Hope Can Start Small
— Hannah Otazu · Wednesday, May 10, 2023 —
Even the most broken stories hold a seed of hope. When these seeds are placed in the hands of God, they bear the fruit of wholeness and redemption. This is certainly the case for Thomas, whose story begins with abandonment but ends in abundance. “We received Thomas because his mom had been neglecting him,” Gerardo Flores, Director of Hope in Jesus, explained. “She is legally blind and suffers from a mental illness. He had been abandoned in a park when the government took him into their care. We were the closest program in his area, so they placed Thomas with us.” According to Gerardo, the less time a child spends in an institution, the better. So, in 2018, when nine-year-old Thomas was placed in their care, they immediately began working on his case. They soon found Thomas’ older sister, Blanca. Blanca and her husband, Santiago, had steady jobs and three young children of their own. They were relieved to hear news of Thomas and made it clear they wanted to bring him home. Gerardo arranged a time to visit and assess the family's situation. “Thomas’ family lived on a hill in a very small house. It was only one room and all of them, including Thomas’ mother, were living there together. According to DINAF (Honduras’ Child Proctective Services), this living situation was not suitable. We explained to them that in order for Thomas to come back to the family, they needed a house with a full bathroom and at least two or three bedrooms. But they didn’t have the resources, they didn't know how they were going to get another house,” Gerardo said.
As the world came to a halt due to the pandemic, so did Thomas’ case. Yet, God was on the move and one day, Gerardo received a call. “One day, Blanca called and told us they had bought a plot of land,” Gerardo remembered. “The lot was a good size but it was in bad shape. It needed a lot of work. But Thomas’ family embraced the challenge. They cleared the land, purchased materials, and began building their home. “During that time, we did all we could to support them. We reached out to the local church who sent volunteers to help Blanca and Santiago build their house. We worked with the municipality who sent technicians to advise the family as they built. The whole community rallied around them, it really seemed to inspire the whole area.” Once Gerardo and his team saw Thomas’ family’s determination, they began the process of reintegration. This is a lengthy process that requires endless documentation, assessment, and planning. “Thomas began talking with his family over the phone, then visiting them for one or two hours. Eventually he was able to spend a weekend with them. He would often cry when it was time to leave but we would always encourage him that this was a process,” Gerardo said. Despite all of the progress that had been made, Thomas’ family eventually hit a wall. They ran out of money with only the bathroom left to build. Gerardo and his team did all they could to find funding for the family. “We knocked on so many doors but none of them opened. So, one day I called Francisco (the Executive Director for Asociación Manos Extendidas), and I said, ‘Man, the house is almost finished. All they need is a full bathroom: a toilet, a shower, and a little laundry area. Without that, we can’t go forward. The social worker won't approve the home study. It's just five hundred dollars, but it's not in our budget.’ And Franscico said, ‘Tito, Go ahead. We'll find a way to cover it.’ So we went to the family, got a list of the supplies, and purchased what they needed so they could finish the house.” With the home completed, it was time for Thomas to leave Hope in Jesus and move back in with his family. “We don't say ‘goodbye’ at Hope in Jesus,” Gerardo explained. “Instead, we had a family celebration where we gathered together to celebrate and pray over this new chapter of Thomas’ life. We all took turns talking about him, we shared some memories, and we gave him a photo album. The photo album was full of pictures of his time here at Hope in Jesus. It’s a little something he can take with him to remember his time here, and show to his own wife and kids one day.”
The next morning, Gerardo, Thomas, and his team drove to pick up Blanca. Together, they journeyed to the courthouse where the plan for reintegration was approved and Blanca was granted full custody of Thomas. “It was emotional, but it was a relief,” Gerardo expressed. “We were able to place Thomas back with his family...to me, that is a miracle! I was able to visit him the other day and he’s so happy. He’s where he is meant to be.” Over the next six months, Gerardo and his team continued to follow up with Thomas and his family and offer ongoing support. While the family was busy building their home, Hope in Jesus was busy building a support network to help them thrive. They were able to secure a full scholarship for Thomas at a local private high school, which will allow him to finish out his education. They were also able to connect with a free psychiatrist who now meets with Thomas’ mother and is providing her the care she needs. “Thomas’ story demonstrates that we are not just placing kids back in their families,” Gerardo said. “We’re also bringing hope, opportunity, and dignity to his family and to their surrounding community! I don’t think we’re ever going to fully understand the impact we made in placing Thomas back with his family. I can see the hand of God in every step of this process.” Your giving helps ministries like Hope in Jesus change the lives of children and their communities forever. Contact us to learn how together, we can restore hope.
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