A Better Plan is Worth Fighting For
A short 4 months ago, we got the devastating news that the children’s home we were funding and operating no longer wanted us there. After 6 years of pain, joy, grief, hope, and love shared with those kids, it felt like a sudden death in the family - tragic loss mixed up with confusion, pain, and questions. Since then we’ve had to do a lot of personal work as individuals and as an organization, looking at what this means for our efforts on behalf of vulnerable children in Huehuetenango. And while our programs are shifting focus, we cannot deny the sense of obligation and responsibility we feel towards those kids we’ve loved for so long.
Yet in this pain and transition we’re coming to terms with one of the realities we had begun to understand, yet didn’t have the resources or time to address, in the constant string of crises that caring for dozens of children of trauma in one place tends to be. The reality is this: Institutions are not the answer for vulnerable children. They deserve more.
We know this because we’ve lived it, and year after year we’ve fought to make it better. Generally speaking, institutions have a bad track record and heartbreaking statistics. Not only is there physical, social, and psychological stunting and delays, children also face a much higher risk of physical and sexual abuse. So we fought to prevent that. We fought to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. We fought for competent caregivers who would invest time and love into those kids. We fought for better wages within the home. We fought for healthier food. We fought to provide better care for infants and babies who’d only ever known a dim room and a television. We fought for healthier living situations. We fought to give them a great education. We fought to help them pursue their dreams and their identities. We fought to defend their rights to life, safety, and a future. We fought for their stories and their right to be heard. We fought to give them family-like environments and we were fighting to figure out a safe way to get them into permanent families. We fought tooth and nail for those kids, day after day after day, for 6 years. It was a constant battle with no end in sight, yet we kept fighting because we love those kids and we know they are worth it. We had to fight, because none of those children deserve to be a statistic. We fought and bled and we would have died if that’s what it took to keep those kids safe.
And in an instant, with a swift vote and a decision in a meeting, it all came crumbling down. With no other choice, we found ourselves handing in keys and walking out the front door. Heartbreak, confusion, grief, you name it and we (both kids & staff) have probably felt it these last couple of months. Yet there was a grace in all this, praise God. We knew that there had to be another answer, a better plan to fight for. In this transition we’ve had a chance to recover and regroup, so to speak, before heading back into the struggle of caring for the vulnerable children and families in this community. In the constant string of emergencies and crises that we dealt with day to day, there was never time to pursue this better answer, and now there is. And the good news? Not only will it benefit the kids we’ve been working with, it will benefit the community and the entire country as well. The new plan, the better plan, is family. Something we were always working towards as well as we could within the confines of a broken institution, and something we can now pursue as a better answer for vulnerable children.
There’s two sides to this work. Two fundamental roles in caring for vulnerable children. We must respond, and we must transform. First, there is the glaringly obvious and immediate need to respond, like a combat medic forced to pump morphine into his wounded comrade. This is what we did for those 6 years, day in and day out, dealing with broken legs, missed school payments, violence against each other, self-harm, self-doubt, escape plans, and the occasional flood. Going from crisis to crisis. This was not something we chose, it was merely the reality we stepped into and had no choice but to faithfully address as people who love Jesus Christ and love these children. Every war has a frontline, and every vulnerable child needs responders fighting for them. That was our work fighting for the children in the home, and we are so thankful to everyone who has supported us over the years as we fought to offer those children the more that they deserve.
But to come to an end, every war needs peacemakers and negotiators as well. Passionate people seeking to transform the reality and put an end to the war, so no one else has to die in the blood and fire of the frontlines. Again, by no choice of our own, we find ourselves in this new role in the fight for vulnerable children. Story International is in a position to empower families, churches, and communities, as we fight against cycles of familial violence, crippling poverty, and neglect. We are getting to transform the very reality that brought so much difficulty and pain to the frontlines we were fighting on the last 6 years. We get to fight for a better plan, seeking what is best for those kids we defended and fought for. We get to fight for a child’s right to be heard. We get to fight for opportunities at reconciliation, redemption, and adoption. We get to fight for every child’s right to a permanent, loving family.
We know now as we knew then that institutions cannot be the final answer. They are not safe enough, not fair enough, and not designed well enough to meet the deep and individualized needs of children of trauma. We know that a better plan is worth fighting for.
And now we get to fight for it, and we hope you’ll join us.