He looked up at the night sky, stars twinkling so brightly. He tickled his feet on the zipper at the edge of the tent. It was the world he knew. The only one. His mom was already sleeping. He listened as the wind rustled through the trees above him. He sat up tucked his knees deeply into his chest, letting out a deep sigh. The day was done, and when he would awake, another day of survival would begin. They were alone most of the time. Hidden from the world that would take him away from his mother. Hidden from a world that would have higher standards for his care, protection, and health. As his eyes grew heavy, and his heart slowed to a calm pace, the realm behind closed eyelids approached. Waking in the morning, his mother greeted him with a hug, good morning little one. He growled. Just like the animals he had been taught about, he spent more time growling than learning to talk. Growls became his main form of communication. Both in the world of the wild, and in a world he felt safe.
When a child has grown up in abnormal circumstances and the things that we would consider normal are far from the reach, we have to reach a little further. For the child who enters not knowing how to speak, but rather communicating through growls, and grunts, there is a process to seeing him transformed. At Acres of Hope this child experiences a team that can see his need, and communicate in his own formed language until he can learn to speak the language that society can understand. A staff may begin with growls, and progressively share a few words between the roars. They will sing songs grafting in the names of animals. They will surround them with other kids holding conversations. They will provide games and activities that allow the child to feel a part of the group. Pretty soon like the child’s peers he wants to graft towards being a part of the community. He wants to communicate with friends. So he does. It is in this place we will witness sentences, which become paragraphs, then full conversations. The reason this can happen is we understand the child who has slept with critters, learned the ways of the animals. For the everyday person who has grown up in modern society we have been blessed to never have been so desperate that our only option was to grow up in the woods. Yet some people have those stories. When they emerge from those places, the horrors, the survival techniques, we are there, ready to serve them, and guide them to normalcy. We will help them grow into the person who is confident to step out into the world as a person who will thrive not just survive everyday.
Acres of Hope is ending homelessness. Yet we are doing so much more than that. Many of the stories that walk through our doors, go far beyond the hallmark story, or the 60 minutes segments. We look in the faces of those who have despaired of life. Have been beaten, addicted. Picked up the syringes from abandoned buildings as the inheritance left behind by their parents. We are not your hand out table, we are the evidence that God is still at work, and he is changing lives from the inside out. So each day we continue to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ.