Today I happened to get the opportunity to ride on a roller coaster.
I would like to say its been quite some time since I have been on one, but unfortunately this kind, the emotional rollercoaster is one I get on often!
Last Friday we dropped Anthony at the airport and on Saturday we took Patrick and Protasho home. The morning started out fine and I was eager to have a “normal “ day.
Maureen was planning to come by at 9 hrs and the two boys from Bauleni were also supposed to come and meet her.
So one of the boys, Chanda, the original boy showed up and the other didn’t. Maureen and I started talking to him trying to find out more of his home situation and where his parents are exactly. He told us that he and his cousin stayed with their grandmother and she could not walk so they spend their days begging for food.
Their mother and father live in Kapiri and the boys have not heard from them since they left. We found out what we could about school when he was last there, and the grandmother. I then printed out some profile forms and Maureen was planning to go with Chanda to the Grandmother’s home and find out about possibly helping to get them in school.
We also discussed the need to then supply them with some food each month since the “work” of begging that the boys do will stop because they will be in school all day.
it is a sad reality but even with the kids in Kabanana we have come to be helping provide food for the families especially that have older boys and they were the source of income for the home.
So after Maureen and I discussed this we were prepared to look into the matter. I got a small amount of money to give her to go and see what needs they had. Each time the boys have come they have not eaten for that day, which is very common among those living in poverty here.
I gave him some eggs a bannana and a glass of milk for breakfast and when he finished Maureen gathered her things and they were starting off. Just before he got up from his seat, he started speaking in Nyanja to me telling me that he has no place to stay. I couldn’t understand so Maureen started translating and asking him questions.
He told us that he really didn’t have a grandmother and that the other boy Emmanuel encouraged him to lie and make up that story. The reality was that he and Emmanuel sleep in a ntemba each night without blankets or anything and they are on the street.
We asked how this happened and he told us that they started off as a family to go to town and get a bus to Kapiri. The boys were lingering looking at the large shiny buses and the mother kept walking and they got lost. The Father had stayed back and was meeting them later. Most likely what Maureen was figuring was that the mother once the boys were lost thought they probably went back to the dad but by the time they got home to the dad he wasn’t there and didn’t know the boys had been separated and so they were lost and left behind. And no one had ever come looking for them. They said before Christmas this happened.
Maureen and I just looked at each other and couldn’t believe it! It was so heartbreaking to think of them 11, and 13, sleeping outside alone. A ntemba is a shack that people sell things out of. Usually the only covering around the structure is mealie or concrete bags.
I then told him, we want to help you but you need to be honest with us. And we asked if anything else was different. he said no.
We then had to regroup. I went in to talk with james a while and then came back and we tried to then ask as many questions as we could about the family before they moved away. Where did they stay, where did he go to school, what happened when he went back to his house and the parents were gone, what did the neighbors say.???
We then decided to drive him back to his old house and see what the neighbors knew or what we could learn about him from anyone. Someone had to know him.
We drove to the house. I stayed in the car and Fanny talked with the neighbors. Apparently everyone there was new and the only one that would have remembered him was not there. Quite a spectacle was made and about 30 people soon were gathering around. I looked out the window and Chanda had tears rolling down his face.
I could only imagine how sad and hard that would be, to be separated form your family then to come back to your home only to find that no one knows you. No one can link you to your family. My heart broke for him. He got into the car with Maureen and I told him I was sorry.
We drove away and then were stopped by a man in a suit trying to look all official carrying a paper and a pen. He asked us what were we doing here and he was in charge of this village and so anything such as a lost child was his concern.
We could tell his concern was in the Muzungu that had driven into the compound and we tried to quickly get out of that situation. Maureen answered a few questions and then finally I said, we came to visit and now we are leaving and then drove away.
We then decided to go to the catholic parish where he said he had received food from one of the women that worked there. The women was not there today but would be back tomorrow. I asked about the “Bauleni Street Kids Project”, whose sign just happened to be at this very place. We were taken into a nice office where we met a “sister” from Europe that quite honestly I had to do a double take to know that she indeed was a “sister”.
I started asking her about the street kids project. turns out it is not for street kids at all, but they have never been allowed to change the name because of the politics with the archdiocese. In actuality it is a school and project for disabled kids.
