A child that continues to be the topic of my posts is Wilmer. Since April of last year I’ve been praying for him, looking for him, then praying for him some more. And frankly, I’ve been quite angry with God through most of this. I’ve prayed. I’ve dedicated hours and hours and hours to looking for him. But he’s like a ghost. In October, we kept arriving to places he’d been just hours or sometimes minutes after he had left. We’d find the same kids over and over and over, but never Wilmer. And I was frustrated.
I was journaling about this in December and realizing that his chances of rehabilitation are getting smaller and smaller every day. I was filled with this desperation of he MUST be found and come on God! Don’t you care that this child that YOU created with talents and abilities is wasting away on the streets? (See what I mean? Lots of anger…) And then I felt like I needed to give this up. Not give up on Wilmer, but give up this desperation. Give up on my timeline. I don’t understand it. Seems to me like the best plan would be to get him back to Proniño as quickly as possible. But, well, ok. I give up.
On the plane to Honduras, I did some Praying in Color. This was my visual representation that I was learning to trust.
My first day in Honduras, Lauren and I were supposed to meet with two North American men who were interested in their church partnering in some way with Nueva Esperanza. In typical Honduran fashion, our 1:00 meeting time got pushed back to 2:30… or so. We were suddenly given some time to kill, so I thought we’d swing by all the typical places to look for Wilmer. Less than 24 hours after arriving in the country
we found him.
Sleeping on a bench behind a gas station.
All of the waiting and looking and praying and hoping and finally this. It took me a minute to be sure that it was him. He was fast asleep so I just sat and looked at him for a few minutes. He looked so terrible. So dirty. I said his name a few times, then shook him awake. He moved his arm off of his face and stared at me for a few seconds, said my name, then went back to sleep. I shook him awake again and forced him to talk to me a bit. I told him I wanted to take him to get some lunch and he immediately got skeptical. “I’m not going back to Proniño.” (I’m not talking about Proniño. I just want to take you to get something to eat.) “If you take me to Proniño I’ll run away and I’ll take others with me.” This definitely got my attention since David would probably be the most susceptible to being convinced to run. So, I reiterated that I wasn’t going to force him to do anything.
Lauren agreed to take the two guys to Nueva while I hung out with Wilmer. We chatted as we drove around. He tried to convince me that he likes his life on the street and that there are no problems. (He’s a 14 year old with a crack addiction. I can’t even imagine all the problems that come with that.) I was surprised by his honesty with me. When talking about how he gets the money to buy his drugs he said that he washes car windows at stoplights. But also admitted that when he doesn’t make enough, he robs people. We went to Power Chicken for lunch and got kicked out. Actually, we weren’t even allowed in. Usually, as long as the street child is with a paying customer we get some looks, but we’re allowed to buy and eat our food. The shame and anger on Wilmer’s face is etched in my mind. We went to another Power Chicken and after I had ushered him into the bathroom to wash his hands I explained to every employee that would listen that this is a smart and talented boy that needs to leave the streets. A manager agreed to let us stay, but asked that we sit in a corner. Wilmer wasn’t having that. He sat himself down in the most visible seat in the entire restaurant! And thoroughly enjoyed his meal.
We left the restaurant and talked some more. I tried to drown him in words of encouragement. Detailed stories of how many people want him back, how much everyone believes in him, how desperate the Director is that he is found, all the places I’ve been looking for him. And then I gave him my journal so he could see the times that I’ve prayed for him. He looked at the drawings and asked questions about what they mean. Then he looked through my writing, searching for his name and asking me for details every time he found it. We had a tradition that he would draw in my journal every time I saw him. So I asked if he would draw in this one. At first, he was adamant that he didn’t know how. (It always amazes me how quickly the kids lose any amount of belief in themselves that they once had.) I put the pen in his hand and said that anything he draws is better than what I can do. He quite readily agreed with that! =)
It was getting close to dinnertime and he asked me to take him to the area of town that he was planning on washing some windows. But then decided that first, he wanted a haircut. We got kicked out of a barber shop, then headed to Yann’s house where he had a set of hair clippers. (Because surely, all Wilmer wants is for his hair to be gone, right?) Nope, he would settle for nothing less than an Española. (Slightly mullet/mohawk cut where it’s shaved on the sides and longer in a strip on the top and back.) He didn’t want any of the length cut off the top and once he knew that I don’t cut hair, he wouldn’t let me touch it! Ay, yay, yay!! We had him wash his hair, then we headed to a barber that Yann knows and who would be a little more accepting of a variety of clientele. 20 minutes later he came out with the most ridiculous Española I’ve ever seen. But he was happy. And it was so good to see at least his head and face clean. He looked a little more like the Wilmer that was.
But then it was time. I hadn’t seen even a crack in his resolve to not return to Proniño in all the hours we were together. We went to the stoplight he wanted to work. I gave him a letter I had written while he was drawing his chicken in my journal that reiterated in writing all the things I had been saying and also had my phone number in case he changed his mind. I hugged him. Told him I loved him. And left. Drove away.
And now what? I find it ironic that in my last post I begged everyone to stop trying to tie a nice bow on your experiences and now I’m so frustrated and discouraged that I’m unable to do just that. Practice what you preach, eh? But it’s killing me that the child I’ve looked for for nearly a year is the first child I’ve left on the street. The first one I couldn’t get anywhere with. There were moments in the day where I felt like I had found the real Wilmer again. I’d get glimpses of the smile, bright eyes or laugh that I used to know. But then there were also these very scary glimpses into his potential future. Like when he’d just sit down on the ground with his legs sprawled underneath him with the same dazed expression I see on the face of the addicted men on the streets of San Pedro with decades of homelessness under their belts. I can’t say that I regret anything I did that day, or that I wish I had done anything differently. I definitely wish there had been a different outcome. I guess the loosely tied bow that I’ve temporarily placed on this story is that I’m realizing I’m not in control. And this search for Wilmer has painfully proven this to me. But I’m going to keep trying. I’m going to continue to pray. And I’m going to look for him again in March, and then in May. And I hope that the outcome is different some day. Even now as I’m writing this I’m pausing a bit to start pleading again – “Don’t you know how special he is? Don’t you know that his life was a perfect example of a life plucked out of the miry clay? Until he fell back in. Don’t you know that what’s happening is an injustice???” But, yeah, He knows. And I definitely don’t understand, but (with some trepidation) I’m going to choose to trust
(Continue reading about Wilmer here.)