It's an important dog. He was given to the 10-year old to help him through the implosion of his family. What we can learn from this is that there are some wounds that not even a pet can heal.
At that point, the 10-year old had no interest in getting into my warm car, so I drove on to see who else I could find. Around the corner, I came upon their 15-year old daughter. She was wearing a tee-shirt, capris, and no shoes in the near freezing weather and had been outside for 20 minutes. My warm car was vastly more appealing to her. She got in and told me they were having some problems at home. Really? I didn't know.
The two of us drove around the neighborhood for a while and then headed back to where the 10-year old, now sobbing, had been joined in the hunt by one of his older brother's basketball buddies. Now I had three kids in my warm car. The four of us drove around for 15-20 more minutes before we finally came across the older brother who had chased the dog over to the the local elementary school, through several other subdivisions, and finally back into our neighborhood where he had sort of cornered him. Between the four kids, they managed to catch and load him into their Dad's car (he had been trying to follow his oldest son as he chased on foot).
This is the story as I understand it. Two weeks ago, the Dad pushed the Mom over the stair railing in their garage where she fell onto the cement floor below. Whether this was intentional or not is still being debated. She blacked out, and he ran knowing she would call the cops. In the fall, she miscarried (as it turns out, the story CAN get worse), and from there decided she probably needed a restraining order if she was going to survive. She was supposed to stay in their home, but their furnace broke down quickly thereafter, so she took their three youngest children and went to live with her mom until it could be replaced. In the meantime, their two older children were growing weary of living at their grandmother's house with their dad, and he decided (despite the lack of heat) that if she wasn't going to be in the house, the three of them were moving back home. So they secured a couple of space heaters and did just that. The furnace guys were supposed to tell the displaced mom when the furnace was fixed, but when that call failed to come through and things started to go south with her temporary accommodations, she decided to come home and check on the progress. She called the officer assigned to her case to let her know that she was changing locations and returning home...only to discover the squatters camped out in their own house. The kids were livid because she hadn't called first to tell them that she was coming home so they could get out of the house (yet she didn't even know they were there), he was mad because he thought she had called the cops to report him before giving him a chance to get out of the house (also not so), and in the hub-bub the back door was left open and the dog took off. Naturally, what followed was an all out family war about who was responsible for letting the dog get away. It kind of defies logic, doesn't it?
Getting back to the 4 kids, the dog, and the Dad. I had been talking to him outside while we watched the kids and knew that he expected the older kids and possibly the 10-year old to go back with him to his mom's house for the night. However, as soon as the kids got the dog in his car, they all came racing back to my car. Curious, yes? They were adamant about not wanting to go back home where their mom was (she had been drinking), and they clearly didn't want to go back with their dad to their grandmother's house. So, literally, I kid you not, they decided their best option for the night was to sleep over at the Freshours.
We ended up taking the unrelated 16-year old friend back to his house for the night, as well as the 10-year old. His mom needed him and I understood that. If I was in a crisis, the first thing I would do is to gather my little lambs close to my heart. But the older two spent the night and went home late the next morning. Today is the formal separation and custody hearing. Both of the older kids say they want to stay with their dad, but when push comes to shove, they would rather spend the night at our house than go home with him. How desperate for peace do you have to be to opt to sleep at a home you have never set foot in rather than to go home with either of your parents? The situation just makes my heart so very heavy.
Jeff and I are comfortable with the fact that we may never know who is or isn't right over at their house. Ultimately, for us it just doesn't matter. It only matters that their family recognizes our home as a place of refuge and that we attempt to ooze grace all over all of them regardless of who is or isn't at fault. The approach seems to be working. He called late Saturday night to thank us for taking in his kids and then called back moments after that to ask where we go to church and if he and his older son could follow us up there on Sunday. I had a hard time containing my incredulity and giddiness on the phone simply because I felt such a moment of triumph in which God still managed to shine through all of Jeff's and my sloppy, misguided attempt to genuinely love our neighbors. They didn't end up going, but we feel like the door is open for us to follow up on it. We're calling it a weekend win.
Then, on Sunday evening, we had a celebration dinner with our African Children's Project board. A celebration that might have gone a little better had not the lasagna run over in the oven causing our fire alarm to go off repeatedly for 30 minutes straight. Fortunately, we were among friends...friends with children that when combined with ours were almost noisier than the alarm.
Why the celebration you ask?
On December 30, 2008, the IRS approved our 501(c)(3) application - meaning our little NPO has been recognized as a public charity with full tax-exempt status!
Which means, Lord willing, someday soon this exact spot...
will be forever changed by the presence of this children's home...
and this 4-year old named Anna (along with a bunch of other kids) will finally be able to start living the life God intended her to live.
The thought kind of rocks my world.