Imagine with me for a moment. You’re a 12-year-old child. You live with your family of four in extreme poverty. You and your family sleep, eat and live together in one small room, roughly 10’x10’ in size. The home is made of clay and there are large holes in the walls, letting in the cold and the rain. There is no front door and your floor is made of dirt. Inside your home you have no heat, no running water, and practically everything you’ve ever owned has been discarded by someone else.
Stay with me. Instead of going to school to learn and instead of playing on the playground with other children and enjoying the innocence of childhood, each day you are sent by your father to work in the streets. Now imagine the fear of knowing that if you don’t bring home enough money you will receive a severe beating from your father. Your parents, the ones who are supposed to protect you, encourage you and love you, instead are the ones who put your life in danger each and every day. This is Maya’s story.
We met Maya and her little brother while they were doing acrobats in the streets to earn coins. Cold, alone, vulnerable, they would work late into the night. After many invitations, the children started attending the Kaya Center. We supported the children in every way we could and tried to find ways to work with the family. However, knowing the nightmare these precious children returned home to each night was heartbreaking.
Then one day Maya showed up on the doorstep of one of our staff members with her little brother, Angel. They were scared and couldn’t go back home. Just a few months ago, having no girls’ residential home, we would have had to turn Maya away. However, now that we have opened a girls’ home, we were able to welcome Maya and her little brother into Kaya’s Residential Program. A new chapter has begun in Maya’s story, a chapter full of HOPE.
Kaya Children International exists to fight for Maya and other children like Maya. Children who have no one, children who are losing hope, children who are vulnerable. With your support, Maya has a voice, a life, and a promising future. Maya’s story is full of darkness, but the light of Jesus’ resurrection on Easter morning shines more powerfully than any darkness. It transforms lives and brings restoration and rebirth.
Here I am, 4800 miles away, far from my friends and family in California. I don’t think I had ever imagined what Christmas Eve would be like without them, and if I had, I don’t think I could have imagined this. No, I’m not sad nor lonely. Instead, as I look around the room this Christmas Eve, I think to myself, “There is no place I would rather be.” There is happiness and anticipation throughout. The children cannot contain their excitement! The overwhelming joy they are feeling as they are preparing to celebrate this day with their new family. What an incredible peace I feel on this Christmas Eve, knowing there is no other place in the world I would rather be, than here at Kaya.
However, I also know that not everyone in the room feels peace. The holidays can be a difficult time for our children at Kaya. The holidays can bring back agonizing memories for many of the children. Memories of when the children’s biological families failed them. Memories of binge drinking by their parents. Memories of being hungry and searching the streets for food. Memories of abandonment and sadness. Memories of waking to beatings on Christmas morning. Horrible memories for anyone to have.
But as I look around the room this Christmas Eve, I know that new happy memories are being made. I’m overwhelmed by the redemptive stories that each child represents. I look at three brothers, laughing together as the youngest shows off his new shoes. Just years ago these three brothers were all sleeping on the streets. Cold. Tired. Hungry. Today, these brothers celebrate Christmas as a family; safely at their home they call Kaya.
It is a rare and priceless gift to sit by and watch these children celebrate together. I can’t help but think of the new beautiful memories being made. Memories of a supportive and encouraging family. Collectively these children all tell a familiar story of their past. But today, they are now safe in a home full of love and have a future full of hope.
Overwhelmed by the grace of God, it was in that moment it struck me. This is what Christmas is all about, lives being rescued and restored with the Love of God that was born on Christmas Day. What a gift to spend Christmas with my Kaya family.
She layed in my arms, motionless and distant, a child who seemed to have nothing to give, staring into space with empty eyes. Sick, weak, and hungry, she weighed hardly anything, but the weight of her sadness was almost more than I could physically bear. I was shocked, heartbroken, and full of anger. How could anyone do this to a child? I didn’t understand the feelings that overwhelmed me. I only knew that I had never felt this heartbroken before, and I hoped I would never have to feel this way again.