On our 10th wedding anniversary, Christy and I were blessed enough to be able to travel to the Big Island of Hawaii. As we got there, we couldn’t believe the beauty and all that Hawaii had to offer. We went all over the Big Island and about halfway through our stay there, we asked the owner of the house we were renting what is a must see. He asked what all we had seen and done and he let us know we had missed one of the coolest places. It was called The Place of Refuge. He really didn’t explain it except it was the oldest place there and it had tons of turtles. The next day we went to this place and what we found had a profound meaning. It was truly breathtaking and amazing. It was a place that all the way to today, sticks with me.
The Place of Refuge was built by the original warriors of the islands. It’s made from volcanic rock and was completely handmade. This place is situated right on the coast and has places where the warriors could launch their boats for battle. The walls are tall enough were it would hide the people inside and thick enough where it would be hard for their attackers to launch arrows from their boats to reach the inside. The thickness of the walls also protected the civilians from attackers being able to climb the walls and jump over. The walls were feet thick and if an attacker was found on top, they would be easily seen and likely killed before they could reach the inside for an attack.
Inside the walls the civilians had everything they needed to survive. They had huts to rest in, places to build boats out of the trees inside the place and places to cook their food. But most importantly, there was a pond situated in the middle of this place. As our guide explained the place and when we got to the pond, we could tell the water looked perfect. Someone in our group asked about the pond and asked if it were safe to drink. The guide started talking about the reasons they built this place where they did and it was because of that pond. It’s situated perfectly in the middle and due to the porous lava rock directly underneath it, salt water from the ocean bubbles up and as it goes through the rocks, the salt is completely filtered out and it’s the only true fresh water on that side of the island. This was the most important piece to their place of refuge. Without fresh water, they couldn’t survive.
With this in mind and every time I see our pictures of this place, I think about our places of refuge. We all have them. Sometimes it’s a place. Sometimes it’s a person. Sometimes it’s a group of people. Sometimes it’s isolation from others. Sometimes it’s our God. Sometimes it’s words from people. There are many places where we get our refuge. Our refuge is our safe place. It’s a place where we can fill our tanks when we are empty. It’s a place where we can heal when we are hurting. It’s our place and that’s important.
This past weekend, we had E2 with us while she was on a home visit from the ranch. We’ve had her in our family for over 5 years and when we brought her into our home, we hoped to give her a place of refuge, not a place of trauma like she had known for all 8 of her years before us. We had hoped to be able to give her a sense of peace and safety in our home in our family. We had hoped for her to run to us, not from us. We had hopes but as we went from day one to week one to month one to year one to the time we moved her to Boys Ranch, our hopes were just that. Hopes.
As she moved to the ranch, we had hopes again. Hopes that the ranch would be a safe place for her because most of the kids there are just like her. A place where she didn’t feel she had to attach to anyone because everything there is temporary. There will be home moves, new house parents from time to time, kids in and out and no promise of staying there until high school graduation. With each home visit, we noticed the ranch wasn’t a place of refuge, it was simply a place where she was trying to learn. Again, we had hoped for E2 to find that place of refuge and again, our hopes were just that. Hopes.
But this past weekend, we noticed something different in our home. We noticed she had a peace while in our home. We noticed she was more compliant than she ever had been and we noticed she was resting in our home. We didn’t see a ton of anxieties we saw just 2 weeks before and she was peaceful this time. As the weekend went on, we were on guard. We were waiting for the moment when things changed but they didn’t. As I talked to her before we took her back to the ranch, she said, “Dad, I’ve enjoyed being home this time. I’ve felt better than I have in a very long time and I hope to come home more often.” This was the first time since we’ve had her living with us where she felt peace in our home. I was over the moon excited because what we had hoped for from the beginning, is slowly becoming truth. She is finally finding our home and our family as her place of refuge. She’s beginning to see it’s a safe place and she is starting to believe we aren’t going to leave her. She knows she will always have this place to come and fill her tank when it’s empty. She knows she can be honest and herself without getting into trouble. She finally feels she can begin to trust those closest to her. And that’s huge for a kid like her.
Our prayer from here on out is she continues her growth at the ranch and when she’s home, she can find a place of refuge. She can find a safe place where the arrows of life can’t get to her. She can find a hug if she needs one. She will have clean water and plenty of food. A place where she can relax and not have a worry about her day, week, month, year or future. A place where she can play games or not. A place where she can be built up, not torn down.
A safe place is what we all need and hopefully E2 has found hers in ours. We hope this continues but we also hope our place can be a place for all of us to find refuge. We hope our home is inviting and a place where we can fill our tanks. I hope I am doing enough to fill the tank of my wife and kids daily so they can make it through their busy days. I hope each one of you have a place to call a refuge. I hope each of you have people in your life who breath in love and truth, even when it’s not what they are comfortable doing. If you don’t, pray for one. Find a safe place and if you can’t find that place, rest in Jesus. He is our ultimate refuge and that’s our beginning of truly finding peace and a place of refuge.