Friday, June 27, 2008

Will you be my "Papi?"

I told myself I wouldn't allow it again. Allow this heart of mine to love like I loved before. I told myself, and even God, that I wouldn't do it. I refused it. And then God laughed.
I was privileged to work with the group from Grand Central two weeks ago. It was good for me to serve the people of Honduras with some of my closest friends. During this trip, we went to Hogar Bencaleth, the special needs orphanage. There, I was able to spend time with a little boy who I got I had spent time with two years ago. This sweet little boy, through his disabilities, reminded me that I was here to love people, not refuse love to people. Later that day, we traveled to Didasko, a children's home that I have come to adore. At Didasko, I played with the kids and then I saw, Isaac, the boy who I had spent time with last year. Being able to color with him, do puzzles with him, and just simply talk with him softened this hard heart.
I returned to Casa rejuvenated, ready to love my kids. Then we went and visited the boys for Marvin's and Antonio's birthday. It was so good to see all of our kids together again, playing with each other, enjoying each other's presence, just like it should be. I was able to hold Mario and talk to him about living with his family. He told me he liked it but sometimes his Dad hits him and Francisco with belts. When those words came out, I was reminded why I had hardened my heart. It hurts me when my children hurt. I was determined again that I would not let another child steal my heart.
And the way back, Cindy and Maryuri were sitting on my lap and Cindy turned to me and asked me, "JT, will you be my Papi?" This, of course caught me off gaurd, but I answered without hesistation, "Yes, Cindy, I will be your Papi." She smiled at me and then looked at her sister and asked, "Can you be Maryuri's Papi, too?" The answer was the same. So, once again, I find myself giving out bits of my hearts, vulnerable to whatever the world may through at it.
The other night, Brayan was sitting with me and telling me about his family. He told me that he never gets to see his Dad. I told him that he needed at Dad in his life, and without missing a beat said, "Well, your my Dad."
I had a hard heart before, but now, it is completely different story. A better story. It might not have its happy parts, but I know that there will be a "happy ever after."

Friday, June 20, 2008

A Favor

And life seems to keep on going, with or without you.
The day that the boys left, Monica's, Fernando's, and Katty's sister came to live with us at Casa. Doris only spoke two words at Casitas Kennedy, we were told, so we knew that having her here would be an adventure. Let me just tell you, once we got Doris talking, there was no stopping her-whether she is mimicking what we say, speaking in Spanish, or just making weird noise, Doris is constantly talking. I believe that Doris is also autistic. It is obvious that she is not fully developed mentally. All this being said, she is teaching us patience. Sometimes I just want her to be a normal child, but from time to time I am so grateful for how special she is (and I mean that with my whole heart.) I used to think that behind each child who is mentally undeveloped, there is just a normal child waiting to come out. Now I don't believe that. Doris has shown me that I don't have to search within her to find a little girl who needs loved. She is right there, waiting for someone to love her for who she is.
The next Thursday, Karen walks into the office where I was writing some e-mails and says that we were getting a new boy that night. Mind you, this was around seven in the evening. Within an hour, the guard walks in from the rain, with a little seven-year-old boy in his arms. With his light skin and curly hair, I couldn't help but think of my boy Rudy. Johny was embraced by so many new people, and I think the whole five people trying to love you at once made him a little overwhelmed.
Johny was found on the streets by the head judge in Tegucigalpa and needed a place to put him. She knew that Tim Hines, one of the head honchos around here, had a children's and asked if he could do her a favor. Yep, taking Johny in was that favor. And what a favor he has been. When I heard that he was taken off of the streets, I thought he was going to continue to have the street-mentality that I have seen over and over here at Casa. But, through the grace of God, Johny has fit right into this place. Of course, there have been growing pains, but over all there haven't been that many problems.
It has been hard for me to give my heart to these kids. My fear is that once I start loving them, they are just going to leave. I know this fear is kind of ridiculous, but once you are hurt once, it is hard to forget it. I know that God will help me give of my heart to the kids, but I could use some prayers.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Fatherhood, Part III

When I took on the role as part time father to these kids, I had no idea how much I would invest in their lives. Their pains, pain me. Their joys fill my heart with joy. My heart no longer beats in my chest, but inside of them. Being a father is risky business. Especially to these kids.

