What’s in a picture? Technically, if it’s a digital snap, it all boils down to binary code – just a bunch of 1’s and 0’s, a bunch of “Yes” and “No” statements. I’m not sure about you, but I don’t think I’ve ever looked at a long line of 1’s and 0’s and thought to myself, “Life will never be the same.”

On the other hand, when a computer looks at all those simple statements it is able to convert them into images. Images that make us smile, that make us laugh, cry, and, sometimes, stand speechless at the depth of them. Somehow those lines of binary code transform and transcend until they are no longer just an image, but part of us.

So, what’s in a picture? In the end, I guess it’s both. Pictures have emotionless binary mixed with the potential for deep emotional significance. Talk about a Ying and a Yang.

Ok, but why am I asking the question anyways?

About two weeks ago Michelle and I were finally able to make another trip down to Nicaragua. It had been far too long since my last visit and I was so excited to return to the country and the people I hold so near and dear in my heart.

The trip was so good for our hearts and a great reminder of why the work we do in Nicaragua is so important. Every time we visited a family or one of the schools that we helped start one of us took pictures. By the end of the trip we had amassed more than 500 pictures.

Since we have returned home I have looked through those pictures at least 10 times. While to many they will simply be people they don’t know in a place they’ve never been, for me they represent so much more.

They represent hope, redemption, joy, and love. Lots and lots of love.

For example, take the picture to the right of this boy. His name is Heyner and this picture represents so much.

The Beginning

I met Heyner in 2008 – when he was only 6 years old. He was living in an orphanage in Nicaragua I had come to visit. He has one of the biggest, most genuine smiles I have ever seen that helps you understand what it is means to be joyful.

As I learned his backstory – one filled with abuse, terror, fear, and things that would steal the joy out of most people’s lives – his smile amazed me even more. In the face of such oppressive and debilitating things Heyner still had joy. In that trip, he stole my heart.

I wish I could tell you that life got easier for Heyner after that trip. But I cannot. Less than 2 years later Heyner, along with thousands of other children all across the country, was removed from the orphanage by a Nicaraguan government more concerned about lining its pockets than the well-being of its children. He was placed back into the home that he had been rescued from, only this time with a knowledge of what a peaceful, stable home was like.

I can’t even imagine how hard life was for him after that. To go from a place where you finally feel safe to literally having to hide from your stepfather when he is angry. To go from a place where you are told you are loved to a place where you own mother tells you she hates you and wishes you didn’t exist.

Joy must have been so hard to find.

The Devastating Middle

Over the next 6 years we continued to check in on Heyner. We added him to our family support program and would get to see him once a month when we brought the packets (the picture to the right is of him in his grandmother’s home). Every month it seemed like Heyner’s spirit grew heavier and heavier. The abuse left its marks on him physically, but even after the physical wounds healed the emotional scars remained.

We were devastated, but there was nothing we could do. We went to the police, we tried consulting lawyers, we even spoke directly with his family about changes that needed to be made. The police wouldn’t take action, lawyers said without the police we couldn’t do anything, and regardless of what his grandmother (who loves him very much) did his mother only seemed to get more cruel.

We could do nothing to free him, so we did all we could do: we continued to visit Heyner as often as we could and we prayed. And prayed. And prayed.

I know our visits meant a lot to him, and his grandmother believes they were one of the things that helped Heyner hold on. But nevertheless, for the next few years Heyner’s joy continued to fade.


About 4 months ago we received a phone call from Heyner’s grandmother telling us that Heyner had run away from home. Heyner had done this in the past (can you blame him?), but this time was different. It had been more than 4 days since anyone had seen him and everyone in his family was worried the worst had happened.

Walter quickly jumped into gear and went with Johana to search the area in and around where Heyner lived. After a few long days the police finally found Heyner cowering behind a house in a nearby town. When the police approached him his fear was not of the dangerous neighborhood he was in, it wasn’t a fear of the police who in the past refused to help, it was of being sent back home to his mother.

None of us were there for that interaction, but the police informed us that Heyner wept and the news they were going to take him home, claiming his mother or stepfather would kill him. It was such a genuine fear that the police actually took action, placing Heyner with his aunt and grandmother and opening an investigation against his mother.

3 months later they informed Heyner of their findings. He would NOT be forced to return home. He could live in peace with his aunt and grandmother.

Tears filled his eyes. He was free. No more fear of going home, no more fear he could be pulled from his bed in the middle of the night to be a whipping boy, no more days filled with his mother’s hatred and disgust.

When we found out the news it was hard to keep the tears inside for us as well. 4 years of prayer, and finally this little boy would be free.

Joy Returning

Over the past few months Heyner has slowly been returning to us. It will take time to heal – all great wounds do – but we are slowly seeing the Heyner of old show up in the Heyner of today.

He once again knows he is loved – by his family, us and the Lord. He once again knows there are people that will protect and help him.

He once again has hope. He once again has joy.

So, I ask again, what’s in a picture? Look again at the picture to the right. NOW what do you see? 1’s and 0’s adding up to simple picture of a smiling young man? Or maybe, just maybe, do you see what I see?

The return of hope.

Maybe, like me, you see the joy of rescue right alongside the work that needs to be done. If so, I ask you to join us in prayer and support for this young man until one day, when head held high, heart full, and eyes bright Heyner will be able to proclaim to the world the truth: that he IS loved, he IS cherished, and there is NOTHING that will ever change that.

Until that comes true, for as long as we are able, we will be there to remind him of those truths.

Thank you to everyone – especially the Varvels – for all you have done to help this child be free.

Chris & The With One Hope Team

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