Belsy's story, by Michael Miller, Director of Project Micah

January 15, 2003

Last night, I couldn't sleep.  That is not so unusual, actually.  Often, I lay awake thinking (and sometimes worrying!) about the Micah boys and their lives.  I'm sure any parent of teenagers has experienced that kind of sleeplessness.  Occasionally, I wake up with an urgent need to pray for one or more of our boys.  Yet, last night, our boys slept peacefully in their bedrooms of the Micah Project, relatively crisis-free by adolescent standards.  No, the face that would not leave my mind last night was not that of one of our boys.  It was rather the face of a young street boy named Belsy.

In August 1999, before the Micah Project had opened, I wrote about Belsy in one of my updates.  Today, as we celebrate the third anniversary of the Micah Project, I ask that you read an excerpt from that letter:

"Little Belsy is an ten-year old street boy who looks more like he is six.  I first met him in a group home run by a local organization in which he was temporarily living.  Belsy has big brown eyes and the kind of face that makes aunts and grandmothers pinch cheeks.

When I saw him last week, though, the innocence in his face was replaced by the war-weary look of a lifetime vagabond.  I was eating in a chicken restaurant in downtown Tegucigalpa, after one of our nightly meetings with the Villa Linda Miller planning committee, when Belsy came up to the window.  He was inhaling yellow glue, a toxic and highly addictive substance which gives the street kids a "high" and helps them forget their hunger pangs.

Belsy's eyes were half closed, and he wavered on his feet as he approached my window.  As I ate, he held his hands out and did everything he could to get me to share my food.  Finally, he stopped gesturing and simply stared at me through drug-deadened eyes as I finished my meal.

When I went out to talk to Belsy, I asked him why he left the group home he had been living in.  He stopped, as if he were thinking about it, then in a haze said, "Give me twenty cents."  I tried to get a further reaction out of this abandoned ten-year old, but "give me twenty cents" was as far as I could get.

I have a picture of Belsy that I took on a day-trip to a local park.  He was hanging on a jungle gym and looking very much like every nine year old boy.  As I continue working for Project Villa Linda Miller, I look at Belsy's picture often.  I remember why I am working so hard:  so that the kids of this community (Villa Linda Miller) will have a bright future and will not end up like Belsy, having to seek comfort in a bottle of industrial glue and food from the nearest willing passer-by."  ~ August, 1999

It is with much grief that I re-read those words I wrote more than three years ago.  For two weeks ago, in early January, 2003, Belsy was shot and killed on the same streets where he had lived the majority of his short life.  The brutal murder of street kids is becoming a common occurrence in Honduras.  Belsy was fourteen, and he never had a chance.

I wasn't going to write you about Belsy, for fear that some might think that I am using his death for publicity's sake.  But Belsy deserves a eulogy ... his precious and brief life deserves to be remembered and cherished by as many people who would care to learn his name.  Several of the Micah boys lived with Belsy in one of his many short sojourns in the various street kid centers before he escaped back to the streets and his precious glue.  What they most remember about him is his innocence.  Here was a little boy who never hurt a soul.

It seems that everyone has a story about Belsy.  Jeony, our Villa Linda Miller coordinator, remembers Belsy when he was in another project that Jeony worked for.  Belsy would spend all day drawing pictures with crayons and colored pencils.  While he never learned how to write his name, he became a very good drawer.  Our Miguel remembers Belsy from 1999, when they lived together for a few months in yet another organization.  Yesterday, when I showed Miguel a picture that I had taken of Belsy, he just shook his head and replied:  "Belsy never changed.  The way he looked in this picture is the way he looked when he died.  He was an innocent."  Our group home coordinator Roger recalls a conversation that he had with Belsy just a few weeks ago.  Belsy was sitting in a small park with a bottle of yellow glue.  When he saw Roger he said, "Professor, take me to live in that place where you work!"  How do you explain to a boy who has no home that there is no room for him in our home?

