In 2009 Mom returned from Africa haunted by the images of the Street Boys that she had seen. She was moved by their tenderness, their respectfulness, and their willingness to share. And, the look of sorrow and hopelessness in their eyes would not release her. She could not forget them.
Chris and Lindy Thompson’s ministry impressed Mom. She was struck by the way that they had rebranded 15 boys from the street and given them a new identity: The Saint Boys. Their VBS style mission – in which they would play a game with the boys, fed them a meal, and told them a Bible story – provided at least one ray of light to the otherwise dark lives of the Saint Boys.
Not to belabor the point, but the lives of the Saint Boys have been dark indeed. One of the boys is a true orphan, with no parents and no grandparents. Three of the boys have the same mother, but different fathers. Their mother is a severe alcoholic, and so living at home with her is untenable. Another boy would really like to live at home with his dad, but his dad has told him that he can’t afford him – and that isn’t going to change. Yet another has such a broken relationship with his father that even the will to live at home is gone. In fact, he so desperately join the Saint Boys program that he lied, and claimed to be an orphan.
The most unfortunate of the boys in the program was a young man named Dan. He was always on the fringes, and eventually decided to opt out of the Saint Boys ministry. There is some fear that Dan may have been the victim of rape and / or prostitution. Surviving on the streets is not easy, and sometimes the unthinkable can buy you another day. Some years ago, Dan became yet another in a long line of victims of mob justice. The police caught him attempting to steal a cell phone. They shot to kill – and landed a bullet in his neck. From there, the mob took him, placed a rubber tire around his body, doused him with kerosene, and lit him on fire.
Although Dan’s story is the most shocking, it is a good example of the life, and death, of Street Boys in general. They eke out an existence, making money any way they can. If they can’t find food in the trash, they collect and sell small bits of tin in order to buy what they need. Glue is cheaper than food, so many opt to kill the hunger that way. Some are sexually exploited (though this is a far more rampant problem among the girls). They are alienated from their families, despised by the law, and marginalized by society.
And so, when Chris and Lindy asked Mom if her prayer ministry would take on the Saint Boys, she was more than happy to say “yes.” In the early 2000s, Mom had started a prayer ministry, named RIZPAH, in which a small coterie of mothers joined to pray for their children. Chris said to Mom, “These kids don’t have mothers who will pray for them. Will your group? Would the RIZPAH mom’s be their mothers in prayer?” Not only Mom, but all the RIZPAH women, were glad for this opportunity – and they took their role of being mothers in prayer seriously. They lifted up the Saint Boys in many of their meetings.
It was in one such prayer meeting, in 2010, that my Mom felt like she received a clear word from the Lord. She remembers “crying out” in that meeting. She was praying for the Saint Boys, when she felt a deep, inner groan, and prayed, “Oh Lord, can you not put them in a home?” The answer came almost immediately: “You do it! Put feet to your prayers.”
My Mom, Nancy Johnson - a homemaker from Roanoke, VA – lost no time in obeying the word she had received to make a home for the Saint Boys in Nairobi, Kenya. She talked to Dad about the project, and he agreed that it should be done. She reached out to one of my uncles, my brother, and me, and together we decided to undertake this endeavor.
I still remember well the conversation that she had with me on the back deck of her house in Roanoke. She told me what she was thinking, and about putting these Saint Boys in a home with house parents. When she said this, there was a deep stirring in my own soul. Although I was not sure at the time, I look back and think that it was the Holy Spirit. Somewhere deep inside of me, my spirit called out to her spirit, and mysteriously also to the spirits of the Saint Boys. I began to feel – even at that time – that I was supposed to be involved. I knew I should help financially. That was obvious. But, I began to think even then that I was supposed to help in other –non-financial ways. I even began planning to visit the Saint Boys. But, that was 2010 – and it would be four more years before I met them for the first time.
We did put the Saint Boys in a home. My Mom became known to the Saint Boys as “Mama Nancy.” Even now they pray for her. And frequently when we talk, they want to make sure that greetings are sent to her. Their reminder to me is, “Be sure to remember Mama Nancy.”