Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Day at the Beach (just to provoke a little all you cold readers!!)

Every so often during summer holidays (which we're "enjoying" right now), the boys all pile into the flatbed truck to head for the beach!  It's usually my dorm and the age just above mine. They leave after lunch, take a bumpy, hot 45 minute ride there, swim and play for an hour and a half then take the bumpy, hot ride back to the center! 

They love it!

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This is actually Maputo Bay so the water is calm and quite safe for a big group.  Let me clarify that - it's safe from big waves or undertow.  It is not safe from garbage, pollution, broken bottles, etc. 

Nor is it safe from the occasional BlueBottle - a strange looking creature I think is part of the jellyfish family.  It is blue and transparent, it has a little cap with a long tail that wraps around you in contact.  They are fairly harmless - I've been stung and it hurt enough to get out and sit down but the pain and swelling went down within an hour.  I do have a friend who had a severe reaction who was starting to go numb throughout her body but that receded as well and that reaction is rare. 

I always feel a bit on edge while the kids are there, concerned about the above, but this is where we live and this is what people have to enjoy so I'm not going to prevent them from going. 

I just wish they could go more often to enjoy getting out of the center and a respite from the heat!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Lucas is loved!

January 2009 011We all love Lucas here in the dorm, me, Fiona, the kids and the Tias.  But especially Tia Bilena - she adores him! 

In yet another example of God's loving answer to prayer, he arrived the night before my Tias switched (they work four days on, four days off).  I lay in bed really praying that when Tia Bilena arrived in the morning, she would have such a mother's heart for Lucas, who will need a lot of care.  Well, God fulfilled that prayer richly!!  Bilena delights in Lucas and is rarely away from him. 

One evening, she had taken a shower and was in her room and the kids were in the main room.  She heard him make a small cry and came rushing out, asking "what's wrong with my son?!?"  I went in my house and cried a few tears of joy while giving thanks to God!

January 2009 006Lucas is SO easy to love! He doesn't speak but he laughs and smiles and giggles.  He loves to copy what others do. like patting his face if we pat ours.  He loves when we give him something, then he gives it to whoever else is near.  I think he is going to learn lots, quickly and shoot ahead in development!

We really want him to develop physically as well.  Although he is six years old, he is wearing size 6-12 months clothes!  Can you imagine?  Please pray for him if you think of it, that he will be  the little boy God created him to be, with nothing interfering from his full potential!

Quick update on the last couple posts . . .

Well, Rafin didn't go home for a discipline.  I'm not sure what he got DSC_0924 instead but he's still here.  Please pray for him if you think of it - this is a boy who needs to know that in life, there are consequences for our actions!  And thankfully, there is much grace to be found in Jesus as well!

My three boys arrived home on Wednesday.  I was in South Africa til Friday night late so haven't had a decent chance to talk with them about what they have or haven't learned but will today.  They each greeted me with giant hugs and said they are glad to be back!

I've received some encouraging feedback about our "tough love" - thanks for your prayers and comments!

I'm always aware of the drawbacks to "institutional living" as compared to being raised in a family - difficulty in following through and proper consequences is one of those.  Another aspect I often ponder is that I rarely see much in the way of remorse in the boys.  It's as if the behavior has passed so everything is over.  I don't often see the kids trying to "make up for" their behavior or smooth over things with someone they've hurt. 

One wise person (my director Ros!) commented that in a family, you are always together - you are in the same (relatively) small house, eat at the same table, sit on the same couch, drive in the same car, etc.  So if you've had a conflict, you can't just go off to play with one of 300 other people, you have to pretty much work it out and make things better or everyone is miserable.  Here, it's easy for the kids to avoid problems rather than work through them. 

Another thing to ask my readers to keep in prayer - wisdom and discernment in all of these areas so that we raise Godly, mature, wise, kind, loving, responsible young men! (and women, there are girls in this center too, I just don't work with them!)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Two more difficult conversations

Thursday went along easily enough until around 9pm.  That's when I left my house to go to a friend's house and while walking across the playground, heard a terrible shouting and crying.  I detoured and came across one of the boys who used to live in my dorm, Rafin, throwing a terrible tantrum with his Educator.  He was essentially like a wild animal, thrashing around, hitting, kicking, biting and shouting.  And he's 12.  I tried to calm him down but nothing I said helped either. 

He finally calmed down and the Educator asked me if I had any ideas about discipline for him.  I said I did but he wouldn't like it! (he was one of the men the day before who thought we were too harsh to take our boys home.)  But I told him the Educators should not have to put up with that behavior from the boys, they shouldn't be physically threatened.  And, all the other boys were watching that happen and needed to see a swift and firm response.  So I suggested that he too go home for at least a week.  He decided to take him to our Head Educator Friday morning and let him make a discipline for him, as he has had other issues recently as well.

I spent a long time talking with Rafin, who refused to admit he had done anything wrong and  1 1/2 hours later, I was finally at my friend's but it was already 10:30 by then!

