Before children come into our Survivor Care, they’ve often felt unnoticed and unprotected. Like nobody but their exploiters would care if they were gone, like nobody has hope for their futures, like they’ve been left alone to fall apart.
As soon as you come into the safe homes in the Philippines, you can tell that the place has been well cared for. The light bulbs are all working and the brick path is even. The hallways are swept, and the stairs that lead up to the tree house are sturdy. The Love146 van is driven off the property to have a new battery installed and get its brakes tuned up. You can hear the noise of a hammer as the carpenter repairs a broken ceiling.
Not long after a child arrives, they are invited to help us care for the place. We show them how to participate in daily chores, we introduce them to our farm animals, and they help us bring in food from the vegetable garden for dinner. With their eyes and ears and hands, they learn that when you love a place, you spend time every day making sure it’s thriving.
THE CHILDREN LEARN THAT PEOPLE, LIKE PLACES, NEED MAINTENANCE AND UPKEEP IF THEY ARE GOING TO STAY STRONG. THEY NEED A FAMILY THAT HAS HOPE IN THEM.
But work at the safe home goes beyond just routine maintenance: New things unfold there, too. Some kids remember when the fish pond was built. A few of them saw our tree house get rebuilt after the typhoon. This spring, they welcomed the arrival of six hives of stingless bees; soon, they will begin to harvest pure, local honey. Our hope is that over time, the children come to believe that new things can happen in their lives, too — that when they are nurtured and surrounded by people who believe in them, their futures will look very different.
GRADUALLY, LOVE LOOSENS THE HISTORIES THAT MADE THEM BELIEVE THEY WERE USELESS AND HOPELESS. AFTER ALL, IT’S HARDER TO FEEL USELESS WHEN THE LITTLE TOMATO GARDEN IS GROWING HEALTHY UNDER YOUR CARE. IT’S HARDER TO BELIEVE THAT NOBODY HAS HOPE IN YOUR FUTURE WHEN A GROWN-UP IS REMINDING YOU TO TAKE YOUR VITAMINS. It’s harder to believe you’re unlovable when the baby goat comes running to you every morning.
This is a totally new way of seeing yourself. That’s what love does. Love restores. Love repairs. Love renews. A window cracks, but someone comes to replace it. A faucet drips, but the pipes are soon tightened and sealed. Sometimes the paths get dusty, but it won’t be long before it’s cleaned up by the daily sweeping.
And sometimes a girl gets angry without understanding why. Sometimes the baby wails at night and wakes the older children. Sometimes, a child remembers a bad day they had forgotten about, and it hurts. But it won’t be long before a friend finds her with a hug. An adult caregiver walks with him to sit in the garden. A kind word is spoken in a soft voice. Slowly, in this way, the child learns that life is a place where new things are built. Even better, they are the builder: making plans, dreaming big, and welcoming the people who show up each day to work alongside them. This love is the opposite of hopelessness and abandonment. It moves beyond responsibilities to renewal.