We found Selso on the street before he came to live with us almost two years ago. Last year, he talked about wanting to go back, and I had written a group email asking people to pray for him.
On Tuesday the 8th, he and all the other boys from Room 2 were in my house and we were arranging their clothes bag they were going to be taking with them when they moved to the next dorm that evening. I was giving them all new underwear, shoes, sandals, and shirts.
Right in the middle of giving them these gifts, Selso and another boy, Nelson, left my house and went and stole another boy's peanut butter (the New Year's Day gift). I was very angry when I found out, that right while they are being blessed, they are stealing! They knew I was angry as well. I said that I wasn't going to give them the new clothes that day, they could have them later but I wasn't going to give them gifts when they are stealing. So they had to leave my house while I continued sorting out the other boys' clothes. But they were welcome to come to the little leaving party we were having at 4.
When it was time for out little party, Nelson was there but Selso was no where to be found. The Tias went and looked for him but couldn't find him. It was my night to go into the city so I spent my whole evening searching the streets for him. I knew he was angry, he never apologized although Nelson had, and he left very mad. Sadly, I didn't find him.
Over the next two weeks, I spent many afternoons and evenings driving the streets, talking to street kids, looking everywhere I could think for him. Our pastors on street ministry were looking for him as well.
On Tuesday the 22nd, a friend, Sarah, was going on Street Ministry. I was going to the city as well. She said "see you tomorrow" and I replied, "see you tonight when you call me to tell me you guys have found Selso!" And at about 5:15, my phone rang and they had spotted him! Sadly, he had run, and the pastors ran after him but didn't catch him.
But I went to the area and just walked around, sat at a cafe and ate a cookie, hid in bushes, waiting to see if he would re-appear, etc. After about 1 1/2 hours, he did! And when I approached him, thankfully, he didn't run! But he wasn't happy to see me either. He wouldn't let me hug him and barely replied to anything I asked. He wouldn't let me buy him dinner (we were in front of KFC) or even a coke, or even sit down on the curb with me. So we stood for over an hour, me trying to persuade him to come home with me, or at least let me take him home. (He was insisting he was staying with an aunt which I knew wasn't true and indeed, it wasn't.)
He started to walk away when three guards who'd been watching us starting talking with him. While they were, I called the pastor on street ministry and told him I was with Selso if he wanted to come back. The guards were behaving fairly typically, issuing lots of warnings about life on the street, one even said if he refused to go with me, he couldn't come there any more (a prime location for kids who beg as a lot of foreigners eat at KFC) to try and make money, he would beat him if he saw him again. But one was very kind, bent down to Selso's level and began talking to him about God, saying he knew that inside Selso wanted to go home but that the devil was telling him "no, stay on the street" and that he should listen to what God was telling him instead. He was very kind.
While he was talking with him, the pastor arrived and tried to just talk normally with Selso but he refused and acted like he was going to leave. Ultimately, the pastor just picked him up and forcibly carried him to the van, Selso crying, kicking and screaming all the way. He even tore the pastor's pants! They forced him into the van where he made a fuss all the way home (30 minutes!).
The interesting thing is, they had found two brothers, 7 and 8, very little, on the street who had been there over two weeks. So they were in the van being brought back into the center where we can investigate their situation. I can only imagine what they were thinking when it looked like Selso was being kidnapped! But Sarah said they just fell asleep on the way back to the center.
Although I had misgivings about using force, in a way, I think it showed Selso that we were going to do whatever was necessary for him to be safe, that we loved him and we were going to push through the barrier he had put up. I think small children (he's about 10) who act like that really want someone to pursue them and not give up, perhaps even force them to do what they can't choose for themselves. At least that's me looking on the bright side!
When he came home, he still refused to stay. I told him I had his clothes and bracelet and at least come up to the dorm to get his things, then we could take him back if he really wanted to. All of us had agreed we weren't going to lock him in, we're not a prison. So I finally coaxed him to let go of the kinesu fence he was clinging to, and amazingly, he let me take his hand and walked with me to the dorm. One of our Mozambican men who is part of our staff and a good buddy to Selso was talking with him as well and really was the most instrumental in helping him calm down.
We arrived in the dorm where the Tias were so happy to see him. They greeted him as though he'd just come home fairly normally, said "let's go take a shower" because he hadn't showered or changed his clothes since he'd left. Then he sat down in front of the worship DVD they were watching and ate some bread they gave him. When he fell asleep in front of the TV, I said just leave him, wake him when you go to bed and perhaps he'll be too sleepy to refuse! Which is what happened and he went to bed like normal.
The next day was quite touch and go. I felt like we were doing an awkward dance. In the morning, he had refused to eat and I sat on the step with him where he refused to talk to me as well. It struck me that this is what God deals with all the time and has for thousands of years! He offers love and care and only wants what's best for someone and how often people refuse to respond or even to look at him! So I asked God to help me love Selso like he loves us in those situations and what that would look like. I felt like it would look like continuing to offer that love, regardless of the response. So I just sat with him, until my Head Tia arrived who made some small progress with him.
She brought him to my house where he sat very distantly most of the morning, us making baby steps toward one another, me afraid to push him away, him undoubtedly afraid to show any sign of opening up. At one point, I turned to him and said "Selso, I so wish I could speak to you in English because I'm afraid perhaps sometimes I say things the wrong way in Portuguese. But I really, really, really want you to stay. It's so nice to have you here and I've missed you. I just want you to know that." Again, I was just trying to offer him love with no expectation of response.
My main strategy was to get him involved in things. So he helped sweep my house, helped me make salad, helped set up the chairs and tables for the Afternoon Program, etc. When it was time for lunch, the Tias called him but he said he wouldn't eat. I offered he could eat in my house but he said no. A few minutes later I had stepped out and came back and said "Selso, it's beans!" All the boys know beans are my favorite! I asked would he go get me a plate and if he wanted to bring in a plate, he should feel free. And he did!! That was a huge victory.
I knew we'd finally turned the corner when it was shower time and the Tias called him to go shower. He went without a fuss and afterward, standing in his towel, he asked "Mana Laura, can I go in your house and get my bag of clothes?" I said sure! When he returned, he dressed then plunked his bag down with the other boys', right where it belongs! It may have been internal but my "Thank You Jesus!" may have been one of the loudest I've ever shouted!
It's been two full days now and he shows no sign of leaving. We're taking baby steps in talking about everything. it seems that one of the reasons he left is being afraid of moving to the next dorm. For now he's staying in my dorm and we haven't decided if he can stay for the next year, or should move up as planned. We need God's wisdom on this. It might be a good time for me to learn a lesson about grace over principles.
I am so thankful he is home! Honestly, for two solid weeks EVERY SINGLE TIME my cell phone rang or I got a message, I would think "maybe someone's found Selso!" He was never off my mind.
Searching for him on the streets just made me so aware how little he has and who would look for him if I didn't? it made me sad all over again that he doesn't have his own family looking out for him. While I was looking behind buildings, I noticed how many mosquitos there were and I thought, "who would help him if he got malaria? would he just die from it?" I don't know what all happened during those two weeks on the street, but I know these streets are mean. I'm praying that God will reveal anything that has happened and we'll know how to help Selso through it, as well as deal with the issues that led him there to begin with.
Here we are playing a dice/bowling game, just tonight. Lovely Selso is on the right.
Sorry for the long post! Thank you for reading and please keep praying for Selso and all my darling boys! And for me, for wisdom, perseverance and patience! And faith! And joy! Oh, for all of the fruit of the Spirit! I need it all!