You are such a quiet one, a hard working one. The story of your arrival at this place is kept tucked away, but there have been hints – hints of a harsh, hurtful life that no one should ever have to live. You’re safe now behind the cinder block walls and iron gate that muffle the sounds of trucks on the highway and the blaring of political ads from loudspeakers and the music from a nearby brothel. Some may look at the orphanage and name it “no place for a young man to live,” but when I see your eyes light up, I know you have a different name.
You do your best in school, and you do your chores without complaint. But it is in the helping others where you show who you are, Brayan. It’s in the caring for people where I see your purpose and your future.
You helped dig holes so fruit trees could be planted – and you carefully helped pack the soft earth over the roots of each seedling so they would be protected. Long after the planting was over, you were still tending to the trees, helping to move the hoses into place to keep them watered when the rains of of the Guatemalan winter end and the harsh sun cracks the earth. You know what they mean to the caregivers and kids who live at Little House of Refuge.
Your life, Brayan, is a beautiful one. I don’t know if you recognize it yet, but your life is a story for all to read. You are a shepherd, tending to those trees the way you tend to the children you call family and the place you call home. It was evident on the hillside as you stood, shovel in hand, ready to dig. It was evident in the way you checked on the goats and sheep to make sure they had food and drink. And it was evident as you stood, the focal point in a crowd of smiling faces who cheered for you and celebrated your 13th birthday. Your wish? Simply to listen to the World Cup on a radio.
I thought about my own son at your age – what was important to him, and how awkward that season was – all legs and feet and middle-school clumsy. He wanted the latest gaming system. We went to a hockey game and gorged on popcorn and hot dogs and ice cream. Birthday cards with money and giftcards tucked inside were plentiful. He was the star.
And there you were, birthday cake in front of you with candles glowing. It was your day to be the star. You blew out the candles, smiled and walked away.
To the back of the line.
I would have been at the front of that line – grabbing my cake because it was MY day. But your heart wanted to make sure every other heart was full. You wanted to see frosting on faces and hear laughter. You longed to tend to those around you first. Because you knew what it meant to the caregivers and the kids who live at Little House.
Thank you, Brayan. I pray my story looks like your story. Because this world needs more shepherds like you.
Brayan lives in Xela, Guatemala, at one of my favorite places to call home. Little House of Refuge. If you’d like to meet Brayan and his friends, I’d love for you to join me on an Orphan Outreach
mission trip. Send a note my way and I’ll send details to you!