March 27, 2014
A 16-year-old boy with sleek brown hair and beautiful blue eyes sat in front of me at Lachan, a Fellowship-sponsored orphanage in northern Israel. His hands were shaking, and small beads of sweat formed on his brow as he spoke in a low voice while keeping his eyes on the ground. “You and The Fellowship are the only people that still believe in me,” he said shyly. “It means the world to me.” My heart nearly melted as I heard those words come out of this sweet boy’s mouth just before he began telling me his painful life story.
Yossi was born to a single mother and grew up in extreme poverty. “I still have nightmares from when I was young. I would open up the fridge – starving – and there would be no food,” he told me. Yossi lived in a poor, crime-ridden neighborhood where the only role models were thugs and thieves. “Going to jail was a sign of being a man,” he said, blushing with embarrassment. “All of my friends’ fathers, brothers, and friends have been in jail, and we boys would talk about them like heroes. They were the only men we knew.”
At age 13, when a boy like Yossi should be celebrating his bar mitzvah and learning the Bible, Yossi was using drugs and getting into trouble. He had no father to guide him, a mother who was out working double shifts for minimum wage, and many strong influences pulling him toward a life of despair.
Less than a year later, Yossi found himself in jail and left with only two choices: to continue on the path he was on, ruining his life, or to go to the Fellowship-sponsored orphanage. After a lot of introspection, prayer, and tears, Yossi took responsibility for his life and chose the intensive rehabilitation program at the orphanage.
Now, two years later, Yossi is flourishing. He attends school, has plans to take his high school matriculation exams, and dreams of going to college. “Yossi is one of the leaders here,” the manager of the orphanage told me. “He works well with his hands, so we taught him how to do electric work, house renovations, and gardening. Now, he fixes the infrastructure problems on campus, tends a beautiful vegetable garden, and is a true role model for the younger boys.” As Yossi listened to the manager’s words, he was unable to hold back a wide smile.
“I was in juvenile jail before the age of 14 and I still have an open file with the police, but I’m really a good person and want good for my life,” Yossi said quietly, with tears filling his eyes. “I never knew anything but a life of crime and poverty, but being here in this special Fellowship orphanage with other kids like me has opened my eyes to the potential for a better life, and I feel blessed to be getting the tools that will help me succeed. What The Fellowship has given me is a choice for how I want to live my life, and I know what path I am going to choose.”
Thank you, friends, for believing in Yossi and so many other children like him in Israel. Thank you for caring for them and reminding them that they are not alone.
With blessings from the Holy Land,