Every orphaned/abandoned child and adult are curious about their past. Where did they come from, who are their relatives, are they still around? These were questions that were on the mind of our spiritual son, Jack Noel Martinez Diaz. After we successfully obtained for him a "manufactured birth certificate" a couple of months back, his past has been weighing on his mind.
He has a brother, Freddy, whom we have written about often in our blogs. About 10 years ago, together they left the home they once shared with Freddy's father - Jack Noel's stepfather. Their mother had passed away and they lived in the home with the father/stepdad and younger sister. The father was prone to drinking and not able to properly care for the boys; so the boys left and left behind their little sister. The details of their leaving are still sketchy to me. The boys spent time on the streets and eventually ended up in a rehab facility that also rescued orphans. The facility was miles from their home and the boys were never reunited with family. They virtually just became a statistic to the governing body that "tracks" homeless and orphaned youth.
It was while Jack Noel was attending our carpentry class, known then as Noel, that we first met him. He bonded with us immediately and often would make comments about how he would love to live with us. He eventually ran from the facility where he lived and was gone for 6 months. Our hearts were broken until one day he showed up on our doorstep. His time with us has not been without incident, but fast forward to present day and he is very comfortable with his life and in our home. He really believes that he will live with us forever; that is the Nicaragua way. However, we have told him that our purpose is to teach him how to live on his own - that is the American way.
Having laid all the ground work, let's get on with the story. On a recent Sunday morning, we took our boy to the terminal station to board a microbus to travel to the interior of Nicaragua. To get to his destination required him to change buses 2 more times. With each bus change we received phone calls from him detailing the events and reassuring us that he was fine. I think he just wanted to hear our voice for assurance because he did not know where he would be going once he got to the town of his birthplace.
He called us when he got off the bus in Rio Blanco, 7 hours after he left Leon, to say he didn't know where he would be staying the night. That was unsettling to us but there was nothing we could do but trust him to the Lord. After the call, Jack Noel walked the streets of the small town praying to God to refresh his memory and hoped that he would find someone he knew. We were relieved and overjoyed when he called us within an hour to say that he had found is birth father's house. His father, Natividad, was not home but there was a step mother, 2 stepsisters and they invited him to stay.
Jack Noel spent 2 nights with his family catching up on the years. They had been convinced that he was no longer alive. They were grateful for the goodness that accompanied Jack's life and the educated young man that he was growing into. He loved to dazzle them with his English that he used whenever he called home. It was also a way for him to communicate with us without them knowing what he was saying. The poverty that his family lived was painful to him. The phrase "they are so poor" would be echoed many times to us in each conversation.
Then it was on to another much smaller community a 3 hour bus ride to try to find the only father he had ever known, his stepdad, Pedro - his brother Freddy's father. The home he had once known was no longer in the family and Jack had to ask around for information to find Pedro. When he found him, he was shocked and very sad, but happy too. The home he found Pedro in was made of black plastic, it was small and he lived alone. The little sister that Jack remembered was no longer around. She had left home a couple years before and lived in Rio Blanco - the town he had left earlier in the day. His happiness was because Pedro had quit drinking; he was a couple of years sober and trying to regain his life. Pedro was so overwhelmed to see Jack, he too had been sure that he and Freddy had died.
When Jack called us that evening he was sad because of the terrible conditions that his stepdad lived in. He said he had wanted to help him do some repair work on the house, but he was not allowed. It was raining; mud was everywhere and Pedro did not want Jack to get his shoes and clothes dirty. They talked a lot about the past and the future. Pedro is concerned about Freddy and wants to talk to him. Jack spent one night with Pedro because his desire was to get back to Rio Blanco to find his younger sister, Mirian.
Jack was able to find his sister living and working in an old bar as a cook. She had a one month old baby with no one to help her. When we talked he was very concerned that he had 2 sisters who had children. He kept repeating "they (his sisters) are so young". We've spent many conversations in the past years talking about the difficulties and consequences of having children while young and out of wedlock. Now the conversations were hitting home in a real way.
He cut his trip short by a day because of the upcoming national independence day festivities that could disrupt travel AND he was ready to come home. Home to his dry warm house, home to "civilization", home to a life that he embraced. He came home with lots of pictures and lots of stories. Unfortunately the pictures are on an old cell phone that we cannot download to our computers, so we have nothing to show you. He came home full of gratitude and love for his life.
He understood more clearly what our purpose as a ministry is about in Nicaragua - to change the destiny of a man and his family. He senses the responsibility on his life to become the best man possible so that he can help his family. He said he was treated like a king by his family and felt "shame"; that was the term he used. We told him to not feel shame nor guilt. God had protected him all the years that he had been wandering and separated from his family. His unique life was a gift from God and there is a purpose in it. We love the 2 photos (above & to the right). We added no special affects; just evidence of God's love for him.
The family wants him to visit at Christmas for a week. Jack has assured us that he will be back for New Years Eve because we are his family too. He is conflicted about wanting to help his family but burdened by the fact that they perceive him as wealthy living with Americans. He has had to work hard to get to the place he is at in his life with us. We have instilled in him that we are here to help, guide and counsel, not to give welfare. He needs to carry that same principle with him as he goes forth in his relationship with his family. It will be difficult for him, just as it has been for us. Our natural human instinct is to give, give, give to those in need. We've had to hold back more times than we can count. But, the giving would never end if individuals are not expected and/or taught how to do for themselves. There are older brothers by another father and also an aunt who have been calling our home frequently since Jack's return; he was not able to see them. No matter the poverty, everyone has a cellphone. He is understandably excited by all the attention that he is getting.
In the short time of Jack's return we have had to put some requests and expectations back on to him. When he asks if there are ways that we can help his family. We turn the question to him - "What are you willing to do for your family?" The purpose of the ministry is to change one man and that man is the one who is to bring about change in his family. Together we will help him come up with a plan for his future and hopefully that of his family.