It all started back in the spring (quite some time ago, eh?). One of our boys, 15 years old, was dating a girl from church. Of course, this was destiny, the butterflies were floating through the sunbeams. Birds everywhere were singing their song. Soon, the boundaries we have established in the community center seemed overly restrictive, a hindrance to their love. He began to talk of pressures of him helping out his family by working along side his father as a construction worker. As time passed, his talk of this pressure increased, and so did rumors of his sneaking out to see his girlfriend. When his girlfriend’s parents found out, they didn’t want him to be with their daughter so we told him that we needed to meet with them so we can make sure we’re respecting the rules they have set for their daughter. This was when he decided he wanted to return to life on the streets, absent of any rules and restrictions. There was no talking him out of it, out of dropping out of school, out of the futility of a 15 year old changing his family’s economic fortunes, out of throwing aside his future for teen romance. And so he left. 

I can’t say I’ve felt this way about every one of the boys who has walked away-and he was the first to leave the house-but this all felt wrong to me. On my walks on Holy Spirit Drive over the next month and a half, I’d sometimes see his little brother. I’d ask about him, where he was, how he was doing. The little brother would shrug his shoulders, feigning ignorance. Needless to say, he didn’t get a job as a construction worker and rumors were that he had started stealing again, and hanging out with the “wrong crowd.” Nevertheless, I kept asking. I’d ask other boys still on the street as well. And the boys in the center, who still talked with him on Facebook. One day after chatting futilely with his brother, a song I hadn’t heard in over 15 years came to my mind. It’s When God Ran, by Shaded Red (link here). It’s about the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32, if you’re keen to read it). 

Then one morning, in some of his posts on Facebook, he talked about suicide. He and his girlfriend had broken up for the second time, this time it was final. The reaction of his friends in the comments made it clear he was really hurting. About a week later, we had visitors from home staying with us, and most of them decided to do a prayer walk in the area. When they returned, Ana told me that they had run into the boy who had left. She told him I wanted to talk with him, and he had agreed. He was waiting at a coffee shop nearby. When I got there, as I climbed the steps, I smiled as I saw him. He was sitting with our staff pastor, and when he saw me, he smiled, but then dropped his head. When I drew near, I saw the cuts covering both of his arms, some as fresh as that morning. He was ashamed of having left the center; ashamed of what he’d done since leaving. He wasn’t living with his dad, which we had all assumed already. His food was a rice soup-cheap and unsatisfying. We didn’t talk much of the choices he had made since he left; only enough to establish his true regret. He was afraid he couldn’t be forgiven by us, or by God, for his actions over the past 6 weeks. We talked of the prodigal son and reminded him that he really is forgiven. We talked for a long time, and he cried a great deal. At the end, he agreed to return to the center that same day. Within a week, we had found a sponsor to cover his school costs and he was enrolled. My final worry was that the boys at the center would joke with him about leaving and then coming back. But I was there when the first boy returned from school and saw him as he ate his first wholesome meal in weeks. The boy coming in shouted and ran over, giving a high five. Each boy welcomed him the same way as they got home. It was awesome to see. Today, he has been knit back into the Nehemiah family and he’s enjoying his first year back at formal school and making new friends. He also meets a counselor from time to time to work on his mental health and well-being. 

Work & Ministry

On May 27 this year, I accepted a position with International Care Ministries.  A big reason for this was financial, and to try and offset some of our personal expenses so more of the donations could go to Nehemiah. The compensation is called a Missionary Love Gift, and experience. 

Some of my concerns in accepting this position were the loss of time I’d be available to be as involved with Nehemiah, and also the daily commute in traffic to the office. Our landlord (for Chris and Ana) informed us at the end of March that he’d need the unit we had been renting since 2015, and so we’d have to move. On accepting the position, we started looking for a place between there and the center. While it didn’t eliminate the commute, the move did mitigate it (down from 2 hours each way to 1, usually…). But all told, the position has taken up far more time than I expected initially. It’s also involved quite a bit of travel to other parts of the country (I’ve now seen more of the Philippines than Ana has!). It’s been a good experience so far, but I’ve been pretty worn out handling Nehemiah tasks on evenings and weekends.

Moving Nehemiah Home 

 We’ve been renting for 1 year at the place the boys have learned to call home. As of September 12, we were expecting to renew our contract at the residential home since we haven’t heard of any issues from the landlord regarding renewing. When I met with the landlord to renew our contract, she informed me that she has decided to increase the rent by 16 percent. This was a shock to me because we were given no notice and I had no time to prepare and fundraise for the increased expense. In tears I told her that this amount of an increase would be a hardship for us at this time and the landlord agreed that she would not raise the rent this year, but she would increase it following year. After a few days, we received a text message from our landlord that she has decided to no longer renew the contract and that we have 30 days to leave the house. 

As soon as I got the message, we messaged her to ask if we can know the reason why she has changed her mind, but we never received a response. In the meantime, we have been looking everywhere for a new place to rent. We’re also looking into homes that are foreclosed and for sale to see what all our options are for the next Nehemiah home. As of today, we still haven’t found a house that has been willing to rent to our foundation, but we’re still searching and knocking and know in our hearts that God will provide. 

After a couple days of processing the change with our staff and missionary support team and mentors, we told the boys the sad news. We shared with them the scripture in Psalm 37:25, “I once was young and now am old, yet never have I seen the righteous abandoned or their children begging for bread.” We told them that we cling to God’s promises that they will not be homeless and they will no longer be beggars on the streets, and we wait with hope and expectation on where our new home will be. 

Here is a video of our worship time after we shared the news to the boys. The lyrics say there are 10,000 reasons for us to find a song of worship to God, “whatever may pass or whatever comes before us.” 

Our one 13 year old boy told me that his prayer has been that at our next home, “we will never get kicked out so that he can stay there until he is old and becomes a grandpa.” He also said he prays that “we will have more room for more kids to come so that he can have more best friends.”  Please join us in prayer for our new Nehemiah home and for the transitions for each one of us. We thank you for your love, support and for journeying with us through the many twists and turns. 

An Evening of Fun and Purpose
If you are in the Lancaster, PA area, there is an event scheduled on November 17, 2019, at 4:30pm, at 715 Fairview Ave, Lancaster. Here, some food, live music, and more information will be available. The shampoos and shirts the boys made will also be available. For more information about the event, or if you have questions, please see the event page here.