As I considered what to write in my first post of 2012, I kept coming back to one boy’s story. But I resisted as it simply did not seem powerful enough or even very positive. I mean, my first post of the year is supposed to be awesome, right? That’s what I think, so I sat down to write the most dynamic post I could muster up . . .
I started typing and the thoughts of the same little boy flooded my mind yet again. Let me warn you, his story is heartbreaking in many ways . . . BUT the glimpse of hope at the end makes his story perfect to share, because it shows the impact that Onesimus makes even when things don’t go as planned.
To protect his privacy, I’ll call him “M”. He came to Onesimus through a referral from a close-by project that simply did not have the ability to provide what he needed – a safe home. Unfortunately his home was a dangerous place for him where mental illness often led to his abuse. His desperate situation resonated with the Onesimus staff, so despite the typical protocol of moving through the Drop-In Center phase first, M was immediately taken into the boys’ halfway home.
There, M’s story began to change. His house parents, Alemayu and Abazu, loved him. Pure, unconditional, and safe love were finally his. And M began to thrive despite a past that probably should have dictated otherwise. I met him last February and saw a rambunctious and carefree boy, not the wounded spirit I expected. If there’s one thing I remember about M, it was his smile. His smile was so full of hope and so genuine.
To my surprise, M’s family came looking for him several months ago. Usually this is what Onesimus longs for, but this time the staff feared what awaited M in his home where there was no evidence of change. Despite the fears, the ministry had no choice but to relinquish this changing child to his family, who still maintained the legal right to M.
With much prayer, the staff of Onesimus let him go, trusting that the time they had with him was enough to impart lasting hope.
I was angry when I heard the news, thinking, how unprotected M must have felt. But the Lord reminded me in that moment that I am not his Savior, nor is Onesimus. I had to rest in God’s sovereignty. And I have to trust everyday that M is under God’s watchful care and protection.
Since the day M departed from Onesimus I have thought about him a lot. I’ve realized that no one ever knows how long a child will stay when they enter Onesimus’s gate. Sure, the hope is for a long relationship and to see a child grow into a godly man or woman, but the reality is that with street children this is not always possible. For M, it was just shy of one year, other times it may be a few days, and still other children may only be present for a couple of hours.
I was reminded of what matters the most in those small windows of time by an email from my sister-in-law, Jess, who is currently serving in Ethiopia. She wrote:
A friend working with a nearby project shared with us that M is coming to their tutoring program. She said at tutoring he will often sing praise songs to himself. Looks like he took a lot of things with him from the Half-way Home.
Pray for M, the Onesimus team, and for those small, yet pivotal windows of time where these children can find hope!