After we discussed it a little she started enquiring about the boy. Then 3 more people came into the office asking questions. The same things we had been asking. The last women to come in though had an idea. If he really is from Bauleni, lets ask kids in the school ( of over 200 kids) if they know anything about him.
That was a great idea. The first classroom we went into a couple kids recognized him just as someone that walks the streets alone.
The next classroom about 3 or 4 kids said they knew him. One boy said he saw his DAD beating him the other day because he had stolen something. Then another girl said she knew where he stayed. mmhmm.
The headteacher then said that she could go with us to take us where he stayed.
We all got in the car, quite puzzled. Chanda said nothing, though he started to refute what the kids were saying in the classroom earlier. We drove in silence until we were near his house based on the girls directions. I asked Maureen if he had anything to say. “We are almost there” is what he said. We parked and walked over to the house, then drawing about a crowd of 20 or so kids and adults. We spoke with a woman who was a “grandmother” to him and she told us about his real grandmother that lived in the outskirts of Bauleni, and she told us that he steals things and a few days ago he gathered his things and ran away from his dad and that is the only time he sleeps in a ntemba. When he has been naughty and runs away.
We thanked the woman and the girl for helping us and at that point Maureen and I decided the trail could end there. We drove the girl back to school with Chanda in the car. We parked, she got out and went back to school and we sat there a few minutes.
I asked Chanda, Why did you lie to us? Silence. No response. He fidgeted with the door handle and I could see he was about to bolt out of the car. Maureen talked to him a few minutes and then he said he didn’t steal. I told him we couldn’t believe him because he had lied to us. He remained quiet and then I asked Maureen to speak to him about the Lord and how he needed Christ’s forgiveness.
He remained silent and then asked if he could go now. Yes. Maureen had told him, he could have possibly had help with school, but now he can’t, and he can’t even come back to our house begging for food because we know his story now. And we know his lies, and we know a tiny part of the truth.
No grandmother bitten by a snake. No parents in Kapiri. No brother that was left behind and that sleeps with him on the street each night. Emmanuel was just a friend. A friend that partnered in the lies and that was “smart enough” not to show up today when the lies were being exposed. No being lost and separated from your family at the bus stop.
He closed the car door and turned slightly to look back as he started walking away form the car. And I saw the tears again. Tears streaming down his cheeks. He wiped them with his filthy arm and shirt and kept walking, halfway turning to look back every now and then.
Maureen and I sat a few minutes and then drove away. When we passed by where he was, we found him sitting under a tree looking at us blankly.
So young to be telling such lies.
It still is a really sad situation. But not for the same reasons that I thought it was sad last week, or at 9:30 or at 10:30 this morning as the story was changing. Not sad because he was abandoned and is all alone, not sad because he is freezing at night sleeping on the street, but sad because of the choices he is making. That even when given the opportunity to “come clean” with his story so to speak and be helped, he kept weaving his web of lies.
Who knows what his home life is like. I don’t think we will ever know. But as Maureen and I talked, I told her we need to remember 2 things. One, this is the reason we look into the situation and find out as much as we can about each child we take on and support. And two, just because we were lied to and led on a chase today and really for the last few weeks, it doesn’t mean the next time we have an opportunity to help or look into helping that we don’t do it because we think, “well you remember what happened last time...”
We still are to have our hearts moved and go out to helping the vulnerable and needy children. That is clear. And who knows what the Lord was doing in the boy and in us today, but we know it is for all of our good. Maybe it will make the boy stop to think. I am hopeful that his tears were coming out of a guilty conscience that can be made right if he goes to the Lord.
I know it made me stop and think today...OK...am I ready and willing to go and do whatever the Lord might be leading. I might have my quiet agenda for my day (or life) but when the Lord brings someone across your path you have to answer the question in whatever area, what am I going to do with this now?
That too then compounded the emotions on this the rollercoaster. Not just specifically for the boy, but in relation to my own heart and life. It wasn’t a fun thrilling ride today. You get to the end of it and you feel kind of “empty” inside. It’s Hard to describe, maybe because you were made to have your heart go out and you now feel vulnerable because you were lied to. Maybe because there is almost this adrenaline rush (in a healthy way) when you are finding things out, praying for wisdom, discussing things and are trying to work through difficult situations and decide things you never thought you would have to decide and you get to the end and it stops so abruptly. And the ride’s over.