Dear friends of
Horses for Orphans
Now that you have received the news of our desperate situation (with Regynaldo no longer working for Horses for Orphans) – we want to share a story of tragedy and triumph with you about our other son Douglas.
Raising Brazilian boys has not been the easiest journey – especially since we don’t live in Brazil full-time. There are plenty of ups and downs, successes and failures. There is hardship, suffering and joy. Thankfully we were in Brazil and able to be there for our 16 year-old son Douglas (who has been living with us on the farm for the last two years) when his sister got killed. We received the phone call on the Wednesday before our open day, in which Douglas was going to be our main star, with his horse Yankee.
It was a very hard day and the agony that washed over Douglas was close to unbearable. He had lost both his parents when he was one years old. The only family he had left is one brother (Hudson, who is 18 years old), one sister Thamires, and her two children.
Both Douglas’ siblings were involved in taking and selling drugs, and had plenty of enemies. They lived in a city about 60 miles from our farm and so did Douglas’ grandma, who had given up her own daughter for adoption to a neighbour. When her daughter died, the woman’s three grandchildren went to an orphanage. A fourth sibling – Douglas’ brother – had died when he was little. Douglas grew up at Betel with his brother Hudson. They were very close; all they had was each other. Thamires lived there too, but left the orphanage as a teenager to live with her boy friend. She got pregnant and had two babies by the age of 17.
When Betel closed, Douglas was one of the last boys to leave, because he had nowhere to go. He ended up being sent to his Grandma’s for two months. Then we found him and the Grandma gave him to us. He has been fully integrated into our family ever since. Douglas is a boy who loves Jesus and horses with a passion. He is an excellent horseman, a strong leader, highly motivated and, to us, is altogether wonderful. He is loving, polite, extremely helpful, super fun and just great to be with. He is extremely smart and talented with horses. When we are here everything goes great. When we are not here, he has been really difficult for Regynaldo, as well as for his schoolteachers. He doesn’t obey and gets into fights. He often has to be picked up from school, and gets suspended. He’s on his 4th
warning, and usually after three incidents, they move the child to another school, or the government intervenes. Thankfully there has been grace on the part of the school that has them trying again with Douglas.
The day we got the tragic phone call about 'Thamires’ death, we were practicing horsemanship for a demonstration on the coming Saturday. Douglas’s pain was intense. His sister was killed by three bullets to the head. His brother was in a coma in intensive care, with four bullets in his belly. They had to remove his spleen and he was in critical condition. That day we walked Douglas through the forgiveness process toward the murderers and stayed with him until he had cried himself to sleep. The following days, the emotions were still high, from grief and pain to anger and rage and Douglas had to continuously choose to let it go and forgive the ones that hurt his family. We were very proud of him on how he walked through this painful process. The family has a history of paying others back and then someone gets hurt and then they hurt someone and therefore it never stops. Douglas was the first one who broke the cycle and chose not to pay back evil with evil, but evil with good, and to extend forgiveness where none was deserved. He even prayed for the murderers of his sister.
We told him that he doesn’t need to do the demo and we can cancel the open day. We had Rogerio here too and of course Regynaldo to show off the amazing progress our three horses had made. Everyone could by now walk, trot and canter bareback and bridle-less, and Douglas was able to stand up on Yankee in walk and in trot. Douglas said that he would try to do the demo. We were very proud of him and said in case he can’t make it halfway through, it’s okay to stop.
The demo day came and another tragedy happened. Douglas’ horse Yankee, whom he had trained since February, was lame. He had thrown a splint and there was no way he could do any more than walk during the show. We prayed for the horse and he stayed lame. I looked at Douglas and thought: “Now he has every reason to completely break down and say life is unfair and he quits.” I barely dared to ask him if he would be willing to demonstrate a little bit with our small horse Alegria. Douglas had just spent 8-10 hours per day practising with Yankee. To my surprise Douglas looked at me and said: “Yes, of course I will do it with Alegria. A leader never gives up.”
The people arrived and the show begun. It all went really well. Then it was Douglas turn on Alegria. He rode her bareback and with one rein in a halter. I shared how we offer the horse an idea and we wait for the horse to follow; we don’t stop them from going the wrong way or making the wrong decisions. We show them love, honour, trust and leadership. We say: “Come and follow me, I have a great idea for your life,” but if the horse says: “No thank you, I go over here instead,” we stick with the horse wherever he goes and just keep offering him our idea. We do not block him or stop him when he chooses something that is contrary to what we are offering him, in the same way that God dealt with Adam and Eve. He didn’t stop them from sinning. He just told them what was good and what was not good and they made a choice. When they chose the opposite of what God had told them, God didn’t stop them from making that choice. He let them chose. We do the same with the horse.
