On Wednesday, we got to go back to visit the Garden Oaks community and spend more time with all the kids there-playing, eating lunch, talking, and just having fun. It was an overwhelmingly joyful day. But knowing that we wouldn’t be back during this trip, it was extremely hard to leave at the end of the day.
We had two stories that particularly stood out to us at the end of the day that we felt compelled to share here:
Stubborn. Hard-headed. Passionate. Energetic. Innocent. Kind. These six words are the words that come to my mind when I think of Terrance.
Terrance was the first kid that I met when we went to the apartments to witness to the families living there. There was something special about him that made me want to get to know him more. It was probably his big eyes. I expected him to be very shy and hesitant when I first spoke to him because I was a stranger. Little did I know, Terrance was a fireball just waiting for someone who wanted to play with him. I became overwhelmed with love for this little boy as soon as I looked into his eyes. He was the most precious child that I had ever met. He had this smile and laugh that was so contagious (even though he lost his four front baby teeth). He would start out with a little giggle, and then, he would barely be able to breathe because he was laughing so uncontrollably. His favorite thing to do was to jump on my back and pretend that he was flying. The faster I went, the harder he laughed, so I sprinted as hard as I could just so I could hear it. He was on my back so much that I actually had some bruises from his knees hitting my sides. Even though he was heavy, and he wore me out, I would have never stopped running if it was possible. Whenever I needed a break, I would ask him if he wanted to play soccer or football. He basically wanted to play every sport there was and at the same time, but we always ended up playing football. When we were playing, he yelled at me “I’m gonna shake you!!” I almost died because I was laughing so hard especially because he did exactly what he said he was going to do. He had some insane six-year-old football skills. This boy just never ran out of energy. He made me do the silliest things, but I didn’t care how silly I looked because I would do anything just to make him smile. I actually ended up on all-fours riding him around while I pretended to be a horse. I have no idea what was so funny about that, but he absolutely loved it. All he wanted to do was play, so when it was time to go in the tent for Bible lessons, I had to convince him to go with me. He stayed in my lap during the Bible lesson and during lunch. The tiniest things that he did melted my heart. He held my hand everywhere we went. He would get about two inches away from my face when he got excited and when he told me something important.
We played and played and played and played some more before it was time for me to go. I had gotten my picture taken with Terrance, and I was going to give him the Polaroid picture along with my bracelet. I wanted him to remember all of the fun that we had together, and I didn’t want him to forget me because I knew I would never forget him. When I told him that it was time for me to go, he asked me, “are you coming back?” My heart shattered because I had to tell him that I probably wouldn’t be back again. His head fell and his eyes filled with tears. He couldn’t look me in the eyes because he felt like I was leaving him. I dropped to my knees and pulled him into me. Grabbing his hands, I reminded him how much I loved him, but the one thing that I repeated over and over was that “Jesus loves you”. He looked up at me with his bubbly eyes and buried his face in my shoulder. I had no idea how to react to this because we were told not to cry in front of the children as this would cause them to absolutely break down. It was our job to love them but also be strong for them. All I wanted to do was sob with him in my arms. I never wanted to let go of my new friend. I hugged him three times before I knew I had to walk away or else I would lose control and fall apart. The second I turned away from him and he could no longer see my face, tears came pouring down. I was about to walk out of the gate to get on our bus when our team leader warned me that Terrance was chasing me… There was no way I could let this little boy see my broken face, so I wiped away my tears and tried to pull it together in 2 seconds because I wanted to turn around and hug him for a fourth time. I hated doing this, but I decided to keep walking to make it less hard on him. Our team leader actually had to hold him back, so I could get out of the gate. Once I got through the gate, I stood there frozen with a red face full of tears. I couldn’t catch my breath because all I could think about was his sad face. It was like I couldn’t comprehend what had just happened. I felt like I left part of me inside that gate, and I would never get it back. I wanted to take him home with me, so I could love on him forever. He made such a huge impact in my life in just a few hours. His confidence and positivity was so inspiring. He didn’t have much, but he continued to smile and giggle. He taught me to make the best of every situation and to be grateful for all of the blessings God has given me.
Never in a million years did I think that a six year old boy would change my life. It took 20 seconds to fall in love with Terrance, and because of that, I was given a new perspective on life and a new friend to be in constant prayer for. Saying goodbye to him was the hardest goodbye that I have ever had to say, but I will always have the memories of the time we had together. Terrance’s laugh is what I will always remember about him, and that laugh will always bring happy tears to my face. I love that boy so much, but knowing that Jesus loves him more is what gives me hope for him.
