Hello and welcome. Although we may be just meeting for the first time, I hope you don’t mind if I share a personal story about a friend of mine.
For three weeks starting in late January, I was given the amazing opportunity to work at a children’s home called in Rancho Los Amigos in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. They’re a home for 35 children all from the area, and have a school on the property for the children to attend. Now if you read about Juarez on sites like wikipedia, you’ll be informed of their fast growing population and their very violent reputation.
But when you go the home, you see what the news anchors need to publicize. You meet Ramon, a 14 year-old artist who’s been there since he was 2, and Yesenia, an adorable little 4 year old who’s been there almost a year among all the other beautiful children. These kids are simply kids, their not kids you’d expect to grow up in a city considered more violent than any other city not declared a war zone, you’d expect them to be living up the street from your house. But what you also see as you interact with them and talk with them is something that will break your heart; a longing for love that won’t leave them.
Like I said he’s been in the home since about the age of 2, along with his older brother Manuel and little brother Jose. He doesn’t play soccer so he’s often excluded from activities with boys in the home, but he takes that private time to hone his gift of drawing. I had an instant curiosity of him, because I saw so much of myself in him. I remember being a 14 year old, it was a lonely time with a lot of questions I either didn’t find answers for or gave up on answering. It was time where I really started thinking all the more about the point of this life, and unfortunately even tried to take my own life. While it was slow, we got to know each other.
We had a few times where he would mainly just need to talk to me, and I would listen. It could range from a minute to 30 minutes or longer, but I didn’t mind. I honestly wanted to hear what he was saying not because it was my job, but because I cared about helping him in whatever way I could. He began sharing with me the emotional scars left from absent parents, his older brother who now isn’t at the home after being kicked out for disobeying, and struggling on how to be a good brother to his younger sibling Jose. While I’ve grown up as an only child and am not nearly old enough to be a father to a teenager, I truly felt like I was supposed to build him up inside so he could see how much potential his life has.
As I began to share that I haven’t always believed in God, let alone been the way I am now, he began to see that we related in ways he didn’t expect. At least this is what I believe, not only because he would hear me out, but because he’d only known me as an acquaintance and was sharing his private life with me. I am not fluent in spanish, but our language difference was no barrier. I will never forget a night we were talking, as he began to weep I just asked if i could pray for him. And as he struggled, doing whatever he could to hold back the tears, he said yes.
At this moment, I felt like I wasn’t just supposed to pray for him, but I was supposed to hug him. I don’t mean a hug between acquaintances, I hugged him like he needed to be; like a Father. In that moment he just began to cry, letting go of held back emotions and walls of pain built up as a defense for many years. I said to him as we stood in the cool night air of Juarez, “Ramon; do you mind if I pray for you standing as a brother or father figure to you and committing your life to God?” At first, I don’t think he knew how to respond but he understood me. But just as I began wondering if he heard me clearly he responded: YES.
As my own emotions began to take over, we stood together and I committed him to God’s life plan made specifically for him. Every chance we had throughout those three weeks after this special time of a bond being formed, we would spend it together. By the time I left we weren’t just friends, we were family. We are family.
The night before I had to leave I spent about an hour or so with him, just thanking him for being my friend and brother. Thanking him for sharing with me about himself and letting me be apart of his life. He asked if I would be coming back, but all I could say was ” if it’s God’s will, I’ll be here. But that’s the only time I can come back.” I never want to make a promise I can’t keep, so I knew I must be honest. He accepted it, painfully just as it was for to say it, but we both agreed to just enjoy our time together. Later on a room mate of mine gave me a note Ramon had written me, it was his best attempt to write a full thank you note in english. While it may not be easy to read, it’s a note I will forever treasure. In the end he said something that remains in my mind as I tell this story or share about him with people; “DON’T FORGET US” I couldn’t forget Ramon or any of the other kids if I tried, and I don’t want to either.
Whether I go back to Rancho Los Amigos or not is irrelevant to me, these kids deserve more than what their parents were willing to give and they have a chance at the home to get it. They don’t just have clothes, a bed, education, and food; they have an irreplaceable necessity of life, LOVE. I will continue to pray for the home and all the kids, and if I visit again I look forward to seeing how many more lives will be changed by the beautiful children of Juarez being loved and growing into future world changers.
I hope this story shows you not only what I experienced, but just the power of God’s love through genuine interest in another human being. It could be the difference between life and death.
Un pedazo mi corazon vive en Juarez, Mexico. ( A piece of my heart lives in Juarez, Mexico.)
Thank you for reading.