Vida Joven: The Difference You Make
[This story first appeared in the Spring 2018 Diocesan Messenger.]
Next time someone asks, “And, what do you do?” stand taller.Draw back your shoulders. Put one hand on your waist. (Go ahead!) Raise your other arm high in the air. And proclaim in a strong voice, “I am a slayer of monsters!”
Indeed! As part of the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego, you help to fight back the monsters that would otherwise destroy the children of Vida Joven in Tijuana, Mexico.
The monsters that would harm these kids are real. The struggle is real. And the difference you’re making is so very real. You see, the beautiful, wounded children of Vida Joven are safe right now only because people like you throughout this diocese love them fearlessly.
Before I introduce you to one of the Vida Joven children, here are some Vida Joven bullet points you might find helpful:
- Vida Joven = an orphanage for abandoned and abused children in Tijuana, Mexico
- Vida Joven = a ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego
- Vida Joven = “Young Life” in Spanish
- Dorcas House = the name that Vida Joven was long known by in this diocese
- 30 = the number of children who can live at the orphanage
- 3-17 years = the current age range of the Vida Joven kids
- 1996 = Vida Joven founded
- “Love, Protect, Educate” = the mission of Vida Joven
- $21 = daily cost to provide life-changing care to one child at Vida Joven
There’s plenty of other information about the kids and orphanage I’d be happy to share with you. (My email address is above.) But really, here’s the most important thing you need to know:
Vida Joven is you, and the difference you’re making in the life of a child such as Rosario.
Listen, now, to this story about Rosario. Rosario was only two years old when her drug-addicted mother tried to kill her. Rosario’s mom went to prison, and little Rosario was placed in Tijuana’s shelter for unwanted children.
The shelter is overcrowded with way too many children and not enough staff or funding.
A social worker tracked down some relatives of Rosario. Those family members promised to take care of the little girl. And here’s where you want to learn that those relatives gave Rosario the love she so desperately needed, right? Because of course that’s what someone like you would do. You would do everything in your power to cherish and protect this hurting child.
But the happy ending didn’t come. Instead, Rosario walked into a living nightmare. Those family members lied when they said they’d care for her. They treated Rosario in despicable, degrading ways.
While in the so-called care of her relatives, Rosario stopped eating. She stopped talking. She stopped walking. Little Rosario was only three years old, and she was going to die.
By the grace of God, a social worker learned of the abuse, and took Rosario away from the relatives. The social worker called Vida Joven and asked if we had room for Rosario. We said YES. And we said YES because you’ve said YES to these children.
Do you see why I say you’re saving this little girl’s life? It’s because there wouldn’t have been any Vida Joven for Rosario if it weren’t for you. Vida Joven really would have to close its doors if it weren’t for the support of you and so many other compassionate people throughout this diocese and beyond.
People like you understand that the monsters in these kids’ lives are oh-so-real. And in the face of this danger, you refuse to throw up your hands and say, “I can’t do anything” or “It’s Mexico’s problem, not mine.” Instead, you love children like Rosario fearlessly. You take responsibility for these kids. You’re the kind of champion these kids long for and need.
In this season of Lent, as you pray and act for the children of Vida Joven, you really are taking part in God’s “chosen fast” (see Isaiah 58, Common English Bible): Your compassion releases the wicked restraints of cruelty and degradation that bind these children’s lives. Your generosity gives bread to these hungry ones. Your kindness means that homeless children are homeless no longer. Your goodness surrounds the children with caring adults who bind up their raw, naked wounds. Your love sets these mistreated children free—free to live the lives God dreams for them.
Your light is breaking forth like the dawn, Episcopal Diocese of San Diego! It’s a dawn that rises even now upon the children of Vida Joven. Thanks be to God, and thanks be to you.
Enjoy the whole Spring Messenger (PDF)