The second difficult conversation occurred this afternoon when Antonio's brother, Chico, came to see me to talk about his brother being taken to the other center.  As it turns out, Chico had walked to the center to visit him, which is over a mile each way.  (And it was about 100-105 today!)  He was crying when telling me his brother is "not good" and how he wants to come back and will be better.  It was so tough to see this 13 year old cry, hurting over his brother.  He's the one who was praying for him in church last night too.  He hadn't told anyone he was going, and didn't ask anyone for money for a chapa, the public transport.  His heart for his brother is so precious! 

It was tough, but I explained to him why we think this is best for his brother.  He had been there last night when Rafin had his tantrum - I was able to use that as an example of what we don't want to see in Antonio in two years!  I also complemented him on coming to talk with me and Eliza Julieta instead of just being angry and staying away from us.  He's come three times to talk about it with me.  And he's watching a movie in my house as I type this with some of my other boys.  I'm very proud of him!

Whew, it's been a tough few days around here!  But I keep trying to run the race for the joy set before me! The joy of serving the Lord as he has called me and the joy of seeing these boys mature and grow and become wonderful young men!  That's my hope and goal and why I hang in there!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Tough Love!

There was great weeping and wailing going on in my dorm on Wednesday and I'm still not sure how I survived it.  My head Educator, Eliza Julieta, was very proud of me that I didn't break down and cry when my boys did when they heard what their discipline was - being sent home for an unspecified amount of time. 

Directly after Tuesday's incident when they ganged up on a new boy, I told them I would look into taking them home the next morning but I don't think they believed me.  But when Eliza Julieta arrived and I told her what happened, she agreed completely.

So, Wednesday was spent taking two of the boys home.  Almost.  We took one of the boys home with no trouble.  His aunt was surprised to see him back so soon - he had only just returned to our center the day he fought with the boy.  So he was only back with us overnight before having to go home.  His visit went fairly well, he cried a little and the aunt was disappointed but overall he was ok.

The next boy was trickier - he hasn't had any family visit in over five years.  Two years ago we tried to find the family and found the family home but no one living in it.  So we returned to the same place (getting a little bit lost added an hour walking around in the blazing hot sun!) but again found no one home.  We did make telephone contact with the uncle so we hope to make a connection there for the future.

Because this boy has no known family, he has actually said to my Tias, "I'm not afraid, you can't do anything to me because I don't have a home"!"  That is a terribly disrespectful attitude!  So I had said to him "don't you worry, we'll find a place to send you - perhaps to the center where the new boys came from!"  Which is exactly what we did.  When we couldn't find any family to leave him with, we went to the center the new boys had come from and asked the Padre if we could leave him there for a bit.  The Padre whole-heartedly agreed it was a great idea.  This particular boy has been having recurring problems with lying, disrespect and outright defiance, in addition to the hitting incident, so he really needs a wake-up call. 

Leaving him was very hard as he as absolutely sobbing.  He was very afraid of being in a totally unknown place.  He doesn't know for how long it's for but we are planning for a week.  One of the hardest parts of his situation for me was coming back to our center and meeting up with his older brother who is 13.  He said he understood why we were disciplining him (he himself has often talked with him about his behavior) but he began to cry and that was so hard.  He's the only family he has and they're very close and he is naturally so upset his brother is gone.  tonight in church, I noticed this brother up at the front praying for a very long time.  Afterward he told me he was praying for his brother.  I was too.

Today, Thursday, we took the last boy home.  (It had gotten too late last night.)  This one was particularly difficult because he is SUCH a good boy, absolutely never a problem.  His behavior came right out of the blue.  But he was hitting with all the rest, and then very disrespectful to the Tio as well.  We didn't feel we could impose different disciplines.  So we made sure to tell him and his cousin, whom he will stay with, how proud we normally are of him and how we are concerned with this behavior and just want him back on the right track. 

I am pretty spent after all this.  Definitely heavy-hearted.  I didn't sleep too well last night, kept waking up and praying for the boys.  They will be moving to the next dorm in two weeks so this is one of the last major interactions we'll have and that makes me so sad.  I had looked forward to many fun times these next two weeks!  I am praying they will realize what they've done wrong and feel repentant, not become angry and hard-hearted because we've sent them home.

I really believe in consequences and I take to heart the Scripture that says God disciplines those whom he loves."  I believe that is true and the only way to raise children as well.  It's just the walking out of it that can be a bit tough!  But I've seen too many of our older kids get into serious trouble with much greater consequences - this needs to be nipped in the bud now! 

Again, please pray for my boys and for me!  We want to be led by the Spirit in the ways of God!!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

They're not always darlings!

Tonight I was greatly disappointed in some of my boys.  You might call me naive or unrealistic and perhaps I am.  But I was so heavy-hearted at their behavior.  I still am!

This week we've received several new children, 16 to be exact, throughout the center.  The two oldest are around 10 or 11, a tough age to make a transition like that.  They've come from a neglected center nearby.  Well, I was out in the main playground area of the center, well past when I should have been, 9ish, when I/we heard a great wailing commence.  (I was out there because I had just discovered one of our other boys had broken into our visitor compound and was getting ready to steal things so I was bringing him to his Educator.)

