We don’t see how things can get worse. We may never see Charlini again. Juliana followed her brother all the way to the bus stand screaming things no one will repeat. Her brother, Father Steven, has disowned Juliana and will have nothing more to do with her or help us. He believes she is following Satan as do our workers and neighbors, and, in a superstitious culture, with no helping agencies, there is little that can be done. If it could be proven that Juliana was beating Charlini, Juliana could be put in jail for thirty years, but how would that help Charlini? The Catholic bishop and priests want her to stay in the Catholic school (they get the money that way) and argue it’s the best that can be done. We will continue to pay for her tuition and fees and pray that the church will convince Juliana to leave Charlini in school. Charlini will be living with Juliana (who we all think has a serious mental problem), Juliana’s sister who does have a mental problem, Juliana’s ailing mother, Charlini’s aunt who works as a prostitute and has a baby at home, and Juliana’s uncle who is a drug dealer. Juliana will come on Monday to sign the papers affirming that she will never work here again and that she is entitled to her social security funds (about $600). We doubt that any of that money will be used for Charlini as in this culture, the family (don’t forget Charlini is an orphan) will claim it as theirs. In three years, at the age of twelve, the law will allow Charlini to live with whomever we want, so all we can do is pray for her, love her from afar, pay for her schooling we hope she gets, and pray that God will protect her for three years. Shaban is sure that if she survives the next three years and gets schooling, she will choose to come live with us, and on that all our hope lies. We are grieving, despondent, weepy at times, and angry.
Back in the seventies, Karen and I took a foster child of nine years who was of mixed race whose siblings beat her and whose mother was in jail. The little girl, Lisa Hogan, had a heart problem and we loved her and cared for her for ten months. I will never forget reading her to sleep. But when her mother got out of jail, the government took Lisa from us and gave her back to her mother. We never saw her again although she still lives in our hearts. We never again took a foster child because we were not strong enough to lose another one. We’ve known many wonderful, Christian, foster parents who have proved the strength of their love over and over. We just can’t do it, and the loss of Charlini even though she will still be living here in Bunda and hopefully going to school not far from us, is causing us so much pain and grief that we are fighting to keep from turning to despair. Hope is what we cling to. Hope and the promises of God and the knowledge that miracles are real and do happen. It may not be much, but it’s what we’ve got and what is keeping us together. Charleni’s ninth birthday is just a week away, so Christmas always remind us of her. Christ’s coming will always bring us the hope that we will find that peace that passes all understanding and that she will survive to become a true child of God. We will pray for her every moment of every day. Please join us and ask your churches to pray for her by name at some of your Christmas services. We are counting on Christ, and we are counting on you. We feel we have failed her even with all the love in our hearts for her and the attempts to build a good life for her. It is now in God’s hands—not a bad place to be, but imperfect creatures that we are, we need comfort that is not coming. We need hugs and shared tears. Hope is all we have. Hope is eternal. Hope is what the coming of Christ brings us. Hope is our only anchor.