Last week I came to all of you and asked you to add children to a post which I dedicated to those whom I believe the Bible refers to as “the least of these”–the ones who are forgotten, hurting, living in horrific conditions our minds and our hearts simply cannot fathom, suffering of diseases which can be controlled (and sometimes even healed), and literally perishing…not because of their “special needs” but from sheer neglect, poverty, malnutrition, and abandonment.
I sat at my computer with tears running down my face as child after child got added. Before I knew it, there were over 100 children listed there. Each precious child with one thing in common…a desperate need to be rescued!
As I read through each child’s story and prayed that they would be chosen, as I read the words “transferred” over and over again, something occurred to me…
People just don’t know!
Unless you are involved in the adoption community and hear stories time and time again of children who have been transferred to mental asylums, or “institutions,” how could you possibly know the fate of these children? How could you know the urgency of their situation? There was once a time when I had no idea. If I ever heard the word “institution” I just assumed it was some kind of government run organization where orphans lived. No big deal. How wrong I was!
As I prayed about it over the last few days, I felt sure in my heart that I needed to dedicate this week of blogging to sharing something with you that is so seldom spoken about, that is sometimes easier to pretend doesn’t exist, and is a reality that is so often hidden in darkness….
The shocking plight of the child who has been transferred (or is confined to a “laying room”).
Why? Because I believe that this issue needs to be brought into the light more often. When the light of Christ shines gloriously into even the darkest of situations…the darkness must flee. As the body of Christ, we need to shine the light of Jesus and do whatever we possibly can to make a difference in the lives of these children who are literally wasting away behind locked doors. But first, we need to know the truth of what happens in faraway places–where “treasures of darkness” are hidden away from the eyes of the world (Isaiah 45:3). They truly are “riches stored in secret places” as the book of Isaiah describes.
I am praying that the eyes of our hearts will be opened this week as I share stories, photos, and the most amazing miracle accounts with you. It’s the magnificent power of God to redeem a child! I am asking the Father even now to stir our hearts into action so that we can all do something (big or small) to make a profound difference in the life of a child.
To begin this week, I asked my special friend, Julia, if I could share her story. Julia and her hubby, Rob, adopted their very handsome boy, Aaron, from an institution in 2010. To say that their lives were forever changed is an understatement! They returned home completely broken, but so willing to do whatever it took to create an awareness of the precious ones they had to turn their backs and walk away from…the “Lost Boys” who got left behind.
Julia’s account of their experience is chilling. I read it through tears. But, my friends, this is reality. This is what really happens. This is the stuff people don’t want to talk or read about because as they so often say–It’s just “too hard.” But it’s no longer good enough to turn a blind eye! It’s just not. We can no longer carry on in our llittle bubbles and pretend that these atrocities do not exist…because they do.
And, like it or not, it IS our problem!
The Sad Reality (Part One)
by Julia Nalle
Many of you have seen this picture. It was taken back in 2006 at a special-needs institute in Eastern Europe. It’s a shocking picture that appears to speak of abuse and neglect. Soon after we committed to Aaron, I saw it on the internet. It stopped my heart. I could hardly look at it. It horrified me, because I knew that Aaron had been transferred to a special-needs institute just like these poor boys. At that time, I had little idea what that meant. My one consolation was that the picture wasn’t taken in Aaron’s country.
His favorite new route took us past the shed where the lowest-functioning boys spent their summer days. They had absolutely nothing to do but wait for the next snack or mealtime. They all sat on their groundcloths, staring, moaning, crying. At first, we could hardly bear to look.
Around the corner was a large building which, we were told, used to house Aaron’s group. It was crumbling, but the caretakers still used parts of it. On the far end was a shed for the institute’s tractor and wagon. The near end contained what we thought were broken-down bathroom stalls with rows of potty chairs. Because it was doorless and dilapidated, we assumed that it was being used for storage. For several days, as we walked that way so that Aaron could see the tractor, we walked right by that shed full of boys and right by those filthy bathroom stalls with their rows of potty chairs without ever connecting the two. We thought we were seeing a junk pile. Our minds couldn’t grasp what we were seeing.
