An Angel who never had a birthday party

birthday_image As you can tell I have a soft spot in my heart for kids. I have three myself, I babysit two, I tend to have all the neighborhood kids in our house everyday, not to mention the hundreds we work with in schools. Kids are amazing so it breaks my heart to know that innocent children are suffering everyday. They are going hungry, they are being neglected, they are being abused. Meeting Angel has forever changed my life and I will always hold the times I have with him close to my heart. If you are reading this and have not yet read the first blog in this series called “introducing an angel to God for the first time” I would encourage you to go read it first so you know why today was so special! Just a birthday right? For a little boy who had just went through at least three months of horrific abuse, had just learned about God, went to church for the first time and was turning six year old, today was actually his FIRST birthday party. We were not sure if his family would come but they did and his Great Grandmother told me that Angel has never been excited about his birthdays and that she has never seen him so excited.

Here in Murfreesboro we all woke up to lots of snow! For some states maybe it wouldln’t be a lot of snow, but for us it was enough to make people drive with their hazards on while moving at the speed of 5mph. Today was the big day! Our group had planned to host a birthday party for Angel. His life has been full of chaos and evil attacking him but his spirit is so strong. We knew that we were his only hope to have a real birthday and have a chance to just be a kid. I was not sure how many people would show up. We had only one child from his class RSVP and we were not sure if his family could make it. As our volunteers and their children started arriving there was still no sign of Angel, his mother and sister. We set up the party tables with Angry Birds decor and a big birthday cake as I kept trying to call the mother. Almost a half hour passes, many phone calls and txts go unanswered and I am very worried at this point but there he is! Walking through the parking lot with his sister and mother I spot them and walk out to meet them in the parking lot covered in snow. I was so excited to see them I forgot to grab my coat but it didn’t matter. He was so excited even though he was not really sure what to expect. He LOVES Chuck E Cheese so that is where we all gathered to celebrate Angel’s special day. As I introduced him to the volunteers who came to help he ran up and hugged each one even though it was his first time meeting them. He even asked his mother before they came, “They are Christians, right?”. His eyes lite up as he saw a big cake with his name on it. The volunteers and their children filled the table and the end of the table was covered in presents for both Angel and his little sister. I think all of our eyes were welled up with tears as we sang him happy birthday and watched him blow out his candles. What did you wish for young Angel? It’s sad to think that he needs to wish for things that most kids never think about. Maybe he wished that the bad man won’t hurt him anymore. Maybe he wished for a place to stay so he didn’t have to live in a shelter.

After he finished his second helping of chocolate angry bird cake we carried him to the table covered in presents. Him and his sister sat on table top. We could barely see them in the midst of all the big brightly covered bags. We watched as he opened up every present and was so thankful for every little bit. We had several cameras flashing and we all laughed as he would pose and make silly faces. He really liked being center of attention. As adults we were amazed at how this little child was very interested in reading every card and was just as happy for them as he was for the presents. One of the presents he received was a small hand held radio. He looked like he was going to cry as he said, “Ive always wanted one of these!”. He just stared at it and smiled. I think he received more presents, clothes, shoes and snacks then he has ever had in all his years combined. We handed him and his sister a cup full of tokens and watched him as he played, laughed and was able to be a normal kid….it was almost as if, even for just one moment, that nothing bad had happened. Oh how I wish that was true.

I have been told by some people I know that I should be careful how close I get to kids and situations like this and I usually respond by saying that you can never control the adults in a situation like this but the children are the victims and it is our job as Christians to reach out to those who need it and want to be saved. For young children like Angel any moment in their life could be the moment they are saved. Maybe it will be the fist time they go to church or maybe it’s a birthday party hosted by kind strangers. When Angel grows up he will know he has people here at Club YES who care about him and his sister and maybe that will be enough for him to break the cycle in his own life. We can never give up and I will never apologize for being attached to children in these situations. This is what God calls us to do and I am happy to be called.

Introducing an Angel to God for the first time

page90_picture0_1320171215When you run a non-profit that deals with mostly homeless children you tend to meet some incredibly amazing and some incredibly evil people. You hear wonderful stories and stories that will haunt you for the rest of your life. This story has all the above. Usually a school will call us about the needs of a child and we will try to provide the needed clothes, supplies, mentoring or food and deal directly with the school so when a friend called me about a child that for the sake of this story we will call Angel, I had no idea what was about to happen or how in just a few short weeks my life would change.

My friend called me and I could hear her holding back tears as she told me a story about her neighbor who was recently arrested for horrible crimes against a young boy. As she told me about how she couldn’t believe that this monster had lived next door to her and her kids all this time I was in tears hearing about what this young Angel had to go through. She told me that the mother, knowing that I helped young children wanted to call me. She had no idea if I would be able to do anything for them and to be honest I was not sure either but how could I not try!

