Alejandro is a regular at Salvation Army Children’s Club in Tijuana, a veteran, some would say. He is now 10 years old and has been coming to the activities Salvation Army offers in his community since he was a toddler; the majority of times making his way up the hill by himself.
“I live down the hill from the club. My mom was rarely home, so I started wondering off when I was little until someone from the club offered me a place to stay, instead of being home alone. I liked it right away and waited everyday for my mom to leave so I could come to the center.”
Son to an alcohol and drug afflicted mother, his constant struggle has been to make his mother believe that the Salvation Army is a good place for him to be. Alejandro speaks from his heart, “She doesn’t really like me coming here. Many times she has punished me by making me stay home on the most special days at the club. She thinks that God is not real and that they brainwash me here to believe in him. But I know that's not true because everyone here is nice and they even remember my birthday every single year. I get cake and a special song. I like being here, I have friends, I eat well, I learn and it’s really fun!”
Recently Salvation Army put on an annual program, “retos”(challenge) for the children at the day care, where they teach kids the value of setting goals for themselves and the great advantages of fulfilling them. Alejandro was thrilled to be part of this program and complete his three month challenge. He set his goal very high, aiming to clean his entire house every day! This with the purpose of lessening his mother’s burdens and also trying to please her. “Perhaps, this way I could be on her good side”, he says “and she would let me come to the club freely.”
Unfortunately, when his mother found out about him setting this goal to complete the "retos” program at the Salvation Army she got very upset. Coming from an abusive background he was not surprised, he said. “She threatened to have me removed completely from the club and made a huge mess on purpose so I'd have additional things to clean up. She tore up my paper (his cleaning log) and threw it away! I was so sad and told her that I only did it for her and that I wanted to help. She did not believe me and told me that adults at the club were only trying to control me and making her look like a bad mother. I said that wasn’t true, but she got even more upset.”
In true biblical "‘brave and courageous"' manner, Alejandro stood up for himself and what he believed in. “I told Mrs. Sabina that I was sad because of my mom’s way of thinking, but that I did not want to make her sad anymore. They told me to be obedient to what she said and that God would understand because he knew my heart. I though about it and decided that I wanted to finish my challenge for God and for myself, instead of doing it to please my mom. I went home and at night when she was asleep, I took my torn paper from the trash and taped all the pieces together. I hid it from her and kept cleaning the house every day. I asked her to please not be upset at me anymore and that I wanted to help with the cleaning anyways.”
In a beautiful way, God honored his perseverance and moved the heart of Alejandro’s mother. He faithfully completed the program and she allowed him to go on to the club and be rewarded for his efforts. Everyone at Salvation Army was thrilled of course, and what an example of great effort it was! His log was complete with all the chores and house cleaning duties he had completed in the three moth period.
Mrs. Sabina, a volunteer from the Salvation Army says “we too learned a valuable lesson of bravery and courage, and following our convictions and principles. Like those great men of faith in the Bible, we declare that Alejandro too will grow up to be exemplary in seeking after God’s heart.”
She is enthusiastic in giving thanks for their partnership with Outside the Bowl and adds that “without this partnership I don’t know how we could have the means to take in and feed the kids from the community that come to seek refuge. Some everyday, like Alejandro, who are not officially part of the program, but nonetheless are here everyday. To us he is like family, he really is.”
Written by Vianney A.E.