“Auntie, hey Auntie.” It was the first morning being homeless in Waianae. The night before was rough and filled with endless crowing of roosters. I woke up to a boy smacking the tent with a stick saying, “Auntie, hey Auntie.” My patience was nowhere to be found when this kid woke me up. I had no idea who he was or what he wanted. All I desired was for him to leave me alone so that I could sleep some more. After talking to him for a while I realized that I couldn’t get rid of him. I decided to get up and hang out with this kid. He told me that his name was Cheyenne and that he lived close to where we were staying. He was curious about the ‘new kids on the block’ and he wasn’t the only one.
The team and I had set up four tents in the middle part of the bush. Two of the tents were designated for the girls and two for the boys. The girls took the bigger tents and the boys begrudgingly accepted the smaller ones. Patty, an aunty living in the bush, offered the area to us. The area was a part of her camp and she was very generous to let us stay there for a week. We met two of her children, and seven of their friends who all lived in the bush. They would visit us when they didn’t have school.
It was a cultural shock meeting these kids. They did not act like the kids back at home. The first thing I noticed was that they like to touch. Each one would give me long hugs and would want me to hold their hand or they would want to sit on my lap. There was one night when I had a child sleeping in my lap, one on my right and left side snuggling against me and another behind me leaning on my back. They had such a need to be loved and I wasn’t going to be the one to deny it to them. Another thing I noticed was that they liked to irritate one another. Someone would call the other by a bad name and in a second they were hitting each other. They openly swore and said things that you wouldn’t have guessed they would say. I had no idea how to handle these kids.
After our time being homeless in the bush, I got assigned to the Waianae community. The Waianae team would go into the bush and hang out with these kids. We would take them to church, to The Boys and Girls Club or to the beach. They seemed hesitant in the beginning to come with us. They would act shy or simply did not want to come but we did not give up. Every time we entered the bush, we made it our purpose to hang out with these kids. The younger ones warmed up to me quickly and after a while they didn’t act shy around me. The older ones were more cautious but also began letting down their walls.
When our church youth camp (Youth Councils) came around we took the opportunity to invite four of the teens from the bush. They were hesitant to come at first, but they agreed after they heard that they could catch the wild chickens that run around the camp. However there was a small problem. One of the night at Youth Councils required formal wear and the kids did not have anything to wear. But God came through in the form of the Salvation Army Adult Rehablition Center that runs the thrift stores on the island. They gave each child a $100 gift certificate to buy whatever they needed. Melissa and I took the kids to a thrift store to find formal clothing. They really got into finding clothes for that night. The boys would come out of the dressing room in a shy manner as Melissa and I gave our delighted approvals. The only girl, Lani, found a nice red dress and black heels. She looked beautiful in it. That weekend provided a great chance for us to talk to the kids about Jesus and get to know them better. On the last day of camp at the Sunday morning chapel, it was a joy to see them come forward for prayer.
For Easter weekend our church, The Rock, had a camp out at Camp Homelani. They stayed from Friday night to Sunday afternoon. It was a fun filled weekend. There were games, movie nights, Easter egg hunts, food and lots of it, and a beautiful Sunday morning service. It was a wonderful celebration of our resurrected King, Jesus Christ. Seven of the kids from the bush were able to come. They had a lot of fun in a loving atmosphere.
I’ve had the time to get to know and love these kids. They come from a place that does not provide much hope for them. I don’t know all that they have been through but I know that they have been through a lot. They are caught up in a world that is self-destructive. It breaks my heart when I see one or more of them high from marijuana or when their parents abuse them physically or verbally or when they act in obscene ways because that is how they were taught to act. My love is for these kids and if I could take them all away and put them in a safer environment I would; in a heartbeat. However, it is not my responsibility to save them. My responsibility is to tell them about the one person that can save them, Jesus Christ.
These kids are our ohana. The team and I are no longer the ‘new kids on the block’. We are family and we treat these kids as if they were ours. We’ve taken up the responsibility to care and love these kids as Jesus does. Jesus says in Matthew 19:14, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these”. With our love we are bringing these kids closer to Christ.