Growing up I dreamed of Neverland. I daydreamed of taking care of lost boys and loving Peter Pan. I wanted to fly and dance and be brave. I wanted to take care of myself; to play at being grown up while still having all the fun of being a kid forever.
It’s not an uncommon dream. In fact I’m becoming increasingly convinced that the dream of Neverland is largely universal, whether people have heard of Peter Pan’s adventures or not. But Neverland, much like greener grass and that illusive pot of gold, is a fairytale.
The boys I spend my days with came here in search of their Neverland. Instead they were met with a cruel copy. Sure, they spend their days doing what they want with all of their friends. Nobody tells them what to do and they make enough money to get by (sometimes honestly, sometimes not).
But instead of bumbling pirates, they’re running from the cops. There are no feasts created by their imaginations. Rather, they scrape the rice pots from the lunches masana provides into plastic bags to eat for dinner later. And whether they go to school or not, all of these boys will eventually grow up.
This week I got to step into a new and unexpected role in the mornings at masana. Abigale, the US doctor who volunteers here left this weekend to go back to the states for a month. Earlier this week after learning that I wasn’t squeamish and am eager to learn new things, she took me under her wing and trained me to continue helping the boys while she is gone.
On Monday I helped in redressing a second degree burn wound. Last week while some of the boys were cooking their dinner over an open fire, one of them threw extra gasoline onto it resulting in another boy’s leg being covered in burns from ankle to knee. On Wednesday I held him as she showed me how to cut away the dead skin and detect and prevent infections in the blistered healing areas. Saturday when he came by I was able to remove his old bandages, clean his wounds and redress them entirely on my own. (Something I had no clue how to handle a week ago)
Tuesday provided a very different and much more impactful learning opportunity, both for me and (more importantly) for the boys. Masana was recently gifted a good sized set of HIV rapid tests. So in leu of classes Tuesday morning, all of the boys sat while Abigale talked to them about the truths of HIV, how to prevent it and how important it is for them to get regularly tested. At first all of the boys laughed at the idea of getting tested and didn’t want to think about it, but by the end of the talk, fifteen teenage boys agreed to get tested throughout the remainder of the day.
Fourteen of these boys tested negative. Considering the odds we were so so grateful for so many negative results. But, one tested positive. One scared teenage boy who was planning on going home this next week, tested positive for HIV, and just like that, his life will never be what it once could have been. Doctors are confident that there is a cure to be found for HIV, but for now, he will have to live off of medication provided by the US to keep his body healthy. If he still chooses to go home, he will have to tell his family of this taboo illness he has contracted since he left them. If he doesn’t, he won’t be able to get treatment, his health will decline and eventually it will fail him.
My heart hurts for these boys. The choices they’re making now, the kind of problems they are being faced with, would be devastating for many adults. Whether they create their difficulties or not, they’re still just kids. They’re kids who chased a daydream and found themselves trapped in a nightmare.
The longer they’re out here on the streets the more comfortable they become with the lifestyle. The more they adapt to this lifestyle, the harder it is for them to go home to their families. It’s a vicious downward spiral, leaving many unable to get out. While I can tend to wounds, I cannot fix this. I cannot heal the deeper hurt. I cannot make them go back home. So I pray. I love on them and I pray. I joke around and tease them and I pray.
I pray that they will not become hardened by this life and the disappointment of their dreams. I pray that they will not be enticed into the lifestyle that is so common among them, and for those who are already in it, I pray for the desire and strength to get out. I pray for homes eager to welcome them back, and the desire to return to them. I pray that God miraculously bring good out of this in each of their lives. I pray that they come to know God intimately for themselves. I pray that they know they still have hope, they can still have a better future. I pray that the enemy stop winning victories in these children’s lives. I pray that they see his lies for what they are, empty promises and dangerous traps. I pray that they stop giving into the easy temptations haphazardly strewn around their feet. I pray for supernatural protection, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. I pray for redemption. I pray for restoration. I pray for God to have his way.