Written by Michelle Eggen.
On Saturday, we had a small dinner with Daniel, Ximena, and group of Nebraska supporters. Daniel in particular was thrilled to have “meat!”—the Hollings fed them our best traditional Nebraskan food: steak, loaded baked potatoes, and corn on the cob. During dinner, a storm swept through that felt like the wind of the Holy Spirit over our conversation as Ximena shared her story of coming to work for Kaya and her love for street children, and Daniel shared his story of redemption from a life on the streets to a life that he hopes will be marked by love and service to other children who have grown up experiencing the hopelessness, anger, and emptiness he felt for so long. It was a beautiful night of laughter, tears, and sharing of hearts and a special chance for us “American supporters” to affirm and encourage Daniel and Ximena and offer our prayers and continued support.
After dinner, we took Daniel by the church so he could get a feel for the space before his big day on Sunday. He was a bit taken aback about the size of the church, but said with confidence that he had spoken in large places before and he was going to be a little nervous but just fine!
On Sunday, Daniel and Ximena went to all three services and shared their stories. At the end of each service, they shook hands as people exited, and so many people stopped to wish Daniel luck, thank him for everything he is doing and for sharing his story so openly, and just affirm him on his journey. Between services, Daniel and Ximena really enjoyed walking through the church and seeing the many, many pictures of the children of Kaya that are on the walls. We have many large prints and Daniel in particular was struck by the fact that so many miles away, these huge groups of people are seeing the faces of him and his friends and so many children he has known and worked with and loved. He said he just never realized that there was this much love and support being directed their way, and it really impressed him to see this demonstration of people’s commitment to Kaya.
Another big demonstration of support was our Kaya jewelry table. Sunday morning, we sold every piece of jewelry Ximena had brought, made with love by the kids at the Kaya Center. We set a suggested price but asked for “free will donations” and people were incredibly generous. Ximena was thrilled and also encouraged by people’s willingness to give freely and abundantly in this way.
For lunch, we took Daniel and Ximena out to Valentinos, which is quintessential Nebraska. Valentinos is a huge “Italian” buffet that has not only pasta and pizza, but just about every other kind of food you can think of (Mexican, Chinese, a million deserts and salads, etc.). They ate until they were going to explode, and thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
Sunday afternoon, we headed off to our last event at Bethany. It was a little dinner with about 15 or 20 people. We had some local BBQ, and then we had just an open Q&A session. Ximena went first and fielded questions about her education, family, and decision to start working with Kaya. She shared some really wonderful personal details about how her family and her own daughter have reacted to her work with street children. Ximena was especially proud to share her daughter’s desire to follow in her footsteps and how supportive and understanding she has been with Ximena’s schedule and with being a part of life at Kaya. Next, Daniel took questions about what he’s doing with his life now, what his hopes and dreams are, and what he likes most about working at Kaya. He talked about how he relates to the kids in the home and really works hard to share with them, be patient with them, and encourage them as they struggle with the same questions, fears, and temptations that he dealt with before. It was touching to hear him describe how much he loves those children and how much he truly hopes he can be an example for them in his life.
Monday was zoo day! We took Daniel and Ximena to the Henry Doorly Zoo, one of the premier zoos in the country. We did a LOT of walking, saw a million animals they had never heard of or had only seen in a book or movie, and generally had a great day just relaxing together. After the zoo, John took Daniel and Ximena shopping at the BIG stores. They hit Walmart, Old Navy, Scheel’s (huge sports store), and Best Buy. Daniel and Ximena were truly impressed by the incredible size and endless contents of these stores. Daniel got a great deal on a new laptop he had been saving for (he was excited because the boys in the independence house all pretty much share a couple of computers, and this would greatly ease the congestion on the technology front). They also took time to pick out a little something from Old Navy for each of the guys at the independence home. Daniel showed off the gifts when he got home, and then he and John got to work setting up his laptop. We grilled out and shared a late dinner at our house. Daniel stayed up into the wee hours of the morning taking advantage of our very fast internet (“oh my gosh your internet is CRAZY fast!!”) to get all the programs and apps he wanted loaded onto his laptop.
Tuesday was time to say goodbye. We got Daniel and Ximena loaded up and said our farewells. I took them to the airport and walked them to security for one last hug. Then the funniest thing happened. I left the terminal and stood just outside the airport doors worrying. I needed to get to work, but should I leave? What if something happened with their flight? What if it got delayed or cancelled or they missed it somehow? Who would they call? Did they even have my number? As I stood there debating, someone walked up and said, “Michelle? Hey!” It was Anthony, a member of our small group at Bethany. I was surprised to see him, but even more surprised when he told me he was going to Ohio for a conference—via Dallas. “What flight?” I asked him. Of course, the same one as Daniel and Ximena. So Anthony went and got himself checked in and about 20 minutes later I had a phone call from Ximena, laughing about this stranger who just walked up and with no Spanish explained that he was my friend and was going to hang out with them until the flight! Anthony texted me later that he “loves these guys, they are great!” and sent a picture of the three of them. It was just an awesome way to end their trip with a God-sent assurance that He was watching over and blessing their trip to the very end.