Thursday, June 24, 2010

Team Angelica

Graduation ceremonies are fascinating to me. They evoke the end of one chapter in life and celebrate past accomplishments, but also look forward to the great unknown - that empty page of life still overflowing with possibility yet unwritten.

It’s a gathering of hundreds of strangers all acknowledging the power of potential and mourning the end of childhood innocence. Together we’re bound by our common emotions of pride, hope, and lingering sadness. Children enter adulthood. Adults fondly remember their own youthful hope and optimism. Friends say goodbye yet still maintain that they will keep in touch and be friends “forever”.

Last night someone summarized the process of graduation as bittersweet and I think that’s certainly an appropriate word.

My wife and I took our boys to attend the high school graduation for Angelica, our “Easter Angel” who showed up on our doorstep on Resurrection Sunday evening and touched our lives deeply. In that brief hour, we discovered a sister in Christ, and a daughter in spirit who was so remarkably loved by God that we couldn’t help but love her as well.

At the graduation last night, we got to meet Angelica’s foster family. It blessed us to know that she is being cared for by such a loving and supportive Christian family. Patrick and Nora are committed to opening their home to girls like Angelica and they have two other girls in their home, as well as an adult son, Duke – all of whom care for Angelica as if she were their own.

We also met Angelica’s mentor, and even her birth mom, and her brother, Salvador. All of whom were there to cheer Angelica on as she did something that no other person in her family had ever done before – Graduate from High School.

After the tearful ceremony, we made our way through the crowd together and we found Angelica in her black cap and gown. She was already being embraced by her friends and her family, but when I saw her and held out my arms to her, she ran into me – nearly knocking me down –and buried her head in my shoulder. Her reaction took me by surprise to say the least. I held her and she cried, and cried, and then she cried some more. Finally I said, “Wendy is here, too. You should let her have some of this” and she turned, saw Wendy, and grabbed her and cried even more – loudly and with complete oblivion to anyone else around her.

But then the tears turned to laughter and we helped her wipe her eyes. Next, we all posed for picture after picture after picture together. Her birth mom kept saying, “Uno mas” and handed her camera to anyone nearby so they could snap just one more picture of Angelica in every possible combination of family members and friends and moms and siblings.

Eventually we looked around and realized that the stadium was empty. We were being asked to move so that the trucks could back up to the gate and workers began to move the folding chairs off the field. So, we hugged each other over and over again, and we made sure to exchange phone numbers with Angelica’s foster parents, vowing to share dinner together as one big family soon.

As our family walked to the car – all alone in the massive, empty parking lot – I reflected on what God had done to us. How He had knit our family into Angelica’s and allowed us to be part of a large network of people who love this girl and support her and care about her so much. We were not the lone saviors of this young woman’s life. We were part of a pattern of various angels sent by God to love and bless and encourage this amazing young woman in her destiny to become someone even more amazing. Someone who will touch and encourage many others in her lifetime.

God’s favor and grace upon Angelica is profound. We are honored to be among the growing number of servants who are helping to shape her life and surround her with an unbroken chain of support.

We’re just happy to be part of Team Angelica.


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