It is easy to get really angry about Belsy's death.  It is easy to get angry at the newspapers that present his death as a statistic only, as if somehow his loss was less important simply because he was a child alone in this world.  Yes, it is easy to point fingers and place blame.  If only society ... if only his family ... if only the government ... if only this-or-that relief organization ... but the finger pointing stops dead when it comes down to "if only I..."  If only I had taken him into the Micah Project.  If only I had shown the love that no one else in the world was willing to give him.  But I have found that the cycle of "if only" that we tend to go through when we experience tragedy tends to make us feel so helpless that we end up becoming just one more passive bystander in a lost world.

The energy that I could have put into anger and finger-pointing over these lost kids, I have instead tried to throw into the Micah Project and our boys.  We have tried to create a place that is so loving, so God-centered, so hope-filled, and so inspiring in these boys lives that they will leave the streets and its hard lessons in the distant past and look only into their brilliant futures.

This energy is a gift that has been given to us by God, and we must use it to create hope in these boys' lives.  I look at our Darwin, who spent six years on the streets and was a close friend of Belsy's.  For years, Darwin had that same dead look in his eyes as Belsy had the night I saw him outside the chicken restaurant.  Now, after a year and a half at the Micah Project, sixteen year old Darwin is beginning to understand hope.  In fact, just the other day he humorously told me, "I'm not going to have a girlfriend for twenty years because I want to concentrate on my studies."  Maybe Darwin is being overzealous with his time frame, but the point is clear:  he has hope and a plan for his future for the first time in his life.

God has given us twelve boys, and it has been our joy to watch hope shine into all the corners and shadowy areas of their fragile young lives.  Yet, the agony is still there when we watch innocents such as Belsy lose the chance to see hope in their lives.  Oh, how I wish we could take in 200 kids and not just twelve!  How I wish we would have had a place for Belsy.  Yet I know too that when kids are grouped into two-hundred, they tend to become statistics all over again.  200 kids can be fed and housed; 12 kids can be truly discipled.  That is a lesson that we have learned from the Master of disciple-making himself.  If hope is to shine through, we must be intimately involved in every aspect of our boys' lives.  That means staying focused on a few.  It means throwing ourselves heart, mind and soul into the discipleship of our boys.  It means sticking with them through thick-and-thin until they have discerned what God's will is for their lives and are ready to reach out in hope and faith to grasp that sovereign plan.

So many of you have actively participated in our boys lives since we first opened the doors to our home exactly three years ago.  You have come to know them, you have prayed for them, provided for them ... God has placed you in their lives as part of their sustaining hope.  When I write to you about Belsy, it is not just so that you will grieve with me, although that is part of it.  I sincerely desire that Belsy be grieved over, for isn't grief really an expression of love for someone who is lost to us?  And if there is one thing that Belsy always deserved yet never received, it is love.  But I also write so that you may clearly and exactly know what your participation in our boys' lives has prevented.  I write so that you may see that our boys are living, breathing miracles, literally ripped from the jaws of death on the streets.  Hope has prevented them from becoming one statistic more.

This year, I urge you to help us sustain hope in our boys' lives; to pray a joyous prayer for our boys, that each day they would be more filled with the hope that transforms them.  Pray for Cristino, David, Darwin, Harvin, Edwin, Marvin, Olvin, Pedro, Josť, Miguel, Oscar and Danilo.  Pray that God would raise them into leaders who would be used to bring people into his kingdom before they become victims of this present darkness.  And pray that, when it is time for the Micah Project to grow, as it will be when we begin the Leadership House next year, that we will never lose our passion to serve each individual boy as a disciple-in-training.

As I close, I ask of you one other thing.  I ask it not for myself and not for the Micah Project and not for our boys.  I ask it for a little boy who should have had a better chance at life.  I ask that you would remember Belsy.

Michael Miller

P.S. I have placed pictures of Belsy on our internet site, in the 2003 Photos section as a memorial to him.