Home At Last by Travis Sharpe

The past 12 days have really been indescribable for us.

I never expected to be out making visits on the streets and wind up finding two little boys who would steal away the hearts of our whole family.

When we found Michael and Eminem they were so dirty. They were afraid and alone. Eminem had a life threatening injury and didn’t even realize it.

We spent four nights at the hospital and the rest have been spent here at our house. We have witnessed a real transformation in both of these boys in only 12 short days. The first two days they would hardly speak to us. I know they were scared and probably mad at us for making them go to the hospital.

When they did begin to talk it was only a few words here and there. But on day 3 in the hospital, they really began to open up to us. We started seeing some smiles and hearing a little laughter here and there. We were finally getting a glimpse of the children that they were.

Orphans?

From day one the boys told us that their mother had died and their father had left. As far as we knew, they were orphans.

I won’t bore you with all the details of how we found out, but several days ago, we found out that the boys mother was actually alive and believe it or not, lived within two miles of us. Their father was gone like they said but they had a mama.

We were floored. We didn’t know what to think or say.  What would this mean for their future? Was she a loving mother? If so, why did they run away? Would we meet her? Did she care?

There were a million questions running through our minds as we processed this news.

Runaways

The day we found out that their mother was alive, the pastor went to the local DSWD, (a different branch because the city where we live is several miles from Bacolod where we found them).

The DSWD launched an investigation.

They allowed us to keep the boys until their finding were complete. So, once again, we waited with anticipation to find out what the next few days would bring.

Long story short, the investigation revealed that their mother is very loving and had taken many steps to try to find her boys. She, like many other mothers, is struggling in poverty to provide for her family. She has a job and works hard.

The investigation revealed that this was the third time the boys have run away from home and this time they were on the streets for over a month. It seems as though Michael has some behavior issues and when he runs away, he takes his younger brother along.

I guess kids run away for many reasons. I don’t understand it all, but I do know that hurt and pain must be at the core of the issue. Hunter summed it up well by saying that Michael (who is 12 years old) might have understood his decision to run, but there’s no way he can, at that young age, understand the consequences.

Tito and Tita

For the last 10 days the boys have called us Tito (tee-tow) and Tita (tee-taa). That’s like saying Uncle and Aunt in this language. It seems like I have been called Tito a million times in the past few days. It’s a term of endearment and the boys call out to us all day long.

Tito, do you want coffee? Tito bread? Tito let’s go! Tito, I love you!

The sound of Michael calling me Tito and saying he loves me is a sound that I pray will never escape my memory! It’s one of the most precious sounds I have ever heard.

Tito no more?

The DSWD investigation was complete on Friday and it was determined that we would turn the kids over to the DSWD on Monday (remember we are 12 hours ahead here in Southeast Asia). The DSWD would take custody and return the kids to their mother.

Saturday evening it all caught up with me. Since we didn’t know how exactly it would all happen when Monday came around, once again, we had more questions than answers.

Would we be allowed to visit them? Would we even get to meet the mother.

The biggest question on my mind was wither or not we would be able to see the boys again. As I lay in the bed Saturday night all I could think about was never again hearing those boys call me Tito.

With that thought on my heart, I cried myself to sleep.

Two mama’s meet

Sundays start super early for us here. The church service begins at 8 am and I drive the van to pick up several families so that means we leave the house at 6:30.

Michael and I have grown so close that every time I leave the house he has to go with me. After we picked up the families from Barangay 16, we swung back by our house to pick up April and the rest of the gang.

When we arrived at the church, much to my surprise, there was a woman standing outside the gate weeping. I had never seen this lady at church before and I immediately knew who it was.

It was the boy’s mama.

The next few moments were tense and awkward. We were all nervous. The boys were very stand-offish at first. I’m sure there were a wide variety of emotions running through their little hearts.

I spoke to her first and she shook my hand and thanked me. Then it happened.

April stepped in, looked her in the eye, and put her arms out.

These two mama’s that love the same two boys embraced, both of them weeping. Through the tears I could her the boys’ mama saying “salamat, salamat”, which is simply translated, thank you, thank you.

After lots of hugs and tears, it was time for the service to begin. Pastor Ner commented that only God could fix it to where we would find these boys several miles away in the big city, their mother live a few miles away in the opposite direction, but be reunited in the middle at church.

April usually handles the children’s church, but this time she sat with the boys’ mama in the service. Eminem sat between them.

April at church
God had once again heard our cries and fixed a problem before it even was a real problem. Now the mother knew us and we knew her. It was all out in the open. Right there at church.

Home at last

Monday morning finally came and one last time Michael woke me up by jumping on me and calling me Tito. We enjoyed breakfast around the table and then left for the last doctors checkup on Eminem’s foot.

The doctor visit went well and it is healing just fine.

Finally, 1 pm rolled around and we met the pastor at the DSWD office. They spent a little time talking to the boys and doing whatever it is they do before they reunite kids with their families.

Soon enough, we were all in the van taking the boys home. That ride was bitter sweet. Micheal held me tight and Eminem held April tight. I wore dark sunglasses so they wouldn’t see me cry.

We parked the van on the edge of the road and followed a little, rocky dirt trail behind a school and beside a sugar cane field. There were several little trails shooting off in different directions and after about 100 yards we began to see little houses.

We had the two social workers with us and our hands were filled with bags of clothes, blankets, toys and even the comforters we had bought the boys.

Finally, we made it to a little bamboo house that was situated in a grove of banana trees beside a small creek. Waiting there was what seemed like an entire village of onlookers. As the boys walked up, their sister and the neighbors cheered.

Two lost boys were home at last.

Once again, the two mama’s hugged and wept together. One was weeping because her boys were home, one was weeping because the boys she had grown to love would not be coming home anymore.

mamas
After the tears were wiped away, April took special care to teach their mom how to clean and wrap the wound on Eminem’s foot each day. She explained how to give the antibiotics and the other medicines and she stressed the importance of keeping a sock on his foot to keep it good and clean.

The hardest walk

The DSWD workers spoke to the mother some more and after a short visit it was time for us to leave. As we started down the rocky dirt trail there were once again many emotions.

Even though I know in my heart that this was the very best outcome for everyone involved, it still hurts. In a sense it felt like I was walking away and out of their lives.

It sure was hard walking down that path this time, knowing that I would be going back to a quiet house where I wouldn’t hear Tito tonight.

But I have learned something. Sometimes the thing that would make us feel the best, might not be the best for others. These boys need their mama, and that mama needs her boys.

As for us, we will never forget the last 12 days, for they have changed our lives. I can only hope and pray that they will also change the lives of the boys and their family.

Want to hear them say Tito?

Here’s a short video of Michael:
Here’s a short video of Eminem:

I would love to have you as a subscriber to my email list. To receive my weekly emails straight to your inbox, sign up here!