding.
I went to bed that night feeling so much relief. My heart was settled, and I had my Nelson back. But through the events of those two days I was able to know Nelson better, I was able to see through wordless actions his spirit, his pain, his heart, his struggle, but in the end and through it all I saw his love. And without love you cannot begin to overcome a thing.