this is fernando's "casita" or tent - clearly very proud of it
In the past year, Fernando has changed SO MUCH! God loves this child so much and I was privileged to witness some of these incredible developmental changes this year. For starters, Fernando understood this year that he is loved, appreciated, beautiful, and smart. He started to feel secure and safe and his behavior changed drastically as he was much more calm, restrained, and cooperative. He learned that I would never turn down a request for a hug, to sit on my lap, for me to hold him, pick him up - yes he's 8 years old but he needs it sometimes - I would never embarrass him. He felt secure. This year was the first year that Fernando has ever done his homework everyday. I will never forget the afternoon in the Douglas dining hall when Fernando was so excited to do his math homework and to play some practice reading games with me that he just yelled at the top of his lungs to Betty, "Betty, I'M SMART!!!" For those of you who have never met Fernando, he has some special needs. For him to do homework, behave and actually make some academic progress is huge. For him to know that he is smart and not stupid and to exude confidence is beautiful. What I found incredible during homework time about Fernando is that his mind is like a human calculator. Math is his language.
In what is honestly only an act of God himself, Fernando's biological mom became very active in his life this year. Fernando has been at Douglas since he was in diapers - about 1 year old when the government removed him from his home and placed in at Douglas. He lived in Douglas for 7 years! Many of Fernando's "issues" have resulted from his abandonment, abuse, neglect and lack of affection and attention over the years. About a year ago, I got really fired up about the possibility of ANY of these boys being restored to their biological families. But in my heart and mind, I placed Fernando on the bottom of the list of who might be likely to have improved relations with his family enough to actually leave the orphanage. Just a few months ago, God absolutely shocked and surprised me when I found out that Fernando was going to go home to live with his mom after all these years. God is moving my "faith mountains" - that which I thought previously to be impossible - right before my eyes. Fernando going home is a complete act of God.
This past Valentine's Day, Fernando was the only boy who when I asked if he wanted to be my valentine even if it meant when he got older he'd have to marry me who said not only, "yes!" but then followed his yes by throwing his arms in the air and screaming, "that's what I've always wanted!!!" He made me laugh really really hard. I'm confident though, that these past 7 years - pretty much his entire life - the only thing Fernando has ever wanted was to go home and live with his mom. And he got it.
The day before I was told they were to leave the children's home, I decided to try to find photos of their childhood. I had been told that Fernando had lived at Douglas since he was like 12 months old and in diapers. I pulled down every single photo album that Back2Back has from some 15 years of ministry and after 5 hours or so found exactly what I was looking for. In the process though, I laughed at silly pictures of kids that I know when they were much younger. I cried. Some people think that when you get to heaven, you'll get to watch your life or everything that's happened throughout history like on some TV screen as if it's a movie. Going through that many years of ministry to orphan children here in Monterrey was one of the most emotionally moving experiences of my entire 3 years here with B2B. I saw families who have come down here for YEARS just loving on the same kids over and over again. It was for me as if I was watching in retrospect everything God has done in the past 15 years to pursue the orphan child. I couldn't hold back my tears and thankfulness and awe of how big God is. It was truly incredible. At times, I got angry as I found pictures as proof of how many years and years some of the teens I know have been orphans and lived in institutions. When I finally found pictures of Fernando and Adrian as toddlers, I lost it. I was thrilled because now I could give them photos of their childhood but enraged of how long they'd suffered without their parents. But mission accomplished, I was able to give both boys pictures of every year they'd spent in the orphanage. They laughed hysterically looking at photos of themselves as babies. They could hardly believe it.
probably about 15 months or so in this photo
eric - when was this?
eating some pollo loco at maybe 2 years old?
with one of his favorite pals
I was truly blessed to be able to see Fernando and his brother get picked up by their mom for the final time. On that afternoon, everything was right in the world as they literally sprinted to their mom's car to leave. They were thrilled, overjoyed, and relieved. I sent them off with all the things they had asked me to hold on to for them - gifts and photos from their Shelter Sponsor family. They waved as they drove off down the highway, not as orphan kids from the orphanage but as 2 boys with their mom. It was perhaps one of the most beautiful scenes I have ever witnessed.
Fernando, Fer, buddy I love you with my entire heart. You are a beautiful, beautiful boy. God made you perfectly. Thank you for billions of hugs and the million some times you yelled in my face, "I don't love you! Just kidding.... I do love you!!! You are like the energizer bunny and you never, ever slow down. I couldn't help but giggle the day you lost your first tooth and got scared because you didn't know that teeth came out like that. Nothing will be the same without you. But I know that you are currently exactly where you were meant to be - with your mom. You've blessed me and changed me more than you'll ever know.