Instead of going to work today, my husband and I received a new 13-year-old son. That is certainly a sentence I’ve never written before.
That is what I wrote on a slip of paper in one of my disorganized notebooks the evening of Friday, February 7, 2014.
It all started with a cup of water about a month ago.
This is a story of how God works miraculously – and sometimes rather quickly – if we are willing to submit to His plan and crumple up and throw away whatever plan we ourselves had sketched out so neatly.
He – Brayan, that is, the newest member of our family – arrived on our 17-acre property several weeks ago as one of the young cow-herders who bring the local cow herd to our fields a couple times per week to graze. The first time I saw him he was resting on Erick’s porch with his young companion as they monitored the cows walking and grazing in their midst.
As I saw the two young boys from a distance, I remembered Jesus’ words that we are to give to those in need, and that if we give even a cup of water to a thirsty person in His name, we will be blessed.
Without thinking about the ramifications – Oh, God does have His plan, and oftentimes our first little step leads us much farther than we ever intended to go! – I went to our kitchen and filled up two plastic cups of water for the boys, walked across the property to where they were sitting idly, greeted them, dropped off the water, asked their names, left, and didn’t think much more about the incident.
A couple nights later at dinner Jenae announced, “You remember Brayan, one of the young cowherders?” And I thought, Yes, I think he was one of the ones I gave water to the other day…And she continued, “Well, I was talking with him and it looks like he wants to enter our homeschooling program.” I felt like a train hit me, and my immediate thought was No. I then wondered rather indignantly why she felt the liberty to invite him into our school program that we were supposedly planning explicitly for our three children, and I began searching my mind for several reasons why her proposition was absurd.
After a short time – a couple days perhaps, I don’t remember exactly – the Lord changed my heart and we decided to try to find the eager young Brayan, who hadn’t been in school for some time, to at least talk with him and probe his reasons for wanting to be in our school. Darwin and I ran into him along the long dirt road that leads from our home to the highway several mornings the followig week, and we talked with him about the possibility of becoming a student in our homeschooling program. We felt confirmation and peace from God, so the next step was to call his step-mother with whom he lived to get her permission, talk about requirements, and get copies of his birth certificate and prior school registration.
By chance we acquired her phone number from one of her young sons who was roaming along the dirt path one evening as Darwin and I were returning home, and, once home, I called her. She answered, and I introduced myself, telling her how her step-son was interested in becoming a student in our homeschool program –
“It’s better that he just live with you,” was her response.
Another train, and I felt like all the blood in my veins left my body. Quickly, feeling like I was doing a solo tap-dance routine in front of a large audience without knowing the choreography, I began to explain to her that, no, that was not an option – right?—but that we could offer him a spot in our school. She repeated the fact that she would prefer that he live with us, telling me that his biological mother left him at the age of two months and that his father died this year, leaving her, his step-mom, with him and her three other young children while she works long hours and struggles to feed her family.
I told her that we would be in touch regarding his schooling, trying to politely ignore her comment about him living with us, and then we ended the conversation.
That night I did not sleep as Jesus’ words resonated in my mind, knocking on the door of my heart: I oftentimes come in disguise – as a street person, as an orphan, as the lowliest of the low – and if you open the door, if you love these outcasts, you are actually loving Me. And if you reject them, you are rejecting Me.
It is a biblical passage I had studied so many times, and even that week had explained in-depth and with great enthusiasm to my students, basketball players, and my own children the weighty meaning of that passage in chapter 25 of Matthew’s gospel – if we visit the prisoners and the sick, if we give food to those who are hungry, if we do any act of love in the name of Christ to those on the margins of society, we are actually loving Christ himself, and at the end of the world He will separate all people into two groups: those who ignored the lowliest, and those who reached out to them in love and Truth.
I tossed and turned, trying desperately to find a reason to close our door – our hearts – to Brayan – afterall, we weren’t planning on receiving more children for about a year, and especially not a 13-year-old boy, and not with my ongoing insomnia and our new marriage…but God’s whisper was calling me — us — to faithful obedience.
The next day I talked with Darwin, Jenae, and Erick about this, and although it was not a plan that birthed from any of our own personal plans, we all agreed that God had placed Brayan – someone that literally no one else wanted, that no one else was guiding into Christ’s liberating Truth – in our path, and that accepting him into our family would be more than an act of charity or even a risky move; it would be a step of faith born out of obedience.
So the next day, we almost frantically jumped through all the necessary hoops to have him officially form part of the Ranch family, and that night he slept under our roof for the first time. The story continues, but this is its beautiful beginning…