Nathan kept a map of the city hidden in his desk. Because he was always thinking of running away.
When he was a small boy, Nathan lived with his parents. There, he saw drug abuse before he was old enough to understand what it was. When he was 5 years old, he was sent to live with his aunt, where he would be safer.
Nathan’s aunt wanted to give him a better life. She made sure he had everything he needed. She helped him with his schoolwork. She made sure he was fed, clothed, and loved. But there was one thing Nathan’s aunt couldn’t control: her boyfriend’s violent outbursts.
Her boyfriend was frustrated when Nathan moved in. His patience with the arrangement wore off quickly. When he came home from work, he would get angry and yell. He would push them around. Year after year, it only got worse.
Nathan’s aunt wanted to protect her young nephew. She didn’t know what to do. She hated the way her boyfriend treated them, but he kept food on the table. Nathan didn’t know how to feel. Sometimes he felt scared. Sometimes he felt betrayed. Mostly, he got angry.
The one person who could calm Nathan down was his next door neighbor, Alex. Nathan would go over to Alex’s house when things got bad at home. The two went to the same school, and Nathan always felt safe in the hallways knowing Alex was around.
Then Alex’s family moved away, and everything changed. Nathan stopped doing his homework. He would talk back to his teachers. His grades plummeted.
Nathan started hanging out with a rough crowd. He would act out just to impress them. His home life made him so angry that he would start fights or experiment with drugs to distract himself. He had no other way to cope.
His aunt didn’t know what to do. Nathan’s behavior had changed so drastically, and she didn’t know how to reach him. She asked her pastor for help and he told her about a place called Mercy Home for Boys & Girls.
When Nathan moved in, he had mixed emotions. He was glad to leave home. But he wasn’t ready to trust us either.
At first, he tried to test our coworkers. He would break the rules, trying to make them angry. He needed to see if we would turn violent like his aunt’s boyfriend had.
Slowly but surely, Nathan realized he could feel safe at Mercy Home. Our coworkers showed him that they were there to help him. That they would stick with him through the good and the bad. And Nathan realized that he had friends like you who believe in him and who will always be by his side.
He started building relationships with our coworkers—going on walks with them and playing basketball. He became friendly with his tutors, who helped him get back on track in school. And eventually, he became a leader for our younger boys.
He would talk to them about their struggles and their future plans. He would help them with their homework assignments when they had questions. He would encourage them to sign up for Mercy Home activities. And he would help them calm down when they were angry, just like his friend Alex had done for him.
Nathan has improved tremendously in school. He has a B average, and has some A’s, too. He is on track to go to a good high school and is already thinking about college.
He has done hard work in therapy, and in family therapy as well. He still gets angry sometimes, but he now has positive ways to cope: He goes for a walk or plays basketball in our gym or talks to one of our coworkers.
Thank you for giving children like Nathan the safe home they so desperately need. You not only help them heal from difficult pasts, but you give them hope for better futures. For that, we will always be grateful.
Please note: Because we care deeply about protecting our children’s privacy, the names and certain identifying details in this story have been changed.