Two basic goals structure the mission of Montaña de Luz and they very much reflect what it means to parent a child. The first is fairly obvious. Much of our energies are spent in keeping our children healthy, happy, and protected. We do this very well. Our children receive excellent nutrition. They are well clothed. Most of them have come to us with compromised immune systems. Given the health care system in Honduras, they are very well cared for medically. Certainly, we place high priority on getting them proper medications. Our children are also exceptionally safe. There is a constant, loving vigilance over their daily routine. Though our children are far from rich, they do not lack any of the basic necessities. We surround them in an environment that promotes their well-being. The second basic goal is perhaps a trickier proposition. Though I have never been graced with the responsibility of raising a child of my own, my experiences have made it quite clear that the most difficult part is when a child leaves the home to begin an independent life. This difficult, almost cruel part, of raising a child is also what we are asked to do at Montaña de Luz. We are preparing our children to go off on their own; to become responsible, independent adults. This second goal almost seems contradictory to the first. On the one hand, we gather them in and make sure their every need is met by our caring generosity. On the other hand, we launch them into the world and ask them to meet their needs according to their own abilities and resources. It is a delicate balancing act. It is hard to imagine that both of our goals can be met for the same child, yet it is clear that this is our mission.
Two incidents this week reminded me of how very difficult our goals are. Some time ago, the older, adolescent boys left the campus of Montaña de Luz to live in a house in the community of Nueva Esperanza. This was a difficult transition for them, but we did it because we thought it would help them to develop a greater sense of independence and personal responsibility. We had some rough times with it at first, but it seems to be working well as of late. Hopefully, they are becoming better prepared to be on their own. We are in the process this week of initiating something similar for the adolescent girls. Whereas they will stay on the main campus, they will live in a house of their own. There will be no staff person sleeping with them and they will have a great many more responsibilities for the day to day routine of their home. We had a meeting with them to hash out some of the rules and order for their new environment. We had hoped they would freely express their joys and their doubts, their hopes and their fears. But when it came time for them to express themselves, they became silent. Their silence was a thick silence, filled with great insecurity. It unnerved me. I, for example, knew that all of them wanted cell phones. This is, of course, the most important thing in the world for any teenager. Still, when we asked them to talk about this, to organize the rules around getting their cell phones and their appropriate use, they could not express themselves. They could not ask for what they clearly wanted. Not because we wouldn’t give them to them, but simply because they were not accustomed to asking for anything. After the formal meeting, we managed to speak with them informally. Their insecurity eased somewhat and they have since come up with a schedule for their cell phones and have moved into the new house.
The second incident was with two of our older boys. They have just turned 18. But it is clear to us, as it is clear to them, that they are not yet ready to leave Montaña de Luz. Still, we believe it is necessary to recognize that being young adults, they have a new relationship with Montaña de Luz. We wanted to talk with them about what their responsibility to us and our responsibility to them had now become. The Director, the boys’ house parents, and I met with them and gently laid out their circumstances. One of the boys could not speak. His insecurity stifled his ability to articulate his need and feelings. It was clear that this was emotionally overwhelming for him. In the end we knew that we needed to give him some more space. We will have to help him to figure things out.
After these two experiences, I felt somewhat frustrated. These children live in an institution where we graciously take care of them. But how will we equip them to take care of themselves? Monday, we had a full staff meeting, the first of the year and the first since the Christmas vacation. We presented the mission of Montaña de Luz and brainstormed over what activities we could initiate this year to help us to meet our goals. I was pleased that when we expressed our ideas everyone saw the need to help our children become more responsible and independent. This seems an almost impossible mission with two competing, seemingly opposite, goals – to keep our children close, safe, and healthy, while preparing them to live independently. It is so hard for us. It is so hard for them. Life is so complex. How can we possibly meet the demands of a child who is to become an adult? There is an answer to this question, but it is certainly not an easy one. The only way that it can be done is through the great mystery of love.
Laura and I love the work we are doing. Laura feared when we first came down that there wouldn’t have enough to challenge us. That has certainly not been the case. We are challenged every day, and we know that there is great meaning to what we are doing. I hope that you share in some of this by way of this blog. If you would like to help us to help our children, if you would like to become part of this important mission, please visit Montaña de Luz at http://www.montanadeluz.org. If it feels right to you, make a donation. There is no donation that is too small, nor too large. Whatever your donation is, it will be received as an expression of love.