Almost as soon as I wrote the blog about how special the bond I had with Mario is, God stripped him out of my hands. Last Friday, during visitation, Maria and her husband, the five boys’ parents, came and took the boys home with them. I was not at visitation because it was my day to help clean the house, so I thought I was never going to see those boys again. I went into hysterics. I have never felt pain like that before—not only the quantity of pain, but the type. The type of pain that finds you heart and beats, stabs, kicks it. Pain the doubles you over. Those five boys have more of my heart than any other person in this world—any other group of people. Mario was my son—there were no questions about that. Other people here were commenting on how much better he was now that I was with him. He brought more happiness to me than any thing else. The day before, during nap time, I had him on my side and Antonio sleeping on my chest and I thanked God for those kids. I thanked Him that I finally found the happiness I was searching for. I thanked him that I was able to spend six weeks with these kids. And then He just took it from me. I still don’t understand it. Does God want me to not find happiness? Does he want them to starve? I have never been so angry at God than on Friday. I filled heaven with my screams and my cries of pain. I laid in Mario’s bed and held his pillow and wept. I wanted to scratch his back while he fell asleep again. I wanted to see Francisco’s dimples appear on his face with one of his classic smiles. I wanted to have Antonio running straight towards me with his arms open wide. I wanted to try figure out how Marvin had so much energy for such a small body. I wanted to watch Yovani impress me with maturity. I wanted them back. I want this so badly, I hurt. I am broken.

On Sunday, we had to take all of the boys their stuff, which meant a trip to their house. I got to see the boys again. I saw the happiness that Maria had because she was with her boys after two years. So many emotions filled me. I was happy that Maria had my boys, her boys, but I was still in mourning because they weren’t with me. The boys were so proud to show me the two beds that they share, the outhouse, the pila where they bathe and clean their clothes and swim, and the kitchen without any food in it. They were so proud of it.

I said my goodbyes to the boys one at a time, reminding each of them that I loved them and that I would never stop loving them. I took their parents aside and thanked them for the boys. I told them that I loved their boys and that because they were their parents, I loved them too. And finally it came time for me to say goodbye to Mario. I told him that he was my son forever and that I would never stop loving him. I held him for too short a time and didn’t say enough.

As I sit here with tears streaming down my face, I know that my life has been forever changed because of those five precious boys. God spoke to me so many times directly through them. I learned that I am such a flawed person but if you invest your love and life into a child, he will love you for who you are. This hole in my heart won’t heal, and I would be ashamed of myself if it did. I don’t ever want to get to the place where I don’t get a little choked up when someone says, “Do you remember when Francisco/ Marvin/ Antonio/ Yovani/ Mario did this.”

There is a good chance that after this summer, I won’t see the boys again. But I will always be a part of them and they apart of me. I mean honestly, Mario holds heart and a man cannot live without that.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Back with My Kids

Yep. I'm here again. Honduras is a very expensive addiction.
So I will save you all of the details of the troubles getting down here, but lets just say that God wants me to arrive in Honduras on May 26. It has happened two years in a row. I have never planned on arriving on the 26th but it always happens.
That being said, I am here. With my kids. I am where I need to be right now. It is very apparent, especially with my son Mario. He has been having troubles recently, but since I have been here, he has been pretty good. I am not saying I have any control over him, but I understand him. He understands me. I like the bond I have with him. It is a bond I have missed. He is mine--no question.
So, I am here. I promise to write more often now that I am here. Please be praying for the kids, Casa, the workers, the thousands of interns, and my future with this place. I could use all of the prayers you could spare.


Friday, May 2, 2008


I just finished classes at OVU this week for the semester. Let me tell you, college is not what is crack-up to be. Anyways, there was one class that I really did enjoy and that was my literautre class. I enjoyed this class not only because of the material but because of the papers we got to write. I know I am a dork, but I do truly love writing papers. This one particular essay stuck with me. A little bit of background, this writing was based off of the short story "Ladies and Gentlemen, to the Gas Chamber." We had to write as one who was at the concentration camp at Auschwitz.

Barukh atah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha‑olam, she‑hehiyanu v'kiy'manu v'higi'anu la‑z'man ha‑ze. The Shehecheyanu. I have said this prayer over and over. I do not stumble over the Hebrew words like before. Now I stumble over the meaning of these words. "Blessed are You, LORD, our God, King of the universe, who has kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season." How can I recite this poetry when it is not true? Blessed are you who has kept us alive. Is God still blessed when his people are dying by the thousands?

My wife Lia insisted that I go into hiding with her. “Judah, do not be foolish,” she would scream at me. She didn’t scream in anger. She never screamed in anger. She loved me. I loved her. We will never see each other again. I pray that the unfeeling God still has pity over such a beautiful creature like her. It is clear He has forgotten me. Me. A servant of his. A Rabbi. One who has committed his life for the work of Jehovah. Committed his life even to death.

Death. It is all around me. Women from my synagogue taken away from their husbands. Death. Children, abandoned by their parents, forced to starve to death. Bodies heaped on top of bodies and carted off to the crematorium. Death. Men forced to do hard labor with only the promise of the gas chambers. Thousands taken to this place of death. Auschwitz. My faith is growing weaker with every prayer I read from my prayer book. My thoughts are no longer of the joy of the Lord, but the wrath of the Lord. Wrath that is uncontrollable. Wrath that devours the innocent. An unjust wrath.