Lo and behold, my precious darlings have beaten up one of the new boys.  Four against one.  THAT was enough to make my blood BOIL!!!  On top of that, their demeanor with the male Educator who I was with was horrible, they were so disrespectful!  I couldn't believe it.  Then, they had the audacity to sass ME!!! 

The whole incident just made me so angry.  Here's where I become unrealistic -  why couldn't they have thought "Oh I want to bless this new boy and invite him to play with me?"  Or, how's about "I'm a Christian at a Christian center - I don't beat up new boys!"  I'm quite sure these boys have heard of our center, we're very close by.  I'm quite sure they've heard we're Christians and have church several times a week.  Perhaps, just maybe, they encouraged each other and said "we don't have to be afraid, they're a Christian center so we'll be ok there. . ."

So for one of them to get beaten up, four against one, just breaks my heart.  I can still remember when I was 9 and had started at a new school.  One day shortly after school started, as I was walking home, I came upon a group of about 5 or 6 girls who had gathered for the sole purpose of beating me up!  I can still remember the shirt I was wearing!  And I remember how I felt.  I could just imagine how this boy felt.  We want to provide him with a safe, loving haven and instead my boys are awful to him. 

At times like these, it's all I can do to not feel like such a failure.  I know they're responsible for their choices but I think, if only I'd taught them better this wouldn't have happened. 

This compounds a few other issues we've been having with them, the oldest boys, and I really need wisdom for how to deal with them.  I do so want the Holy Spirit to work in them!  I do so want them to be delightful young men that I can be proud of. It's hard to love them so much and yet be so disappointed.  Please pray for us if you think of it!  And say a prayer for our new kids too!  Thanks!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Going for a visit!

I told Armandino I was taking this photo so I could prove what he was Skateboarding! 003 wearing when he left, so he'll come back with it!  (Sometimes our boys wear their nice clothes home and come back in not so nice ones, sad but true.)  I said it in a nice joking way, hopefully! (I know he doesn't look like he thought it was funny but this little guy rarely smiles, sadly.)

But I thought he looked really cute getting ready to go for a visit home so I thought I'd tell you all a little about it. 

Many of our kids visit family during school holidays.  But Christmas is such a hit, most December 2008 010leave afterward!  I have had four go home so far - one boy is visiting his uncle who is  visiting here from Italy! He's the second from right in this photo.  The boy to his right, used to live here but his dad, on the left, came back to get him. 

Not too many of my kids have homes that are appropriate to visit.  Most of the ones who did, have New Years Eve 2008 001gone to live with them!  Older kids can visit homes for short periods where the conditions aren't 100% but we have to be much more careful of our little ones.  It makes me sad that the vast majority of my dorm can't go visit anyone.   This is Simois on the left and Daniel from the Baby House, going home with their father who is nearly blind so they can stay for short periods of time with the help of family and neighbors.  He's a dear man and the kids were excited to see him!New Years Eve 2008 002

This is Gisela, the mom of Estevao on the left and Paulo on the right.  This marks one year that they have been visiting home at the holidays and we are praying about their future!

Also, three of my tias each have a special boy that they often take home with them for the holidays.  I think that is so special.  And they happen to be boys with no known family so that's even better!

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Shondino (I introduced him previously as Alexandre) wasn't able to go home with his mom but she came to visit him so I wanted to include him here.  We asked if she was wanting to take him home for a visit and she said she really has nothing and first would need to ask her neighbors for help with food.  My Tia, Eliza Julieta, has visited there and knows this to be true.  Shondino came to live with us because his mom was so sick she was walking on her knees only with the help of a stick.  Shondino was cooking the meals for them and his little brother.  She went to a Catholic hospital who could help her but had no space for the kids so they came here.  Look at her now!!!  Isn't she beautiful?  And he looks just like her!  And . . . she walked here from her home, quite a distance!!  I thank God for the help she received and that we're here to help Shondino and his little brother!  Praise God for his mercy!

Psalm 68:6 says God sets the lonely in families.  I am praying that Scripture over my boys!  Hey, I just realized he already has - OUR family here! 

(A few more boys went but I don't have photos of them all.  All in all, I was down to 16 for New Years!)

Thursday, January 01, 2009

More Skateboarding fun!

I'm sure I love looking at these photos more than others but since I'm trying to take some of each boy, I thought I'd give them equal blogger time!Skateboarding! 018

Here's Room 1 having a great time!  Our new littlie, Lucas, loved watching them and the boys loved giving him a turn!  They were cooperating remarkably well!  Ok, I'll be honest - I bribed them with cookies if they don't fight over it all afternoon!

You can see in the background of the photo below, about 25 feet of our fence blew down in a windstorm on Christmas Eve!  Our workers are on holiday til January 5th!  I hope we can get at least a temporary fix until then.  So, we wait for our replacement trampoline cover and we have to endure a lot of older boys coming into the garden or standing outside and provoking the little ones.  The 13 year olds are perfect at this!

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Angelo is fearless!

Skateboarding! 016 Ivo is listening to Angelo tell him how to ride it.

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Aurelio is happy to leave the work to Afonso!!