Real love and real leadership involves a choice. Without a choice, you only have control. You never have the heart – be that of horse or man.
While I was sharing, Alegria did nothing that Douglas asked her. Instead of walking and trotting calmly along the fence line, she was bucking all across the arena with her nose between her legs, doing completely the opposite of what Douglas had asked! And Douglas was perfect. He went with her. He smiled. He offered her his idea, over and over again. And every time she said: “No!” It was incredible to watch. I told the spectators, “This is what I am looking for in a boy that I raise. Leadership quality, love that puts the other person or horse first. And for that you have to put your own desires aside. You have to be willing to look like a fool in front of everyone, because your horse is not following you. You can’t start using force and tell the horse: ‘We are in a demo, I want to look good, you better do what I tell you right now.’ If you would, then you never catch the horse’s heart.”
After about twenty minutes of Alegria acting like a wild horse, I started to think that Douglas wouldn’t be able to do this for very much longer without his anger coming up about his sister being killed, his horse being lame and this horse not listening! But to my surprise, the boy just kept going. Offering the horse his idea again and again.
And all of a sudden in happened. Alegria’s eyes changed, they became all cute and her heart turned toward Douglas. It was visible to all. She fell in love with the boy. From being independent and disobedient, she changed her attitude completely. She looked at Douglas and it was as if we could read her thoughts: “I love you Douglas. You are amazing. I will follow you wherever you lead me. You are brilliant and worthy to be my leader.” Of course Douglas felt the change too and he reached forward and took the halter off. The horse tuned into his energy completely. She went when he went and stopped when he stopped and they were one. Through every turn and every gait, they were in perfect harmony. I had to stop talking on the microphone and wipe my tears. In that moment, I knew that it had all been worth it. All the hardship, pressure, persecution and suffering, everything we laid down and everything we missed out on. It had been worth it all.
Right there before my eyes, I had an orphan boy who had overcome his terrible past, his painful present and become like Jesus to a horse. Great love and great leadership flowing out of him, so the animal just couldn’t resist.
It is always worth it to give everything for the Kingdom!
People were very touched by what they saw and at the end we invited the kids to come and to stroke the horses. Four little boys immediately climbed over the arena rails, ran into the arena with their dirty T-shirts, picked up the sticks and started to beat the ground very close to the horses. Running and yelling and completely out of control. Regynaldo, Douglas, Rogerio and I looked at each other with raised eyebrows and grinning, the boys said: “Oh Ingela, these kids are from an orphanage!” I said smiling: “How can you tell?” They replied: “Well, because they are just like we were six years ago when you first came.” We all laughed and with gratefulness in our hearts to how far we have come together, we invited the leadership from the orphanage to bring the children every Saturday to learn horsemanship. They gladly accepted and this is how we began with a new group of children.
A couple of weeks before the open day, we were feeling discouraged, because our grass project had failed yet again for the 4th
time, which meant that we couldn’t yet receive the four horses that had been given to us. This was tough, because we believed we needed seven horses to start with a new group of children, but we only had three. Then one day, I felt Jesus say to offer Him our little lunch. Like the boy in the Bible who only had three fish and five loafs of bread and when he gave it to Jesus, Jesus multiplied it. So, we did the same. We said: “Jesus, here is our little lunch (three trained horses and our time). We give it to you. Do with it whatever you want, but please use us for your Kingdom.” One day and one prayer can change it all. Now we have groups arriving every week and the children (who are from an institution in town with no animals) are having a lot of fun, not just with the horses, but also learning about the love of God, hugging our dog Chili and stroking chickens.
We are currently in Brazil with some of our older boys and a team who are helping us plant the fields yet again and build new fence lines all around the horse paddocks. Life is busy here, so if any of you would like to come and help us, we would love to have you!
We experience many ups and downs, and in the midst of all, the power of God is present. Miracles are following us as we praise Him and put all our trust in Him. I will hopefully share more about those miracles in another update, because they are truly amazing and encourage us greatly, but I trust this one story gives you enough of a glimpse for now into the joys and sorrows we share with our boys.
We are taking every day in its stride, trusting God with everything, moving forward regardless of what happens or the setbacks that we experience. We live to love Jesus and be in relationship with Him. He is our motivating factor for everything.
We love you all,
Ingela & Richard
If you would like to partner with us financially, here are a few specific things we need:
- water pump: $350 CAD
- gate for our second entrance: $300 CAD
- wages for Wagner and our future leader:
- car $15’000 CAD