Skip to main content
All Posts By

Bryon Applegate

A Child Learning to be Loved

As I watch her walk down the gravel road I can’t help but smile.  She’s taking her turn with the staff psychologist – working through her past, passing the office on the way.  I follow her as she passes by, the smile never leaving my face. I remember her first day.  She was the girl who wouldn’t smile. The girl who wouldn’t show fear and certainly wouldn’t show joy.  Her guard was up, her street-sense on high alert.  I could read the apprehension in her body language.  She was the girl that wouldn’t be here long, so no sense in making a connection or getting comfortable with these strangers.

She had learned to survive on her own.  She doesn’t need help from anyone; especially from this place where she was forced to move.  She doesn’t belong here.  The street is her friend and companion.  She’s done just fine on her own.  This new place is foreign.  With its rules and walls, how could she be comfortable?  She can’t come and go as she pleases, nor avoid the adults that act like they care.  She will not allow them in.  She will not allow herself to trust.  Trust hurts, it disappoints, it fails.

She will serve her sentence in this place, though this was not her choice.  She was brave, she was smart, she was hardened.  She could have continued her survival on the street. But now she is forced to sit at a table, go to school, sleep in a bed.  She is forced to interact with adults, to obey them, to respect them.  She has chores, responsibilities, and homework.  She has friends, sisters, parents, a family.

As time passes she learns to deal with the change.  Bathing becomes a good thing.  Regular meals become expected.  Learning becomes fun.  She begins to see truth in things she thought a lie.  She has let her guard down and people in.  Slowly.  First her house mom, then her dad.  For the first time she has a best friend.  A friend who is also a sister.  Her smile is no longer a stranger to her, her trust a blooming flower. She is learning to love and to be loved.

I never thought she would trust me.  I am a stranger, a man, a gringo.  I watched her keep her distance, I saw her watching me interact with the other kids.  She was curious, but hesitant.  It wasn’t until she allowed me to push her on the swing that I earned her trust.  That I was willing to play with her and invest my time in her, was all she needed.  Since then she runs to me for a hug and to ask me how I am.  Normally a change such as this would be unusual, but God allows me to see it almost everyday.  He is alive in the hearts of the kids that are sent to us.

She makes me smile because of who she was and who she is.  It makes me think of how God the Father must smile because of who I was and who I am now.  She makes me smile because I see myself in her.  I used to try to do things my own way too.  I didn’t trust, I didn’t let others get close, I didn’t let my guard down.  But just as she allowed love to change her, I did too.  Instead of trying to make it on my own, I have allowed the God of the universe to take care of me.  She has learned to accept the love she deserves and so have I.

Beauty from Ashes – He is More Than His Past

He is the product of an incestuous rape – unwanted, despised, a reminder of a terrible thing.  Because he is seen as the product of a disgraceful, disgusting act, he is treated as such.  The mother’s hands are quick to strike, her tongue quick to lash. The boy that was forced into her life, the boy that is both her son and her cousin is the boy that she does not want.  When she looks at him she sees her uncle and bile rises in her mouth.  When he cries she doesn’t comfort, she despises. His needs are a burden, his wants are a laugh.  Because of the way he was conceived, he deserves a life worse than her own.  He is nothing.

As he grows he learns to survive.  Survival is lying, manipulating, stealing, cheating, using.  He believes that his mother is not worthy of respect.  He believes she is not worthy of love.  He learns how to lie to her, how to manipulate her, how to steal from her, how to cheat her, and how to use her.  Because of the blows he takes, he learns how to hate her.  Because she doesn’t provide, he takes.  Because she doesn’t comfort, he agitates.  Because she doesn’t care, he hardens.  He hardens his heart towards her, and decides to leave her.  Because she is nothing.

He steals enough money to buy food and a bus ticket.  He doesn’t know what to expect where he’s going, but he knows there must be help.  He flags down the first bus that comes along and 2 hours later finds himself in the city.  Nobody asks him why he’s alone.  No one asks if he needs help.  He’s just another one.  Another kid looking for a better way.  He’s weary and excited, courageous and scared.  For the first time he feels hope.  Hope of a new beginning, hope for a future, hope of security, hope of love.

While roaming the streets near the bus depot he wonders why nobody is offering help.  He wonders if he has made a mistake and if he should return to his mother.  Just before he loses his resolve he spots a police car and runs to it.  He pours out his heart to the officers and begs them to take him to a shelter, a refuge, a home.  The officers know what to do, because they’ve done it before.  They’ve done it more than they ever should have.  This is routine for them.  They do it often.

Days later he arrives at a home.  By this time, he’s heard a lot about this place.  All good things.  He’s greeted with loving open arms, a hot meal, a comfortable bed, new brothers, and new parents.  His given a bible and told about someone named Jesus.  The Christ.  The savior.  He finds the hope he’s been looking for, the love he’s always desired.  For the first time he has a mother who cares about him, an earthly father, and a Heavenly Father.  This is new.  This is strange.  This is amazing.

This is another incredible story about one of the children that God has sent us to care for.  It’s difficult to imagine these circumstances, but because it is one of many similar stories, it is believable.  This young man did an incredible thing at 10 years old and his bravery is a testimony to his resolve and God’s goodness.  We are thankful that God sent him to us and are glad to have him here at Shadow.  However, he has many struggles and challenges that he deals with everyday.  He struggles with women, authority, honesty, and trust.  Responsibility, work, school, and respect are a challenge for him.  But we know God is faithful, we know God loves him, and we know God has a plan for him.  We know he has worth, we know he has value, and we know he has a future.  Because he is something.