Monday, July 20, 2015

A Different Kind of Family

We attended a wedding this Saturday. It was a special wedding, because the groom grew up in our Children's Home. His time in the Home was before our time, so we've only known him as a grown adult, but he (and now his wife, too!) remain an important part of the Juniper Tree family.

Their wedding was a big event for the Children's Home. The entire Home attended, and three of the girls participated in the ceremony as the ring bearer, flower girl, and bell ringer. A few of the boys were ushers. Many of our grown kids came for the event, as well as current/former staff, and many others connected to Kids Alive. There was even a couple from Canada who came as special guests. They had been his sponsors when he was in the home, and later he got to know them personally and they played an important role in his life. It was a special day.

This is one thing I really like about Kids Alive. When kids come to our Children's Home, we become their family, even into adulthood--though it is a different kind of family. A big, extended, ever-changing, but always there, family. So even though the groom moved out of the Home several years ago, its a regular thing for he and his now-wife to be there, helping out or just hanging out. Kind of like an aunt and uncle.

Pictured below is another wedding from last November. The bride grew up the Children's Home and wanted to have her wedding there. Everyone pitched in to decorate, prepare the food, and get everything ready. One of the younger girls with a talent for hairstyling did the bride's hair. Several of the children participated in the wedding as flower girls or ring bearers. Two of the older kids performed a song. And the director of the Home had the honor of marrying them.

Over the 20+ years that the Children's Home has been in existence, many kids have come through. We've been here less than 4 years and have already seen 6 kids grow up and move on to new things. The total number of kids that are now "egresados" (the name for the kids who have left the home) is large. We have gotten to know several of the egresados from before our time, but not all of them keep in touch. It is difficult to keep up with all of them, but we try to let them know that they are always welcome.

One huge help in this area is Nancy. Nancy has been a missionary here in Peru for years, though not with Kids Alive. She runs a Christian school in Lima. But she spends a lot of time at our Home, getting to know the kids and getting involved in their lives. She has committed herself to being "mom" to all egresados, and any child that leaves our Home knows that she is for them and will be there to help them in any way. She keeps up with the kids, calls them, and organizes get togethers for them. She is amazing.

Nancy, being walked down the aisle as mother of the bride.
The responsibility for staying in contact with egresados is not hers alone, of course. The houseparents, other staff, and missionaries like to remain a part of the egresados' life as well, but it is incredibly helpful to have someone who sees that as their main focus and ministry. We are thankful for Nancy.

Egresados sometimes stop in to visit and spend time in the houses, or come for Wednesday night devotions. Sometimes they come to help out in the houses during the summer, or do yard work or other small jobs for money while they are in university. They come for birthday parties and New Years Eve fireworks, as well as wedding showers and baby showers.

Recently one of our egresados had his first baby boy. We had a baby shower for he and his wife at the Home the month before their little son was born. 

All of the kids were at the shower, and it was so sweet to see the younger ones at their feet, watching as they opened up their presents and displayed each baby item. It's really good for the kids to be part of a larger family in this way, and be a part of these special life events.

Hopefully I haven't made this all sound too much like sunshine and roses, because it is definitely not. We make mistakes and let our older kids down. There are some kids we hear very little from. Sometimes life gets messy, and we have to pray for a lot of wisdom in how/when/and if to help.The transition to adulthood from life in a Children's Home is a hard one, and we have really been working on improving the way that we prepare them for "real life", but it's still hard and always will be.

But we hope that they know that they are loved and that we will always be their family. And we hope that we get to celebrate with them in all the big and little events of their lives, like this weekend's wedding!


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