24 Oct Day 14: Fernando, part 2

“I have come that you might have life and have it to the fullest.”
John 10:10

Fernando in 2007

Fernando, the House Parents Coordinator we prayed for yesterday, recently spoke at a staff meeting of particularly discouraged house parents. It happens. I wasn’t in the meeting, but what I can say is the same slump-shouldered house parents left the meeting with their heads high, giving high fives, and ready to face another day. I asked Fernando to summarize what he had said, and this is what he sent me:

“I was watching the behavior of some of the boys; how their moods change constantly. Sometimes they go to sleep happy with life, and the next day they wake up sulking and don’t want to talk. It’s… intriguing at best.
As I talked with them, I realized that for us, what would only be a dream at night—for them could trigger a past trauma. And for them, their sleep is often tormented and filled with painful memories.

I remembered Ciao, a 15-year-old who saw his father behead his mother in front of him. And Jorge, 12, who was with us on a recent hike when, looking down on the female prison from a ledge, one of the boys joked, “Throw a bomb down there and BOOM!” Jorge answered, “No! My mother is in there!” 
I can imagine him at night lying in his bed, thinking about his mother in prison, and his father in another prison, and his brothers and sisters spread out in other shelters. This is a 12 year-old kid I’m talking about, who is living with people—us—previously unknown to him, in a place far away from anything reminiscent of his childhood.
That’s why we always have to put on our armor of mercy and compassion, not frustration. Our eyes have to always reflect the love of our Father, even when we are disciplining these young souls. We have to remember that even a simple dream may bring a flood of painful memories from the past. And maybe they are just acting out the way they saw their parents do. Parents who resolved everything with violence, or self-medicated with more drugs.
A few months ago I congratulated a former student, Renan, about his beautiful family. I was shocked when he looked down and said it was because he had my family as his model. What a responsibility. It makes everything worthwhile.
And Diego, who posted a picture when his team won a championship. Imagine how surprised I was to see the caption, “Uncle Fernando taught me much more than soccer, he taught me how to be a father.” He shared his moment of fame with me. 
When Renan came to visit me during the holidays, even I was amazed at how lovingly he treated his 3-year-old daughter. My heart was so full, seeing before my eyes the cycle of violence and poverty had been broken. He was not repeating the story of his parents.
Seeing them working, taking care of their children, modeling love as the form of correction to their own children. It makes what we are doing all worth it. Seeing the difference. The transformation. These kids had no life expectancy. They dared to see themselves as professionals, parents, men and women. They were reached by God’s love, through a place called Hope Unlimited. Let’s go out and keep doing what we do best.

Today, pray that all our young graduates will find success and joy in their personal and professional lives, and that they always have the courage to put God first in their lives.  Pray especially for those that have fledgling businesses. Pray that they will always have the courage to be honest in their businesses and for Christian mentors.