Gaspar is a child of Casa de mi Padre, but he transitioned out early to live with a local woman while finishing his education. Somewhere along the way, he regressed into some old habits from his BC (before casa) life. He began using drugs, stopped going to school, and one day he was just gone. For months, no one knew where he was.
Several weeks ago, he showed up at the gate of Casa de mi Padre asking for help. He was emaciated, and only had the clothes on his back. The most piercing part of his unanticipated arrival was the shame and guilt that was written all over his face. I sat with him, Shane, and Walter (the head of our construction project), and listened to him speak. I missed the first half of the conversation, but the second half was all I needed to understand what had happened to him. He had struck out. After leaving the woman’s home he had a job at a little store, and then lost it. He was living on the street, and desperate. When asked why he came here for help, he said, “I need a job.” At these words I was filled with compassion and humility as I recalled the story of the prodigal son. Many of you are likely familiar with the story, but here’s my spin on it if not:
There was a good man, who had two sons. One of his sons was foolish, thinking himself entitled to an early inheritance. (This would be the equivalent of saying “I wish you were dead, for I value my inheritance more than your life”). His father full of grace and love for his son, obliged and gave him half of his possessions. The prodigal son left, and squandered his money on women, gambling, and other temporary pleasures. When he had spent all of his money, a famine came over the land. Desperate for food he contracted himself out to a pig farmer. The prodigal son was so famished he would have eaten the pig’s food had the farmer allowed it. In his desperation he remembered the wealth and provisions he had before with his father, and how his servants were treated well. He thought, “Maybe my father will give me a job, and I will be able to eat!” After weighing the risk of rejection, he set off for his father’s house practicing how he would plead and beg as he walked. Coming up over a hill, he saw his childhood home. Hanging his head, he continued walking feeling his steps grow heavier and heavier. Suddenly, he caught a glimpse of an old man running towards him. Was that… yes! That was his father! His heart sank with shame and fear, wondering if his father would send him away for the terrible things he had done. But his father embraced and kissed him! Confused, the prodigal son started his practiced plea with tears streaming down his face. The son barely squeaked out the first sentence of his request to enter servitude, and his father began demanding the servants to bring a new robe, a ring, and shoes for his son. His father said, “Kill the fattest cow, for we are going to feast tonight! My son who was dead, is now alive!” He searched his father’s face and did not see the condemnation or anger he had anticipated. He saw only delight and excitement at his return.
THIS IS THE GOSPEL PEOPLE. We initiated separation from God and chose temporary pleasure over eternal joy. When we initiate repentance, God does not reject or condemn us. He is waiting with open arms to welcome us home and accept us! And not just to give us second best, but our inheritance is renewed!!
And I saw this same beautiful redemption upon Gaspar’s return. When Gaspar was sixteen, he initiated separation when asked to leave Casa de mi Padre. At that age, he could choose for himself (going through the proper channels of the court of course), and so he left. He had two more years he could have stayed with us, and then received help getting into a collegiate program as well, but he chose his own path (much like the prodigal son). He too, squandered what he had until he had nothing left. He too, initiated repentance and returned to his childhood home for a mere job. He was defeated and weary, and I saw the same fear, shame, and desperation in his eyes. He didn’t ask to be accepted and loved again, just for a job.
I can’t help but wonder if this was because he felt unworthy of love and acceptance. Like that was too lofty of a request to make after the path he had chosen. I’m sure the prodigal son felt this too, as do I often with the Lord when I choose idols over my King. I feel like I don’t deserve His best for me any more after I screwed it up, but praise God that His love does not operate like that! Agape is unconditional love, and is not based on my perfection (or lack thereof).
I listened quietly as they continued talking. Shane asked him why he had come to us, and Gaspar said, “I miss the love. I miss God’s love.” When they had finished talking, I listened to the three of them pray. I watched Gaspar’s shoulders slump with relief, and saw him wipe away a few tears as he leaned into Papa Shane’s embrace.
Unfortunately, our situation differs from the prodigal son as we only have so many beds here and are full now. He had a transition plan, and walked away from that as well. Shane gave him a job at our construction site and a place to stay, and helped him get settled. He joins us for meals at Casa de mi Padre from time to time and sits with us at church. I’ve watched him the last couple of weeks regain his confidence as he is loved by this community. It’s such a beautiful picture of redemption!
Truthfully, I was hesitant to write about this, as it’s a very real possibility that he could return to his old ways. He could abandon the gift he’s been given and squander it all away again. As I pondered this possibility, I realized that this potential future doesn’t cheapen what he has been given. It makes it all the more valuable, as the risk to the giver is so much greater. Gaspar may reject it somewhere along the line, but is this not what we do with God’s grace as well? I know that I find myself returning to my old idols and habits often when I’m uncomfortable, scared, or insecure. I find myself in a constant cycle of repentance, acceptance, and rejection.
Repenting for my sin.
Accepting God’s grace and love.
And then rejecting it all over again when I return to my sin.
So therefore, “We will love Gaspar, because God first loved us.” We have counted up the cost, and Gaspar is worth it.
It was this moment (combined with many others) that really affirmed that I wanted to stay Casa de mi Padre. I want to be a part of the redemption and discipleship-making that happens here. I am committing to a year here and will continue seeking the Lord’s will as I love and disciple the children.
I’m still processing the last two months, but as I reflect I think of Ecclesiastes. I’ve been reading this book as well as Proverbs recently, hoping to snag some of Solomon’s wisdom as I’ve been seeking the Lord’s will for my life. “All is vanity” seems to be his campaign slogan here, and initially I was discouraged by it. I felt like I had the choice to choose one vain direction of many.
But the closer I got to the end of my two months, I spent time reflecting on how evident the Lord made it that he wanted me here initially. This (of course) only came after I had taken a step of faith and started moving forward. I thought about the different ways the Lord had cultivated my strengths and passions to fit beautifully in this community of believers. I can think of nothing here on earth that would give me more joy than to pour into these kids I have grown to love so deeply.
Ideally, I’d return after I’d raised enough support for one year (or at least 6 months). Faith doesn’t operate under ideal circumstances, and so I’m trusting the Lord to provide support as I go. I am needed back in Guatemala before September 25th in order to assist several important court cases with our children. I’ve booked a flight for September 21st, giving me a mere three weeks to pull together some funds for the next couple of months!
I am so thrilled to share this journey with you, and see what God has in store!
-I have built strong relationships with the children, and have been working on building structure for counseling and therapy sessions. Please pray that while I am in the U.S. that those connections will not weaken, but I’ll have a good foundation to build on with the kids when I return.
-Pray for Gaspar, that the Lord continues to work in his heart and life. That he would know his worth in Jesus, pursue repentance, and find the freedom found in surrendering all to Christ.
-Pray for several of our kids who have audiences this month while I’m away, and that the Lord would guide the judge in the direction of what is best for the children. Some homes can be beneficial for the kids, but other potential families have bad intentions for wanting a child. Please pray that the Lord would make it evident in each audience/court case what is best.
-Pray that God will raise up financial supporters to join me in my ministry to the kids. I will need to raise around $1,000 each month for living expenses, and will need some more on top of that to purchase a mode of transportation as well as furnishings for my home.