Aaron also wanted us to see his friends from his group, the highest group. He wanted us to see his world, and he wanted his friends to see and share his new toys. We tried to stop him, but in the end we always went along. Because of Aaron’s persistence, we were forced to face the uncomfortable sights, sounds and smells of his world all through those first weeks. The caretakers were uncomfortable with our presence, embarrassed by what we might see, but they didn’t stop us.
Once again, much of what we saw didn’t register. It was too chaotic to grasp at first glance. So the first time we rounded the corner and found Aaron’s group all sitting on little chairs around the grounds, we didn’t immediately understand. Our minds could only absorb it in small pieces. It took us a while to realize that we were seeing “The Picture,” the one at the top of this post, in real life. It was a sad reality, shocking because we knew that our boy had lived this way for a year, but also softened because we knew the hearts of the caretakers.
I’ve prayed and considered how best to tell this part of our story. I don’t want to sensationalize our experience, and I don’t want to horrify anyone. I am not interested in raising an uproar, even if I could. I only want people to know about the plight of the children who aren’t adopted from the baby houses and end up being transferred.
When you first see this picture you probably think, as I did, that it speaks of abuse and neglect. And so it may, in the place where it was taken. But neglect is not necessarily the norm in all such institutes. We have to understand that these Eastern European mental institutes are simply poor, extremely poor. These countries are poor, and most of their citizens are poor. We were told that a college-educated teacher might expect to make only about $3000 US per year. It is not surprising that in such impoverished countries, the poorest citizens– orphans committed to mental institutions– have to endure conditions that most of us find shocking. These institutions depend entirely upon money allotted to them by the government, and they’re not high on the budget priority list. They rarely receive private donations– those go to the baby houses– and the church seems to be most interested in putting shiny brass roofs on all of its neglected buildings.
At Aaron’s institute, the staff works hard to make ends meet. They feed the boys as well as they can, and although none of them are emaciated (unlike the picture), they do not have an overabundance of food. It is just enough. The staff is small, too small. The caretakers are overworked and grossly underpaid in their thankless, highly depressing jobs. Their caretaking chores include all of the cleaning and laundry for over 100 boys. They are also commissioned to weed the flower beds and sweep the sidewalks and yards. Many of the buildings don’t have indoor plumbing, and even if they do, they are not equipped to handle large volumes.
Thus, the potty chairs. It is a very sad reality. The only way so few caretakers can manage the daily bodily functions of so many boys is to sit them all down on their potty chairs at the same time, several times each day. When you see cute little toddlers sitting on the potty, you get one picture; but walking in on about 20 older boys, all sitting undressed on tiny potty chairs, is a whole different image. It’s an image I will never forget. In this case it speaks not of abuse, but of poverty. It speaks not of neglect, but of desperation. The exhausted caretakers at Aaron’s institute love their boys, but need forces them to treat them like products on an assembly line. As time passed and we learned to know and love the individual boys, the indignity of their situation saddened us all the more.
Why do I share this? Because I have a duty to speak out for the helpless and the voiceless. We need to pray. We need to pray that God will inspire his church, in both that country and our own, to get its hands dirty, go into these forgotten institutes and minister to the Lost Boys and Girls. They need so much. Their caretakers are weary and overburdened.
At Aaron’s institute, we have to send a powerful message that these boys are wanted. Aaron’s adoption is not enough. Brady and Heath also desperately need families so that the authorities can see that there is hope for all the rest of the Lost Boys. They cannot be forgotten. I pray that God will show us how to open up Aaron’s institute so that the church can go marching inside. I desire with all my heart to see His light and His love offered to those precious boys and their weary caretakers.
Part 2 tomorrow.