Firstly a big thankyou to all who contributed to our Christmas Rehab Appeal. We have now exceeded our original target of £700. We will keep the appeal open for another week or so in case anyone else would like to contribute. The extra money raised will most likely go towards the library project purchasing Christian books and Bibles.I have been busy shopping for the event which is now planned for the 29th of December. Updates will be on our website
As part of the planning process, earlier this week myself and Paul went to Olongapo. Our goal was to visit as many of the family members of the boys in rehab as possible to advise them of the plan and that they needed to get themselves to the Youth Centre at 6am on 29th to be included. To be honest, this idea is pretty ambitious as many of these people are hopelessly disorganised and don't usually know what day it is let alone when the 29th of December is. This makes it very hard to organise. If I was living in Olongapo I would arrange for the van to collect them from their houses to secure their attendance, as we have done in the past but unfortunately this isn't possible so we are forced to rely on their desire to see their children.
We went first to see Paul's family who are still living on the street where we left them after our last visit. They were pleased to see Paul especially now that he has brand new teeth which he was keen to show off. I was surprised and pleased to see Adam with the family looking clean and obviously drug/solvent free. He did have a nasty injury to his arm which apparently had been badly broken and re-set by a Doctor. It was still twisted with a large lump and I wondered what on earth it had looked like before the hospital visit. Despite this Adam was cheerful and wanted to accompany us to the Youth Centre where he had been residing until he ran away. He seemed to have matured since I saw him last a few months back.
We travelled to the Youth Centre and were greeted enthusiastically by the 20+ boys that reside there. The staff were also pleased to see Paul looking well as he was a resident there before. The social worker gave us access to the address details of the rehab boys but there wasn't really a lot to go on and many of the addresses were out of the area. In the end we decided it might be better just to spread the word about the visit via the staff. We persuaded Adam to return to live at the centre and said that he could accompany the families for the trip on 29th if he did so. (1 boy again off the street but for how long I couldn't say!)We paid for a snack and drink for all the boys and then left.
Myself, Adam and Paul then went to look for Simon and Joel in the Magsaysay Drive area. They can usually be found selling DVD's illegally with a group of older boys. Failing to find them we had lunch and then a slight miscommunication meant that I lost the 2 boys for the next 3 hours! This was pretty frustrating as I searched the whole area for them. However, the event brought the realisation that for the first time I wasn't worried about Paul being negatively influenced by his old group of friends during his absence as I knew that the change in his life was real.
I returned alone to the DVD area and immediately saw Simon and then Joel hanging around. Simon who was looking pretty thin, saw me but turned away refusing to acknowledge me until I had spoken to him about 5 times and then he grudgingly nodded. Joel was more talkative and said that he was doing well and everything was fine. I noted that he now had 4 ear piercings in one of his ears.
After a while I managed to get Joel alone as I knew he was acting in front of his friends. (I had received a message via a mutual friend a few days before that Joel was really miserable and wanted to come and live with me in Cubao.) I asked him what was wrong with Simon. He said that Simon blamed me for the death of Ramiro as I had evicted him from the house and he had died a few days later. I knew that Simon probably needed a place to put his grief and accepted that it might have to be wrongly placed on me for the time being.
Then I asked Joel how he was really doing and he said "not good." I told him that I had thought he had really changed before. He looked me straight in the eye and said "It's very hard to change my life." He said it with feeling and I really felt for him. I told him that it was possible as he could see from Paul's example. In that moment I wanted to tell Joel that he could leave with us for Cubao but I can't do that as there is nowhere for him to stay and Paul was allowed to stay at the church as an exceptional exception to the usual rule.
The main problem for a lot of these boys is that they try and change their lives themselves without God which lasts for a short time but without God they inevitably fall back and often into worse situations than before. I wonder how many times this has to happen before they realise that they need God. I know this to be true due to my own experience of trying and repeatedly failing to sort my life of vices out. Sadly I can't force them to realise this but I can pray for them and be there when they realise that they are hopeless and trapped in their sin without God. I pray that this happens for all of these boys before they become the victim of accidents or illness due to solvent use and then it is too late.
I reluctantly left them to resume my search for Paul and Adam. Then I saw a very familiar but slightly older looking face hanging over a railing with two other boys. It was Joshua (now 12/13) who I hadn't seen for 2 years. His face registered the recognition and then lit up as he pushed past his friends to give me a shy hug. I knew that he was back in Olongapo as we had chatted a bit online but I hadn't actually seen him so this was a bonus. He also was drug/solvent free and attending school! (he is the boy on the left on the front cover of my book)
Shortly after this I found Paul. I took him back to see Joshua but he had gone. His friends were still there and began following us around so I asked if they wanted food. I bought them some food and then encouraged Paul to share his personal testimony with them. He was shy at first but did so and then unprompted sat down with them and prayed for their food before we left. Afterwards I asked him how he felt about it and he said that he felt awkward because they were Muslim. I pointed out that he wasn't forcing them to do anything just sharing his testimony. I saw how easily he conversed with the younger children knowing where they had come from and I had hope that God would use him as a witness in the future as he has a heart to help people and share with them already.
We went back to Paul's family and took his grandma and introduced her to a local Christian family with a house church. This was really a very positive step as the family were very receptive and even agreed to visit Paul's family on the street. This church had previously received several of the boys including Paul, Joel and Simon and have been praying for them. They have also agreed to receive and follow up any of my contacts in Olongapo especially those that might be made when the families attend the Rehab on 29th as I plan to give Bibles and contact details for the church to the families that attend. This church is really an answer to prayer as I have been looking for a church that is open for ministry to the street people in Olongapo for a while due to the many contacts I have built up.
After paying for Paul's fathers TB medicine we headed for the bus back to Cubao. I was pleased to have seen Joel and Simon but Joel's pleading eyes played on my mind as I knew that had I offered to take him away from the street he would've jumped at the chance. I hope the time will come when that will be possible but I have to be patient and pray that he stays safe in the meantime. The social worker also informed me that she is processing the paperwork for them to be returned to Rehab early next year which might be a better idea initially.
Back in Cubao I was saddened to see Charlotte and Jack in the street again having returned them home after various now broken promises were made. I resisted the urge to offer Charlotte a bed for the night as it will just become a habit and I really need to meet with her mum to discuss the whole situation. Her mum should be attending the church this weekend. As myself and Paul were leaving, Charlotte began racing back and forth across the road jumping in and out of the traffic and narrowly avoiding being hit by different vehicles that slammed their brakes on to avoid her. After hesitating and watching in horror for a few seconds I had to make myself leave her to it as I knew watching was making her do more crazy things. I guess it's only a matter of time before one of these kids that I'm involved with is seriously injured or killed but I pray that it won't happen...