-Brooke Watson #9
I met Brandon almost as soon as we got to the apartment complex. He was sitting by himself and I didn’t think I had seen him the day before. He smiled when I talked to him and he just had the most contagious smile. I started just asking a lot of the typical questions to try to get him to warm up to me. At one point I asked him if he had any siblings and he said no. I asked him if he had any friends and he said no. I told him I wanted to be his friend, and after that he started referring to me as “friend.”
He thought it was funny to pretend to leave and see me get “upset” until he came back. I could tell it was new for him to be getting this much attention and he was liking the concept of feeling wanted. He did that all day but he always came back. All day when he was with me he would hold my hand or put his arms around me so we could walk close anywhere we went. We played with a soccer ball a little bit and I noticed he really struggled to interact with other kids. He didn’t want anyone else joining in our game, and if I started a conversation with another child, that would be when he decided to run off for a few minutes and then come rejoin me.
One time when he was running back, he was running to jump into my arms so fast that he ran right into my face. But even with my nose stinging and eyes watering, I couldn’t possibly be upset because I could feel how much I meant to him in that moment.
At one point I called him a silly goose and I could see him get upset and he ran off by himself. I call my little brothers and kids i babysit silly names like that all the time and never have bothered anyone, but I could see that I had hurt him. So I followed him and sat down next to him and asked if what I said had upset him, and he said that it had. I apologized and told him I hadn’t meant to hurt his feelings and would never want to upset him. After that he looked at me and smiled and we got up to go play more.
Later I was holding him and we were talking about being friends and I saw an opportunity to tell him about a much greater friend. But in the middle of our conversation, James (our team leader) came over with a little girl I had met earlier in the day, Lyric, and her little brother Legend. James and Lyric told us that Brandon had hit or pushed Lyric and Legend and they asked him to apologize. Brandon adamantly refused and just talked a lot about being violent with other kids, saying things like that he would punch anyone who bothers him. I could see that we weren’t going to get anywhere in that moment, so I told the kids I wanted to talk to Brandon for a while before he came back to talk to them. I got the story out that (according to him) he had pushed Legend by accident which really upset Lyric, who either said something that caused him to be mad at her or pushed Brandon back causing him to hit her. I talked to brandon and tried to help him understand how Lyric was feeling as a big sister since he may not have experienced this as an only child. I told him that if I saw anyone hurt him it would make me so sad and upset and I would probably feel some anger toward that person, because of how much I love and care about him. I told him that Lyric was feeling like that because Brandon had hurt her little brother who she loved. I could really see his little heart and head working to understand what I told him. By then, Lyric and Legend had made their way back over. I looked at Brandon and asked if there was anything he wanted to say to them. He told them both that he was sorry and even hugged them both. A little later Lyric came back and talked Brandon into going to play with her, and they walked away holding hands. Looking back I realized how much my simple apology for calling him a silly goose might have meant in that moment as he softened his heart enough to tell them both that he was sorry for hurting them.
Towards the end of the day he ended up on my back, we were just running around and having a good time. We started talking again, so I got him down off my back and then picked him up again so I could see his face. I was really feeling a pull in my heart, so I asked him some questions.
I said, “Brandon, am I your friend?” He smiled and nodded. I said, “Brandon, do you know I love you?” He smiled more and said yes. I said, “Brandon, do you know that I’ll always love you, even when I’m not here?” He nodded. I said, “Brandon, did you know you have another friend?” He smiled, but kind of looked at me funny, and I remembered earlier in the day when he told me he didn’t have any friends. I said, “You have another friend! He knows you Brandon! Did you know that?” He shook his head, continuing to smile. I said, “Brandon, did you know that he loves you? He loves you even more than I do!” He looked at me, and he smiled even more. I said, “Brandon, his name is Jesus, and buddy he loves you so much no matter what ever happens!” He was still smiling, and it was just so contagious. I asked him, “Did you know that Brandon??” And he just smiled and smiled while he shook his head. Then I looked in his big eyes and asked him, “Brandon, who are your friends?” He looked right back and he said, “Alli.” So I asked, “Who else?” And he said, “Jesus.”
In this place where he was, I needed him to know that he’ll always be loved. Whether he thought he had friends or not, there was always going to be someone who cared so much for him.
We went back to play for a little while, but pretty soon after that, his mom came to find him, and he had to leave. He gave me the biggest hug. I looked at him one more time and I asked him, “Brandon, do you have any friends?” He looked at me and said yes. I asked him, “Who are your friends Brandon?” He told me, with the biggest grin on his face, “Alli and Jesus”
I was so sad to see him leave, but I felt a peace about the time we spent together. It was such a blessing of a day.
-Alli Herring #10