Sunday, August 22, 2010

Axel should not be on the streets right now

Axel should not be on the streets right now. He should not be sleeping in a stall in the outdoor market that sells shoes by the putrid river that runs through Tegucigalpa. He shouldn't be crossing the bridge every day at lunch to beg food from the lunchtime crowd downtown. He should not be running with dangerous people, who make their living by the gun that they hide in their clothes. He should not be back on the streets.

He shouldn't, but he is.

Many of you have met Axel and have fallen in love with him since he joined the Micah Project in September of 2008. The Axel that you know is a lanky, goofy kid who is always quick with a joke or a prank. His chosen method of showing affection toward someone is through an insult... "Hey Michael, why are you so ugly today?" ...always delivered with a lopsided grin and an awkward hug from someone whose 14-year-old body is growing too quickly for him to get a handle on it. The Axel that you meet on a trip to Tegucigalpa is a funny, charming, easy-going young boy.

But that's not all there is to Axel. The reasons why he is back on the streets after two good years speak to a traumatized, angry soul. Earlier this summer, a psychologist from the juvenile prison came to visit the Micah Project. He recognized Axel and they spent some time chatting on the patio of the Micah House. Afterwards, the psychologist expressed shock as he spoke to me about Axel. This well-spoken young man was one of the most violent kids they had in juvenile detention. He couldn't believe it was the same boy. We got the same response when we talked to another street kid organization that he had lived in: they would no longer accept him into their program because of his violent tendencies.

That is not the Axel that we know! We know a loving, caring Axel who has a great thirst for justice and is always looking for ways to help the downtrodden. But wait...the reality is that both of these boys are the same Axel. The Apostle Paul says in Romans: "When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members." (Romans 7: 21-23). Axel's childhood was full of incredible, degraded evil, more evil than a young child should ever have to bear. His dad is in prison for gang-related violence, and Axel himself was a part of that violence while living on the streets.

Why is Axel back on the streets? That is a question that many people have asked me in the last month. The answer is complex. It could be the drugs that dig their pleasure-inducing claws into these young boys' addicted brains and just won't let go. It could be the hormones raging through his 14-year-old body, calling him back to the danger and excitement of street life, so much more interesting than his second grade classes at Micah. It could be the incredibly complex relationship he has with his mom and dad: hating them for what he had to live through as a child but loving them with a desperate love because...well, because they are his parents, after all. It could be spiritual warfare, with Satan redoubling his efforts to drag this child of God back into the slimy pit.

Every day that our boys are at Micah is a miracle. Choosing life is so much harder than accepting the alternative. It is so easy to slip back into the things of our past. Choosing the Micah Project is hard work for a street boy...they have to go to class, obey rules and continually delay the gratification that came so easily to them on the streets every time they inhaled a puff of yellow glue. Indeed, how crazy it is to ask a street boy to shut down those pleasure centers and to keep delaying gratification for ten years or so until they can graduate from high school! Moving forward in life is hard, hard work: it is so much easier on the streets to just get through the day.

But over and over again, boys come off the streets into the Micah House and make the choice to begin a new life. Their reasons why are diverse. Micah has an incredible staff that has made a commitment to be family for these boys, showing them what it means to be loved unconditionally. We disciple them daily, teaching them about a God who loves them and wants to save them from sin and death. We have an incredibly dedicated group of supporters that helps us provide for their needs on a daily basis, so that they lack nothing. We even make the effort to help their families, which is so important to them, even the ones that have a complicated relationship with their parents. We help them prepare for the future, providing all of the education and training necessary for them to become successful adults.

Even so, every day comes down to a choice between life and death. And not one of our incredibly dedicated staff members can make that choice for our boys. Each and every one of them has a daily choice to make. And, as we all know, sometimes it is easier, more fun and more exciting to choose old habits that lead to death.

So...Axel should not be on the streets today, but he is. He has left the Micah House twice in the last month. The longer he stays on the streets, the more he becomes like the old Axel: unable to control the anger that is just below the surface. Last week, when he came back to the house for a few days after three weeks on the streets, was very, very difficult. The happy, joking, goofy kid had been replaced by a rebellious, on-edge youth that always seemed ready to blow. And, since Monday, he is back on the streets.

All of our dedication, love and hope cannot save Axel. Why? Because no human being is capable of saving another human being. We'd love to have a magic formula to be able to automatically remove the street from our boys. Because we don't, we cry (to paraphrase Paul), "Who will rescue them from this body of death?" (Romans 7:24). Thankfully, Paul answers his own wrenching cry: "Thanks be to God-through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

And that is what it all boils down to. We can provide the best environment, with the best structure and the best people at the Micah Project, but none of that will save our boys. Only God saves. We strive for best practice day-to-day, but only God saves. We are getting ready to buy new land to provide a better environment for our boys in the years to come, but that will not save them either.

Only God saves.

