“I have a dream…” These words (and the full speech) are among some of the most powerfully delivered and most frequently remembered of speeches given in the last 150 years. Throughout the annals of human existence though, we encounter a vast array of testimonies of people who have sacrificed and struggled a lot, but who dreamed great dreams and accomplished great feats. I, Jesse Rivers, am not sure if Martin Luther King, Jr. had a grasp on the impact that his words would have, but I am certain he hoped for an even greater impact, as he truly was a dreamer for things of greatness.
Are you one who dreams great things for the glory of God? I was very moved in my inner being when I first watched the movies Braveheart, Amistad, and Amazing Grace. These movies actually move me every time I see them or remember them. I am not a movie buff, nor am I trying to promote any specific movie here, but these movies each speak to the reality that life has much challenge, struggle, evil, and sacrifice for humanity to overcome. Each of these movies, based on real life people and events, show the heart of men and women who dream for better things, for justice, for freedom, for peace.
William Wilberforce, who’s life is portrayed in the movie, Amazing Grace, is one of my all-time greatest heroes. Against all odds and opposition, he dedicated his life to a dream that God gave him; to eradicate slavery in Great Britain. He, along with a team of encouragers and dreamers, sacrificed many years to the cause of seeing all humans being valued wholly, not based on their skin color or work that they could do. William Wilberforce dreamed of eradicating slavery in Great Britain. Though much sacrifice was required, he prevailed to see the dream come to reality.
Yesterday, sitting in a church service, I listened to a Guatemalan pastor confess that too many Christians are complicit with the evils that are prevailing in this world (and this country). The pastor shared how it is well known, in an area quite close to where I live, that children as young as three and four years old are forced into slavery, to make fireworks. (Fireworks are legal in Guatemala, and used daily.) These children’s fingers are very small and agile for the work, and they are forced to work in an area below the ground, in case of an accident/explosion. They receive no wages, though some of their parents, who are complicit, receive money for allowing them to be forced into this slavery. The corruption in the government and law enforcement, and very real presence of gangs and drug lords in Guatemala is so staggering that, though this is common knowledge, there is not much for justice that can be pursued here on the ground.
Not only are there children being forced to make fireworks, children (even infants) are often seen in the streets, at times with their families, forced to be selling candies and trinkets. Other children, boys and girls, younger than can be imagined, are being sexually abused by their parents and family members. Some girls are raped by their fathers, become pregnant, and then are forced to marry their abusive fathers. Others flee for their lives, and end up selling themselves for survival. This is truth, not exaggeration for a dramatic effect. Others are abandoned, abused in other ways, or neglected and forced to fend for themselves. So, what do this have to do with men and women who dream?…
Well, I would like to find the men and women of God, who dream as I dream, to eradicate the cultural and systemic strongholds that perpetuate these problems! I dream of finding and encouraging cultures and countries to actually agree with God, on His design, that the basic building blocks of a strong and healthy community are God first, and secondly, strong family with principles, values, and morals. God’s design, for a man and woman being the pair that parent their children as the most stable and functional system for society, is the correct model. Even if you remove God from the picture, which we won’t, you still will find that statistics demonstrate best case scenarios for family and society is a male and female married couple, parenting their children together!
My dream may sound simplistic, but it is anything but simple. I believe in an overhaul of the systemic way we have worked with children in foster care, orphanages, children’s homes, and/or living in the streets! I believe that a different model must become embraced and used worldwide. My dream is to see humans stop focusing just on the childhood portion of a life, but to truly value the whole life of a person! Foster care, orphanages, and children’s homes, though often done by people with good hearts and intentions, promote the idea that we value and focus on the importance of childhood, only to abandon and fail those children as soon as they age out and become adults! Call it independence or adulthood, or however you’d like to justify it, but it is abandonment. Instead of using a model that focuses on just a portion of a persons life, my dream is that we return to God’s original model, that we value the children enough to do the hard work to ensure them of life-long family and home; that they don’t have to fear aging out and losing the stability and place of belonging!
I sit here in a coffee shop, a forty year old man, and my very inner being longs right now to truly have a family… to have those whom I can call Mom and Dad, who see me not as an inclusion or attachment to their family, but as truly part of the family, included as all other children are in what happens in the family. As I sit here I also long for grandparents, for aunts and uncles, cousins and nephews. I am FORTY, and I still long for this! The desire for family and home does not miraculously cease when you ‘become an adult’, and yet we for centuries and centuries have acted like all these children need is to grow up and become adults! We pride ourselves in helping children, and pat ourselves on the back when they reach adulthood, but the staggering statistics show clearly that children who age out of foster care, orphanages, and children’s homes are the most likely to fail… ending up in gangs, jail, suicide, prostitution, addictions, and human trafficking! Yet, we pat ourselves on the back and the system and cycle continues, as new orphaned children, foster children, and the abandoned and abused fall into this failing system! Let us not be blind, but let us clearly call out what does not work and change it!
I believe that Albert Einstein is credited with the quote, “Insanity is: doing the same thing over and over and over again, expecting different results.” It is insanity that we continue a model with these precious children that for centuries has been failing the large majority! I am an exception to the norm, I know, as God has miraculously carried me beyond where I could have ever imagined. But just because there are some (a relatively few) positive testimonies should not be an excuse to continue a failing system and model! My dream is to see Abogar’s Homes of Hope model prevail, which is based on God’s model, where children become truly grafted into forever families and forever homes, that do NOT end once they become adults, but rather continue to be places of stability, family, hope, support, love, and encouragement! You may think I am crazy or idealistic, but the craziness and insanity is actually in the complacency and comfort we have with a model that does not work, and in the resistance we give to changing that model!
So where are the men and women who will dream with me, with Abogar? It will take a lot of resources to see this model changed, and the model God desires to be truly implemented! It will require dialogue and partnership with churches, businesses, governments, individuals, and families. We need a bigger team. We need more finances. We need our own property in Guatemala. We need advocates and committed and determined dreamers, to join us to move forward in the process of changing a model! Will it be easy? NO! Will it be quick? NO! Will it be worth it? I believe wholeheartedly YES! Let’s not only dream together, but work together to see the slavery, abuse, neglect, and horrific circumstances come to a screeching halt! So, men and women who dream, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org today, and let us know how you can join in this dream to help us make it a reality!! I have a dream…