When Angel’s mother called me our conversation went from one subject to the next as quickly as her tears fell in an almost hysterical fashion as she described to me what had been going on. I was able to help her with every resource I was aware of and through both of our tears I would pray on the phone with her, binding evil, praying for healing, change and for the Holy Spirit to be at work in this family. Everything that had happened had also left this family homeless and the mother was overwhelmed.  About a week later she called me and thanked me for something I said to her during our first conversation. She was very skeptical of God to the point where she did not teach her kids about him. She in fact blamed God for the things that happened. I told her that “Satan’s greatest trick was convincing the world that he didn’t exist” and even though she had heard this before, this time it stuck with her and made more sense then ever. She mentioned she wanted to visit a church so of course I asked if she would like to go with us. She was excited about the offer but asked if I could explain God to the kids before we went. I agreed to meet her and the kids before church. I never have suits in the “gifting garage” but guess what I found! Someone had donated a black and white pin stripe suit in Angel’s size. I grabbed the suit, a white dress shirt, a black and white pair of converse, a dress for his sister and a bible. I packed up my kids in the car and we went to meet Angel for the first time.

What a sweet boy who immediately wanted to play with my 9 year old son. Angel was so thirsty and asked if I had any water. While the mother was looking in one of the stores I offered to walk her kids and my kids over to the grocery store to get some water. Angel held my son’s hand the whole time and was such a good boy. When we made it to the water aisle Angel said he needed to show me something. Out of his pocket he pulled out a small box cutter. At first I was confused and I didn’t understand how he got it or why he was showing me. I stopped immediately and kindly asked him where he got that. He said he bought it from the store where his mother was just at. I asked him what he bought it with. He said he bought it with a fake dollar, then he said he used a real dollar. I told him that it was not nice to lie. What he said next took my breath away. He looked at me, then sighed, put his head down and said, “okay I stole it, but if I do not protect myself then who will save me from the bad guy?” Knowing what he had gone through my heart filled with understanding and compassion for this young boy that went through things an adult should never have to endure. I put my arms around him and told him that God is watching over him now and I would do everything in my power to protect him too. That the bad guy was in a place where he could not get him anymore. What do you tell a child? How do you explain evil? We asked Angel if he knew who God was and he said “no”. He had NEVER been told about God, ever. I gave a loving brief explanation that hopefully a child could understand. On our way back to the other store to return the box cutter I explained why we were going to church later that afternoon. He was so excited about his new suit. He climbed in my van and wanted to go home and play with my kids. After saying goodbye to him and his mother I wondered if she would hold to her promise and come to church with us after all. My family and I drove to our meeting spot at 4pm and waited. I called her, no answer. We waited some more. Twenty minutes had passed and I finally got a hold of her. She was having some issues getting out of the shelter and I was sure she was making excuses not to come. I told her we had to leave but I gave her directions to the church anyways. I thought that would be the end of it, but praise God, she came and met us at the church! I knew she was nervous so I “forgot” to mention how big the church we attend is but I was just happy they made it. This was Angel’s and his little sister’s first time in any church! The kids had barely eaten that day so what a blessing that the church had donuts and fruit out in the breezeway for everyone! I grabbed some donuts and bananas for the kids and we went into the smaller sanctuary so they kids could eat while we listened to the worship music. I had no idea that we had a special guest at church that evening. Christopher Duffley who was born blind and autistic came to sing at our church. What a perfect night for Angel to experience church for the first time but what happened next was an experience that I will never forget! I seem to be having a lot of these with this young boy. Angel was having a hard time seeing so I offered to pick him up. I held him in my arms as Christopher was singing “open the eyes of my heart Lord” and all of a sudden, Angel, this little boy who did not know who God was just a few hours ago raised his arm high up in the air to praise God and held it their for the entire song! Tears started streaming down my face as Angel and I started singing together. I usually dont raise my arms up during the worship service but that night I made an exception. With angel in my arms and tears streaming down my face we stood their, arms raised and God’s hands upon us. I looked over at my friend next to me and she had her hand on his back with tears coming down her face as well. The next morning his mother text me to tell me that the kids had asked her to pray with them before bed that night and they asked why we were so kind to them since we just met. She told them that God had put us in their lives. Angel then asked if he could write God a thank you letter.

I don’t know how to express the emotions that come along with encounters like this. I wasn’t even sure if I should share a story like this but I needed a way to release some of the pain and joy which is such a strange combination. I am not even sure if it makes sense to feel those emotions at the same time but I do. I thought, “maybe I should keep this to myself”, but then I thought it was more important to let others know how God is working and how important it is to show the love of Christ to others. The Holy Spirit is at work in a world of evil and I pray that Angel can sleep well tonight knowing he is safe now.