Friday, September 17, 2010

The Lost Boys

In less than a week we will be walking Aaron out of his mental institute forever. That will be a moment of sweet victory. God has moved mountains to free this one little boy and create a future for him. We cannot wait to lead him out of that gate and into his new life. Watching Aaron absorb the wonder of the world outside is an experience neither of us want to miss, which is one reason we’ve both stayed for all of this time. But all of that joy is mixed with sorrow when we remember the boys he’s leaving behind, the ones we’ve dubbed “The Lost Boys.”

Every morning while we visit Aaron, we see the Lost Boys moving around the internat grounds in their groups on their way to and from snack time. A few are in wheelchairs, the older boys pushing the younger ones. The rest all hold hands in pairs so that no one gets lost. The caretakers always keep gentle hold on three or four. Together, they make a strange and awkward procession. At first it was a bit frightening because there are so many of them, and most of them make some strange noise or awkward movement. Now we’re used to them, and we look for the ones we recognize every day: The one who smiles with uncontainable glee every time we look at him. The one who dances with reckless joy whenever the radio plays. The serious one who sometimes says “Mama.” The legless older boy in the wheelchair who never makes a sound, but always grins when we wave. The troublemaker who tore the bed off of Aaron’s dump truck on our first trip. Each of them has his own likes and dislikes, his own personality. Most of them will never know any other life than the one they have now.

It is a harsh life. Some of the older boys have jobs setting tables, carrying laundry or emptying trash bins. These make the most of their bit of freedom. The rest have little to do but sit on benches or on the ground, rocking back and forth hour after hour, day after day. Some wander around within their group’s play area. Those who are able sometimes kick a ball or push a wheelchair around. They have no other toys, nor do they receive any teaching, therapy or stimulation. It is a great honor for us to be allowed to bring Aaron out of such a place.

We have counted over 60 boys marching by for their snacks. Inside the buildings in the back are even more boys, the bedridden ones who seldom see the light of day. We have had only glimpses of one or two of these, but what we have seen we will never forget-- a child with a deathly white face, so stiff that his waist never bent as two nurses carried him to an ambulance, one at his shoulders, the other at his feet.

The internat staff makes the best of its limited resources. For the outdoor boys, there are usually one or two caretakers in charge of 20-25 mentally disabled boys ages 5 to 18. They care for the boys, but they can do little more than keep the peace in such large groups of needy kids. They are overworked and overwhelmed just maintaining cleanliness and order. We admire them for the care they show for the Lost Boys.

The Lost Boys arrive at this internat when they are five years old, transferred from the baby houses where they have lived since their parents gave them up. Frightened and friendless, they are torn from the only world they have ever known. They have failed the tests that would have entitled them to receive an education. Their mental or physical disabilities mean that they are unqualified to live outside the internat. With no stimulation, there is little chance that they will improve. Unless they die first, they will remain at the internat until they turn 18. Then they will be transferred for the last time, to an adult mental institute where they will live out the rest of their lives. This is their sad reality. Aaron is the first child ever to leave this internat. When he walks out of its gates, he will break its sad cycle for the first time.

Part of our hearts will break when we, too, leave the Lost Boys behind. Only two or three of them have any hope for a family as things now stand. They are available for adoption, but time is running out for them, and unless someone claims them soon they’ll be as lost as the older boys already are. How they would blossom if they got the chance! As unreachable as most of the Lost Boys seem, there isn’t one of them who wouldn’t improve with some stimulation. But these younger ones need someone right now, before they’re lost in the system forever. We pray that God and His church will send someone for them soon.


  1. Oh that breaks our hearts so.
    The Lord had his hand on our Erika. She never made it TO an orphanage until she was 4. She was in an "unknown institute". She rocked back and forth in a crib all day unable to walk, talk or feed herself.
    Somebody must have seen that she had more capabilities, and God moved their hearts to put her in the Special Needs Babyhouse at Green Forest in the Kharkiv Area. They taught her to talk, walk, and feed herself, toilet trained her too. They hid her there for 7 months until we came to get her. The children are allowed to stay at this place until 7. Unfortunately, after that, they are transferred to a mental institute in Western Ukraine. Her director told us it was an awful place with all mixed ages and groups.
    He didn't want her to go there, and neither did God. :)
    Today, 4 years later, she is a healthy, happy, girl, SMART! She is in 6th grade doing home education. She is amazing. Aaron will fill your hearts, and no you will NEVER forget what you have seen. It can't be put into words. The smells will always be there.
    We returned 2 years ago for a missions trip and when we hit the door the smell made me burst into tears. (great missionary wimp that I am) :)
    The sights of the children 2 years older and in the same or worse condition made me so very sad and overwhelmed.
    We cannot adopt every child,(though we would love to) but we can adopt the one that God has chosen for us to adopt.

