What to do about Boniface?

Dear Reader,

It is not often that I share my thoughts and feelings while I am in process of making a decision.  At least I do not do so in this kind of a forum.  But, today I will.  This post will not be heavily edited.  It is a window into my heart and mind, and it will not be polished (as my thoughts are not polished at this time).

I am now sitting on my balcony - at precisely 11:39 AM in Nairobi on July 5 - trying to decide what to do with Boniface:  a 16-year-old street boy who has recently come into my life.

Boniface came to the Saturday feeding this past week looking terrible.  The right side of his face was completely covered with what looked like burn marks.  I noticed him and asked Noah (my Kenyan counterpart in the ministry) if he knew the boy.  He did.  As it turns out Boniface has been coming to the feedings for quite a while now.  I would have recognized him too - except for the injury to his face was so jarring that I could not identify him at first.

Boniface was laying on the ground.  He looked miserable and appeared to be in pain.  Noah noticed that the wounds to his face seemed to even inhibit his ability to eat solid food. There was a deep sadness in his eyes on Saturday that seemed to go beyond the injury.  

As it turns out last Wednesday (one week ago today) he was attacked by another street boy.  The boy threw a rock at him and Boniface fell.  It is hard for me to imagine how being hit with a rock once, and then falling, could produce such an injury.  But, that is Boniface’s story - and it has not changed since he told it Saturday.  After he was beaten he continued to sleep outside - in an environment where complications could easily have resulted.

I asked Noah to go with Boniface to the hospital and he was willing.  Afterward it was my intention to have him stay in my second home - a small unit (a single room shanty) I rent in Kawangware - with my 20-year-old-son, Nicholas.  However, as I continued to look at Boniface’s face I felt it would be wrong for me not to have him stay with me.  I thought he needed a place with clean water where he could apply medication without risk of infection.  I thought I would have Boniface go with Nicholas the next day (Sunday), or maybe on Monday - but as each day passed I felt like it would be wrong not only to send him back to the streets - but also to put him in my second home when he needs a higher level of care and attention.

On Monday Noah told me a story that made me very sad.  He said that Boniface told him recently that he uses glue (a cheap drug street boys often buy) sometimes to escape.  Noah and I are constantly warning the boys on the dangers of glue, and trying to convince them not to get into it.  But Boniface told Noah he has been succumbing to the temptation.  He told Noah that he turns to the glue to escape from the pain that his father has caused.  Boniface’s Mom died years ago, when he was only seven.  Since then his dad has been his caregiver (or at least he was supposed to be).  But, Boniface’s dad is a severe alcoholic.  He was unable to care for Boniface.  About two years ago he told Boniface that he could no longer live with him - that he must leave and find his own way.  As such, Boniface has been dealing with intense anger and hurt at his father’s inability and unwillingness to provide for him.  He told Noah that he sometimes uses a large amount of glue intentionally - enough to help him get completely wasted, so that he will forget what his father has done, and has failed to do.  He wants to not have to think about it, and the glue is his way of escaping.

Here we are at Wednesday, and this will be the fifth day that Boniface has stayed with us.  I have sent him out with Noah to find his dad in order to at least get temporary permission to stay with us while he is healing.  I can’t imagine this will be a problem, as his dad seems to have been willing for him to live on the streets.  So, I doubt getting signatures will be difficult.  That said, as I told Boniface that I was sending him with Noah I felt like I could see anxiety in his eyes.  I wonder if Boniface is now hoping I will just say to him, “It is ok Boniface - you can stay here.  Even after you heal, you’ll just become a part of our family.”

He started calling me “Mzae” (Dad) yesterday.  I feel on some level this must be in his heart.

On Monday, at the feeding, he asked for prayer.  We talked about forgiveness:  forgiving others and being forgiven ourselves.  He wanted prayer for this, though he did not specify exactly what he was struggling with.

This morning I wonder what I am to do?  I would consider putting him in a second home, but right now we have no viable house parent who can care for Boniface as a son - which is what he seems to really need.  If I put him with Nicholas, in the slum, the temptation to use drugs would likely be too great to resist.  It would not meet his deeper need for a father, and for family.  If he stayed with me my sense is that he might actually flourish.  But there is a limitation on the number of boys I am allowed to have in my home.  My landlady made me promise (in writing) in 2014 that I would only allow eight of us in the apartment.  We are eight now, and Boniface would make nine.  Do I go back and ask for a special permission from the landlady?  The truth is - if we should become nine then I think we actually would have outgrown the apartment where we are staying.  Even with the landlady’s permission it would start to feel like we were too big for a mere apartment anyway.  We might need to move - to get an actual house on land where we have room to continue to grow.

Your prayers are appreciated - for Boniface, for the ministry, and for me - as I make this decision in real time.

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