That is a terrifying, but incredibly joyous truth. And it is a truth that we claim for Axel. Over the past few weeks, I spent many hours in the market district looking for Axel, and as I walked through that dangerous, impoverished section of this city I continually prayed, "Lord show your mighty hand in this young boy's life."

Will you join us in praying this prayer for Axel in the days to come? Not only for Axel, but for Hector, David, Miguel Angel, and Axelito...all of whom have to make a daily choice to leave the addiction of street life behind them. Your prayers are powerful and effective in their lives.

Over the last ten years, God has shown His mighty hand through the Micah Project in some miraculous ways. We are convinced that those miracles have as much to do with your prayers as with our daily actions in their lives. So... please continue to pray and to enlist other prayer warriors on behalf of these boys!

Su hermano en Cristo,

Michael Miller

Monday, August 16, 2010

Weekly Prayer Requests

Dear Friends and Family,
Greetings from another busy week here in Tegus!  On Monday we said goodbye to the group from Randolph Street Church in West Virginia and are now back on a more normal schedule.  We always love the time spent with our summer visitors, but now we'll be pushing toward the end of the Honduran school year in October, and it's good to be back in classes full-time.  This week, we ask you to join us in praying for:
* Michael
We were able to convince Michael to take some time away to decompress after a long summer, and we are now attempting to fill his shoes for this week.  Pray that he will have time to reflect and recharge, and that the rest of us will survive his absence!
* Miguelito
This young man has grown so much since coming into Micah in March. Even the loss of his mother to cancer two months ago didn't send him back to the streets. Still, he has his moments of struggle and he is walking through the natural grieving process. Please be praying particularly that he will be motivated and cooperative in his classes every morning as he is quickly learning to read and write, and that he will sleep better at night, as these seem to be two battles for him right now.
* Wisdom and Compassion
Life at Micah is a whirlwind of young men laughing, living, struggling, and growing up together. In the midst of so much craziness (although most of it is pretty funny and enjoyable), it can be easy to slip into a routine instead of striving to be Christ to all people. Please pray for the Micah staff so that we can continue to love well in the midst of all that happens here. Please also pray for our guys that they can continue to grow and show Christ's love to each other.
* And, of course, let us PRAISE!!
- For the lives of each of these young men. The Lord has lovingly brought each one of them to the Micah Project for a reason. Let us praise Him for moving and working so wondrously!!
- For the continuing impact of each of Micah's ministries. Ten years after a single house opened its doors to a handful of young men, Micah has two homes, a street ministry, a Micah moms group, a thriving group of college students and graduates, and a technical school!  Praise the Lord for working so mightily!!!
- For the continued financial support of our donors -- none of this could happen without their partnership with us in this ministry.  Praise God for raising up so many faithful people to support us!
The road forward for each of these guys is long and has many hills and valleys.  Still, the Lord has continually shown Himself faithful.  His mercy has sustained us, and He has taken street children and grown them into inspiring God-loving young men.  As we move through the coming week, let us not cease to praise Him for all of these things!!
David Hawthorne (on behalf of the entire Micah Project

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Weekly Prayer Requests

 Buenos Dias!

Greetings from Tegucigalpa!  It has been a busy summer for the Micah Project, as we have hosted several teams.  Despite the busy-ness, though, we remember that our most important daily job is covering our boys and staff in prayer.  This week, please pray for:

* Axel Lopez
Despite several conversations with Axel on the streets, this young man continues to live outside of Micah. Please pray that the Lord changes his heart and that we are able to reach out to him once again.

* The three youngest Micah guys

David, Axelito, and Miguelito are all continuing to show signs of drug urges. Miguelito actually ran away last Wednesday for the morning in order to use drugs. Although he returned to Micah after just a few hours, we are continuing to watch and pray over our three newest guys. Please pray that they are able to fight against the powerful urges to return to using yellow glue and continue pressing on ahead.

*Health for Micah staff
Becca and Jenna are sick this week; please pray that the Lord would protect them and restore them to health!

* A New Micah House
With violence and drug abuse rising in the neighborhood, we are looking for some property outside of the city for a new group home. We've decided on a community into which we can move, and are looking at various pieces of property. Please be praying for this exciting process, for the planning of a capital campaign, and for God's hand to be on the entire process.  

*And, we want to take time to Praise!!
- For the continued growth in the three newest Micah guys. Although they are struggling, David, Miguelito, and Axelito are continuing to grow! Praise God for each of these young lives!!
- For the growth in all our guys. From Wilmer telling his testimony to the rapping of Brian Chavez, we are grateful to see God working in the hearts of our guys.
- For God's strength. This has been an intense and tiring summer, but we have been able to survive and thrive by the grace of our God. Thank you, Lord!!

Our God is merciful and gives us everything that we need to do everything that He has called us to do. We are grateful to Him for providing so bountifully and to you for walking this trying and exciting path with us. Until next week!

David Hawthorne