  2. Oh Julia. What you are talking about is what I have shed so many tears over recently. Yesterday morning I cried so much for these children. Mostly for the faces that I remember...Anne Marie, Alexander, Nickolai....and many others. I can't get these children out of my mind. I'm wondering when the pain goes away. It is almost like a PTSD of sorts...

    I keep on praying...I try to remember that God loved them first and loves them so much more than me and has a special place for them in heaven.

  3. Good morning from Va. Julia and Rob!
    I was catching up with three days of your blog which I usually read every evening. I went to bed at 12:30 am this morning thinking about and praying for your boys at home. We miss you at co op.we are falling in love with Aaron! we can't wait to meet him. You both are really doing a great job and this bonding time is so important for him. You know its a long wait but to him it has changed his life and he must yearn for each visit!I ache for the boys you will leave behind. Our youngest son was also in an institution like this. His peers were behind bars looking out at us the day we met him and played with him on the floor. They sat and held onto the bars just like a prisoner and watched us as we took an unwanted child out of that wretched place. They too were the castaways! So I agree, may the Lord touch hearts and may more children of such places find a place in someones heart. It is not easy, but we were not called to an easy life!
    I am praying for you and we love you and you enjoy each bowl of soup until we can see you again!! :)

  4. Julia, Rob & Aaron,

    It is getting so close! God has taken you this far in His hands, and he will hold and guide you through, not only the remaining time there, but, through the transition upon reaching home. Elijah and Ben are learning tremendous life lessons through all this...remember that when you're feeling guilty!

    I know that there will be a time of adjustment, and integration, when you return home...but as soon as your family is ready....we must have a welcome home and welcome Aaron party!

    When is his birthday??

  5. Praying so hard . . . and fighting for Katya (Other Angels on RR) so that she is spared the institution. She has no speech, but is very active and bright. The institution will be a death for her, of that I am sure. . . . Please, God, raise up parents for Katya!

  6. I have names and faces for 6 "unadoptable" boys who are stuck in the system. Their living conditions are much better than what you describe, but they still live on a compound. They are wonderful boys who would thrive in the outside world if only someone would let them have the chance. Let's never forget the lost boys we have met. Let's storm the gates of heaven with prayers for them!

    Praising God that another captive is about to be set free!

  7. Praying for you, Rob, & Aaron. Also praying for the lost boys. It kills me to think of how close Timothy has come to becoming one of them. I thank God everyday for sparing him, and sending him to us, well, us to him. hehe

  8. The plight of these children is so sad! I look at RR from time to time. There are so many! I pray for some of the children specifically. I pray God will send families for them.

    I'm so glad God led you to rescue Aaron and that He broke through the difficulties to make it possible. I can't wait to read the post on the day you bring him out and to hear of his wonder and joy at all the new and wonderful things that he sees in his new life with you.

    Pam K

  9. Oh my. You have to keep talking, keep posting, keep remembering the boys. ALL these kids needs families. I am so very sad just imagining all these kids. I cant think about how much i will cry for all the kids, we have to leave behind at 20..anne maria, alexander etc. we have to be their voice, so very happy for you , your family and sweet aaron :)

  10. I have left a couple of comments here and there.Our family has been praying for you, and for Aaron. We are preparing to go to E.E. for three children - exciting, yes. However, my heart still grieves over the faces that we did not commit to. I think of Brian especially in #23 and am praying fervently for him. Thank you for sharing your testimony with us. It has served as a great encouragement. Looking forward to seeing your posts on the 20th ~ which just happens to be my birthday! What a gift, to see a family made whole.


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