The teens all stood at the front of the room. The girls looked out at Ruth and Michael, their Hope Parents, some additional Back2Back staff, and family friends who came for the celebration of Bethany Hope House’s Second Anniversary.
“Michael and Ruth wanted to have a small get together with the people who’ve supported their growing family over the last two years,” explained Amanda Obemeasor, Back2Back staff. Each of the teens was given an opportunity to share how living at Bethany House has impacted them personally. “It was amazing to see how each of the teen girls are quickly becoming young ladies,” shared Amanda. “They spoke in front of a large group of people with poise and clarity. A few years ago, they were significantly more reserved and shy, and had great difficulty expressing their feelings.” Each of the girls made impactful statements about their time at Bethany and the ways they’ve grown, but eighteen-year old Laitu especially took everyone by surprise with her candor.
“The last two years at Bethany House have taught me many things, but one of the most valuable has been learning what a father really is,” Laitu spoke clearly, keeping her emotion at bay. “I know now how a father is supposed to act. I understand the role of a father in family.”
Laitu lost her own father at the age of seven, but she shared with Amanda that in the ten years since he passed, she had lost many memories of him. “When I was younger, his death didn’t always bother me. As I’ve gotten older, though, I’ve thought about what it would’ve been like to have him around,” she told Amanda. “I didn’t get to experience family as a child.”
“Laitu admitted it took much effort to connect with the other girls and her house parents,” shared Amanda. “She found it especially difficult to connect with Michael, because she wasn’t used to having a father figure in her life.”
Ruth and Michael took their time with Laitu, giving her space to adjust to her new living arrangements, but continued to check in with her. Their concern was she felt seen, known, and safe. Michael would run small errands and always invited a few of the girls to come along with him, and over time Laitu softened toward him, recognizing his efforts to connect with her.
“I saw the ways they consistently cared for me, even when I was closed off, and I became acclimated to living with a mother and a father,” shared Laitu at the anniversary celebration. Laitu is learning how to live, and be loved, within a family. Her public declaration at the party was a testament to Ruth and Michael of God’s work in their home.
“I recently got to sit down with Laitu,” shared Amanda. “Before I left, I asked her what one thing she wants people to know about her.”
Laitu looked at Amanda as they sat together and thought for a moment. “I want them to know I love being around people of impact,” she said. “People who can tell me the truth about my choices, whether good or bad, those are the people I want to be around.” Laitu has spent the last two years surrounded by people who speak truth with love, kindness, support, dignity, and respect, and it has forever changed her story.