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Many of us have heard the tale of the ‘Prodigal Son’ as recorded in the Bible. We all know the lesson well. The bottom line is – the Father forgives and receives his child who returns home, even after all he had squandered away.
However, many wonder if this type of forgiveness is possible in real life. Are real fathers able to forgive and embrace a child who may have stolen from them, lied about them, ruined their business and their name, and take that child back believing that he can, or even HAS, changed? Is it really possible to get a second chance?
This is a story for those who believe in second chances. This is a story for those who understand that forgiveness is not based on the measure of wrongs, but on the goodness of the heart that forgives. That is why we can all forgive anyone, and we can all get a second chance. However, this version of ‘The Prodigal Son’ has two parties who need to give and to receive forgiveness…
John is a 15 year old boy from Oyo state, Nigeria. He is the only child of his parents, but has step-siblings. John’s father married two wives, but his mother left their home when he was still quite young. We met John at a Police Shelter, where he was being looked after as a lost child, after he had spent some time on the street working for a woman at Oshodi, in Lagos. Fair Life Africa intervened by taking him along on a home tracing excursion.
On this trip, we located his father in Ibadan. At that time (September 2012), neither of them was ready to be reconciled. John’s father complained that this was not the first time that John had run away from home, and he couldn’t understand his behaviour. John’s initial story was that he did not intentionally leave home, but had lost the money that he was given to go for an errand. The truth was that he had lost the money for his return trip, but when someone offered him bus fare to go down to Lagos, he chose to follow the other child rather than to return home. He said that he was afraid that he would be flogged by his father for returning so late, which was an expected outcome.
John became a resident at the Respite Home in September, with the expectation that in time, he would be ready to return home to his father. He was enrolled into a primary school, despite his age, because his educational standard was low. While at the Home, he also attended group and one to one counselling sessions with our social worker, which he participated well in and he has shown significant progress emotionally.
John proved himself to be hardworking and generally well behaved. He derives joy from impressing people around him and loves to be noticed and acknowledged. He has improved considerably in hygiene, as he takes care of himself and his space well. He also does chores assigned to him happily without grumbling and often offers a helping hand. Academically, John was one of the top scorers in his class (3rd place), and showed that he had potential, but needs someone to encourage and guide him to apply himself.
Efforts to reconcile father and child commenced early, with regular phone calls and invitations to his family to visit the Home. In terms of distance and finance, it was a challenge for them, but they were encouraged by our persistence and honoured our invitation to attend our Christmas Party. After that, they visited again, and the process of reconciliation was well underway…
Most of the boys were initially sceptical about the idea of returning home, but soon, it was the ‘in-thing’. Once a child’s family visited the Home, they all wanted the same experience. And so, John longed for his chance to go home and spend the weekend with his family, after Derek (another child we wrote about) enjoyed this opportunity. Not long after, John also went home for the weekend, and then a few weeks later, he enjoyed a long Easter break with his family in Ibadan.
We are pleased to report that after ten months at our Home, the reconciliatory process with John and his family has been a successful one. John’s father came twice in July to the Home, as the time for the return of his child drew near. He came first to attend a final meeting and assessment session, where he and John were both counselled on how to approach their relationship moving forward. The father was counselled to adopt alternatives methods of disciplining his child, which will not cause him to be afraid of him, but to draw near to him in times of trouble. John was also reminded that running away would not solve his problem, and that his story could have ended very badly, like many of the cases of children who live on the streets and come to untimely death.
On the 27th of July, John’s father was among the parents who attended our Leaving Party for the boys graduating from our programme. We were not sure if he would come, given that he had already come just over a week before, and money and distance were obstacles for his family, but we were sure glad to see him! The boys performed a drama for their families, which illustrated the lessons they had learnt from their time of ‘prodigal’ behaviour. The CEO’s message also re-affirmed each parent’s need to make the sacrifice and come. She recounted how well the Father had celebrated the return of His child, and compelled all that indeed there is a reason for us to celebrate now. Rather than focusing on what was lost (time, money, resources, friends etc), we should focus on what was gained and has been restored. Read The Leaving Party report.
Peter, Derek, James, Andrew and Mark’s families were also around on the 27th to take their children Home, and shared their testimonies during the ceremony. Simon and Thomas returned home the following week, as Simon’s family was unable to make it down, and we needed to stabilise Thomas’s living conditions before he returned home. Peter’s families also received aid from Fair Life Africa Foundation, which enabled his family to rent a new and better suited accommodation.
John and his father left the Respite Home after the ceremony for Ibadan, loaded up with gifts and provisions. We are sure that we won’t find John on the street again. We can testify that he has changed, and we believe also that his father has changed too. Thank you for your support which enabled this miracle of reconciliation. Read up on other inspiring stories of the FLA Kids at http://www.fairlifeafricablog.com.