|luis (far right) with his mom (left) and 3 of his siblings|
at only 14 years old, luis has experienced more darkness in his life than you could imagine.
when he was 8 years old, he fell from a tree not far from his house. he landed on another tree stump that was coming out of the ground, with ragged branches attached to it. one of the branches pierced his stomach - went all the way through - and came out of his back. when his mom approached the scene, a crowd had already gathered around luis' motionless body. his intestines laid on the dirt next him.
an ambulance finally arrived, and the responders told luis' family that he was not going to make it. somehow, miraculously, he survived.
around that same time, some of our friends who also live here in Buena Vista met luis' family and realized how malnourished the younger kids were. they started them on a milk program to gain strength, and would regularly make deliveries of large bags of nutritious powdered milk.
despite much success with other children in the milk program, these children were not gaining weight. sadly, the baby died due to malnutrition. it was soon discovered that luis' mom was selling the milk for drugs and/or alcohol. her selfishness and neglect killed her own child.
luis' dad is quite the character. he has another woman and other kids, and everyone knows it. he is an abusive alcoholic, a womanizer, and an all around bad guy.
when it was brought to light that luis' mom was HIV positive, our friends took her to a center in Antigua that helps underprivileged AIDS patients. when the people there saw her paperwork, they told her that her husband's name looked familiar. come to find out, he had been receiving treatment for his own HIV diagnosis for years, without telling his family. he didn't care one bit that his wife and kids likely had the fatal disease as well.
soon another one of luis' younger siblings would die of AIDS.
in january of this year, when a tall lanky kid from lower Buena Vista made the final cut at tryouts for the Rhinos, i did not realize who he was. not even a good soccer player, we decided to keep him because of his height - thinking maybe we could mold him into a goal keeper. it wasn't until a week later that i connected who he was, and what family he was from.
so thats why God compelled us to keep him!
as i have gotten to know luis better over the last 3 months, its clear that he has been living in denial. like any young man with a troubled past and broken home, he does not like to talk about it, or admit any of it. he prefers to pretend that all is well.
a couple weeks ago as we were visiting his home, luis was playing tough guy - telling us how everything was great, his family is good, his dad is a great guy, and on an on. after a while, and some direct pressing, he finally broke. in front of his mom, and siblings, the truth started coming out. he cried. his mom cried. we all prayed together.
little by little, the light and truth of holy spirit will soften his heart.
i am so excited to have this young man in our academy. i trust God brought him to us with specific purpose. and i am believing the light of Jesus will someday fill his heart, his home, his future home, and his future family. luis will one day know the God who promises to turn our sorrows into strength, our sadness to joy, and our tears to laughter!
luis is embarrassed of the scars across his stomach and back, from his accident of 6 years ago. everyone has told him that when his mom approached his lifeless body, she was drunk out of her mind. she exploded into a tirade of crying, laughing, screaming, and cursing. unconscious, luis obviously didn't see or hear any of that... but he's heard so much about it from others that he feels like he saw it with his own eyes.
no doubt, his scars are a reminder of his dark past. of his deadbeat mom - a village addict and floozy whose neglect is basically responsible for the death of his little brother and sister. without question, his scars represent much pain, brokenness, and sadness he has experienced in his short life.
but as i told him recently, those scars should also serve as a reminder that JESUS SAVES. let your scars not only remind you where you came from, but also point to where you are going. let them remind you that God is Healer and Redeemer, and that he holds your life in his hands!
i told luis to be proud of his scars - show them to everyone! and if people make fun of you, reminding you of how your mom acted that day... welcome that conversation! let it be a pathway to sharing how the whole world can abandon you, but God never does.
for luis and for all of us, let our scars be a bold reminder that God uses our suffering to glorify himself (1 peter 4:12-13), that he holds our future in his hands (jeremiah 29:11), that he never abandons us (deuteronomy 31:8), and that he has a wonderful and specific purpose for our lives (psalm 139:13-16).
please pray for luis. ask God to fill his heart, and to draw him to himself! pray for us too, that we use wisdom and sensitivity as we point this young man to freedom and truth.