[HONDURAS] Thursday was a whirlwind for the senses. Megan, Mia, Stephen, Alex and I drove downtown to visit the old Micah House, where all of the boys lived until around December. It is cramped, worn, in a rough neighborhood. It's the kind of dirty that can't really be cleaned—it comes off of the walls, in the cracks, from the sky. There was no hot water. And it was in such close quarters that tempers could escalate—there was no space to play, no space to be one-on-one with the boys.
It's a stark contrast to the Micah House property outside the city, where the boys run and run and run. On the soccer field, through the house with the giant dog, Buddy, all over the sofas. They jump on the trampoline and sprawl out on the chairs outside. Even the older ones, 16 and 17, play and play with the other boys. It's evident that this place is so much better for the boys. The setting is better even for Megan and the other teachers, who lived in sketchy apartments down the street from the old house. The cabins are small and rustic, but they are fresh and homey. And seemingly safe.
Afterward we went down to the market. It's a squirrel's warren of open-air shops, so narrow there's only a slit of sky visible above the passages. Somewhere in the middle, we ended up at a cluster of little diner-style restaurants, with six people in six square feet making baleadas over flames lit in coffee cans. We all pressed together in the passage, watching business people eat and schoolchildren in their various uniforms passing through for drinks, waiting for the batch of baleadas that we would take to the street kids.
We went up the narrow streets, busy with bumper-to-bumper traffic and men with guns and dogs and old ladies and mothers with children. The sidewalks are a crumbling, bumpy mess, so one had to always watch where one walked so as not to break an ankle. Suddenly, the street opened up into the central park, with a basilica and fountains. That's where we found the street boys. They came over alone and in twos as soon as they saw Stephen. He's a really cool young man who seems to have a calm, easy rapport with the guys. I can't even fathom how he has such courage and why he isn't attacked. We stayed for about an hour, passing out food, chatting, kicking the soccer ball and getting lots of hugs and handshakes and high-fives from the young men, about half of whom were seriously high. Stephen showed us the shoe glue that they huff, and we sniffed—it smells just as you would imagine. He also pointed out the prostitutes sitting along the perimeter of the plaza. Schoolchildren, mothers with kids and men in suits all were passing through as well.
When we left the plaza, two of the guys and a sweet little boy, Hosue, left with us to eat again; I learned that the two young men have been meeting with Stephen for discipleship on Friday mornings at the old Micah House. Stephen has great plans for that space, working to rehabilitate it for these almost-men who are too old for the Micah Project and who have no other hope.
The call of the street is strong. It's exciting, especially for young men. There's a social network. The glue dulls their senses, their ability to care. It's not easy to get them off the street, even with the promise of education, food, a clean bed, loving adults, security. They then have to abide by rules, go through withdrawal. So while what Micah is doing is amazing once the boys are off the streets, it's hard for the boys to see the other side from where they are. And yet people like Stephen persevere, going into the alleys and under the bridges, where it's dirty and dark and sometimes unsafe, bringing light and hope. Hugging, talking to, feeding and loving these grubby, goofy, sometimes high boys whom the rest of the world ignores or treats like trash.
One of the many things that I love about Micah: They are raising the boys as part of their community. They have family visitation day, so the boys' families, whatever “family” might mean for them, can come to visit on every other Tuesday. Micah House is a part of the neighborhood around it, offering the community employment, a place to use the computers or play on the soccer field, and a helping hand from the industrious boys. I like that they are raising the boys here to become educated citizens of their own country, not just taking them away.
After that we came back for English class with Victor, Ismael and Eduard. Each is a different age, but all are learning at about the second-grade level—they’re assigned to a class depending on where they are in their education. They were a rowdy threesome, and it was a bit distracting for them out on the terrace, where they could see passersby and the dog and such. But Megan made progress, and she could overlook the boyish exuberance.
Finally, it was free time for everyone. We chatted a bit with Michael, the director. He gave us some T-shirts from the "store," where they have sodas and treats that the boys can buy with the "money" they earn for good behavior. We watched a forest fire escalate in the hills in front of the house. It was far enough away so as not to be scary, so it was actually beautiful in a sad, fire kind of way. We enjoyed the pleasant evening until dinnertime, when we helped dish it up. Afterward, Megan was in charge of enforcing chores and homework, so we watched and helped for a while, then we played word games with some of the boys in both English and Spanish, which was fun. Some of the high school boys are very good at English, far better than I am at Spanish.
The sky was a constantly shifting palette that evening. Dark clouds rolled in, the wind picked up, and two rainbows formed over Micah House. Another forest fire began in the hills. It only rained for a few minutes, but it brought a blissful cool.