16 Therefore, change your hearts and stop being stubborn.
17 “For the Lord your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords. He is the great God, the mighty and awesome God, who shows no partiality and cannot be bribed. 18 He ensures that orphans and widows receive justice. He shows love to the foreigners living among you and gives them food and clothing. 19 So you, too, must show love to foreigners, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt.
About 9 years ago we met a family on the lot where their new home was going to be built. At the time the oldest brother was 12 years old. The oldest brother was shy, yet he opened himself up to a couple of the team members. Over time, we got to spend more time with him and learned he was a very smart young man. Time passed and we visited the family from time to time. The four kids seemed to be doing just fine. They were healthy and happy, considering their circumstances.
When the oldest brother turned 15, he came to us seeking help. His parents took to using drugs and had deserted the entire family. This young man had just become the mother and the father to his siblings. At the time, he was going to school full time and he also decided that he needed to work to feed his siblings. We continued to help with his high school education and upped our support to help him pay his bills. He informed us that his 14 year old sister was seeing a man 6 years older than her. She soon moved out and became pregnant. It broke this young man's heart to see one of his siblings slip away into a life of mere survival. About this time, the neighbors turned the kids into the city officials and they were placed into an orphanage. They spent five months in the orphanage and then the grandmother came and got them out.
He often told us that he wanted to quit school and just work to help his siblings. We spent hours with him, encouraging him, and trying to show him that getting through school and fulfilling his dreams would make life a bit easier. His five year old brother was about to begin school, but then found out he had no birth papers to get him enrolled. For many days as he left for school or work, he left behind his two younger brothers. We went to look at the condition of the house and decided to invest some money to make it habitable. We bought new beds and frames, got the kids some new clothes, shoes and the basic necessities. The bathroom and shower were updated as well.
Later, we come to find out that the parents returned to steal everything the kids had been given. They sold the goods to help with their addictions. The three boys were left with a pad to lay on the floor and a light bulb wired from the neighbor’s house. This oldest brother said he was done and he could not go on. With our encouragement, support, and praising him for the great job he was doing, he set his eyes on the goal of finishing school. And then his parents returned, yet again, only to steal everything he had worked for.
The mother moved back in, pregnant from another man she had met while on the street. We rented a trailer for him and upped the support so he could eat. His parents reconciled and he felt he needed to return home to help the family. His younger brother, who was 16 at the time, could not handle everything going on and left. We have not seen or heard from him for two years now.
Meanwhile, the oldest brother started working full time in the factories to help feed the family and buy basics for the new baby in the house. He would work 12 hour days and then tried to find a little time to sleep before going to class. Then go to the University for 6 hours of class and then head back to work. Two weeks ago we received a picture and a message from him. The picture was of him getting his resume in order and applying for a federal government job. The message said I need to visit with you soon please.
I picked him and his little brother up and brought them to the ministry home for breakfast. I arranged an interpreter to be there so we could have a total understanding of what he wanted to tell us.
He said I have to quit my job to focus on my last year of school. I am tired and have no more energy from trying to feed and keep my family together. But since I have to quit my job, all the means to feed my brother and myself is gone. We asked him what he needed and he said nothing. I just wanted you to know I am not working so I can focus on school.
The room went quiet as everyone in the room realized his dilemma.
Kelly and I visited and decided we needed to step up our help for his this last year. We told him we would seek help to feed him this last year until he graduates and begins his new career.
We prayed for him and his family and gave them a ride home. On the way home he said I have two shirts and one pair of pants to begin the school year. We went shopping and got him a new wardrobe to finish off this year with some pride.
I share this story because many of you know who I am writing about. This young man has faced more adversity than I could ever endure. Yet, he sees the goal. He sees the end and knows if he can endure one more year, the prize will come.
We have 22 sponsored students this year and have watched as the fruit is beginning to be seen. And it is all made possible by people with a loving heart to share their resources and help young adults like this.
We so appreciate all who support our students and the support Kelly and I receive to remain doing what we have been called to do.
27 Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.
You are loved and appreciated.
Curt and Kelly VanEkeren