But justice has died. She dies everyday in the gas chambers. She is not alone when she dies; hundreds of men, women, and children are there dying with her. And I stand outside of the chambers watching justice die again, saying my prayer to the holy and just God.

Some of you might be thinking that I am a little dramatic, but just think about it. Thousands of people were killed in the Holocaust. People who thought they were God’s chosen—dying by the millions.

This week at Prime Time, a college student gave a talk on God’s silence. It stuck with me, but maybe not in the way he wanted it to. I think he was trying to say that people should keep the faith when God is silent. I am stumbling right now. I want God to just open His mouth and hold out His arms to me, but He won’t. I don’t know why. I wish I did. I am sure some would say that he is trying to teach me something. Others might say that he needs me to be broken before He can doing anything with me. But I just want to know that He is still there. I miss my Dad. I feel like I am trying with all of my might to grab a hold of his hand, his pinky, his toe, something. I want to feel like He won’t let anything hurt me anymore. But I feel like I am fair game to Satan’s attacks.

Right now it seems like there is no end to the hurt. No end to the disappointment. Many good things are being ripped right out of my hands. When I find happiness in something, a shadow of disappointment seems to be right there. Sometimes just the shadow comes and I never get to find happiness. Doubt has crept in with my faith and it scares me. I want to feel like God cares. I want to so badly, but it is difficult.

My Christian mask that I have glued to my face has cracked. I cannot pretend like the joy of the Lord is my strength when I am falling down. It is hard to sing of hope when I seem to have lost it. Though my mask itches, I still, for some reason, seem to always have it on.

I am weary.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A Statistic

I would love to tell you more about my recent trip to Casa, but I am way too emotional to talk about that right now. Thanks Ashley. Anywho, here is another post.

"One death is a tragedy; a million is a statistic."

This quote is credited to Joseph Stalin, and I used to think that this wasn't true. Obviously people care more about a mass genocide compared to the death of a single person, right?

Recently, the answer would be "no." As most, if not all of you know, the actor Heath Ledger was found dead in his apartment on Tuesday. I found out by a text. Others found out from their friends. Some found out from the news. However people found out, the point is that those who do not live under a rock found out about this happening by the end of that day. Multiple television stations were scrambling for new information, while others bid farewell to this actor through touching thirty second long slide shows. People who did not even know this man cried for him. Cried for his family. People who had never met the man or were even that great of fans, left flowers by his doors step in New York. Celebrities partook in a race to see who could produce a statement expressing their condolences to the Ledger family first. People actually cared that Heath Ledger had died.
Do you know any of the names of those who were killed in Kenya today? How about Darfur? Why has no one texted me today to let me know that a little boy is now an orphan because his parents were killed? I didn't even hear the words "genocide" or "AIDS" or "ethnic cleansing" today. Why not? Where are the flowers on the doorsteps of the millions who have been killed over the past couple of weeks. Where was the touching slide show? The celebrity statements? The prayers? Where?
I couldn't tell you the name of one person who was murdered today in Africa or Asia. Not one. And, I even researched it. The reason we spend so little brain time on this subject is because it makes us uncomfortable-- it makes us feel guilty for living so comfortably. I also believe we spend so little time remembering those who died for ridiculous reasons like practicing the wrong religion or being part of the wrong tribe is because our media speaks so little about it. The media has its agenda that it wants to cover in the day, and the dying of thousands is not on it.
I just find it ironic that many hours are spent in mourning a person we have only seen in movies, and just few minutes is devoted to the struggles that people face everyday. I guess the death of a million really is just a statistic.


Saturday, January 5, 2008

Five Dollars

Quick blog, I hope to write longer ones at a later time.

Jen and I were going from the bank to a restaurant where we had dropped the kids (with some adults, don't worry) off before. We were stopped at a red light when one of the many street children wanted to clean our windshield and realized that he knew Jen and came to our window. Jen was talking to him, and I was the blessed to give him 100 limps. This dirty child started screaming at the top of his lungs rejoicing and was dancing on the streets. Two of his friends noticed he was excited and knew that they wanted parted of the excitement. I just happened to have two more 100 limp bills that I was blessed to give to them. I am not writing this to say how wonderful I am that I can give to these kids. It is more to say how sad 100 limps-- five dollars-- makes a child so happy. To be honest, if someone gave me five dollars as a gift, I would smile and think that they were cheap. These kids though were dancing in the streets. Five dollars, that's it.

This place will open up your eyes--over and over again.