At five-years-old, social workers found her in a dirty living room littered with beer bottles. The little girl with the big brown eyes and curly black hair was three-years-old when her mother, Malia, left her with a couple. Two years later she was put in a dark cell with a cot and can to pee in. That single solitary night in the dark cell forever defined her view of people and life.
The five-year-old girl would grow up at the Albertinum Orphan Asylum in Ukiah, CA and a foster home until her father, Paul, found her at 13-years-old. That girl was my mother who struggled with depression, poverty, rejection and fear of abandonment. My mom, Aloha, was a strikingly beautiful fair-skinned woman with hazel eyes and wavy black hair.
I’ll never forget her laughter that lit up moments when we wondered how we were going to eat or keep the lights on. She was passionate for the underdog and had an eclectic collection of friends who I nicknamed her strays. Everyone was welcomed in our home regardless of time of day or how we felt.
My mom’s stories of the Catholic nuns who looked after her have framed my view of caring for kids who were born into chaos. My grandmother, Malia, remains a mystery to this day. I have a picture of her in a band with my grandfather, Paul. Malia was a 24-year-old ukelele player who had an affair with a 40ish married upright bass player. The tryst between a young beautiful English woman and middle-aged handsome musician brought Aloha into their turbulent world. Malia left Aloha in the care of her friends, an alcoholic couple. Why Malia left my mom and why grandpa Paul didn’t stay involved in his daughter’s life are questions I never thought of asking him before he died when I was 12-years-old.
What I do know is that it was the 1940s and 1950s and being a single mom was a stigma. Malia reportedly came from an affluent family. I speculate that since she earned her income from playing music and looking beautiful, that a child was an inconvenience. Aloha was an interruption in her career as an entertainer and probably a secret from her family.
My mom’s childhood experience branded in me the urgent priority to provide a safe, caring and loving atmosphere for children and to be a voice for the voiceless. My mom didn’t choose to be born from an illicit affair. She didn’t choose to be abandoned or forgotten. She didn’t choose to live in an orphanage or a foster home.
Their are millions of children born into chaotic circumstances who need our help.
A friend of mine, Renee Loux, founded the Orphan Justice Center to advocate for children in adoption, foster care, supporting troubled families as well as rescuing children from being trafficked. I heard Renee’s story at a fundraiser and couldn’t get it out of my mind. I prayed and stayed up late many nights asking God what can I do to help her. Renee is passionate about bringing justice for orphans and she has adopted 10 children from different countries.
Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. James 1:27 NLT
In the meantime, I had finished writing “Ten Keys to Raising Kids That Love God,” that I planned to self-publish. After hearing Renee’s story and the testimony of a young man saved from a life-threatening car accident because of commitment to caring for his foster daughter, I decided to donate the net proceeds from the book to the Orphan Justice Center. I’m selling the book through Highways Ministries for a suggested donation of $18. The book includes a Bible Study and has received some endorsements:
“As Leilani and Jerome Haywood’s pastors for 17 years, we have watched them go through practically every stage of parenting with their three children. Leilani not only works hard as a mother, she also champions the Bible principles of child-rearing that we have taught our World Revival Church family. Not everyone believes that children crave God’s presence and will respond to His Word and ways! We thank God for Leilani’s faith and perseverance in not only sticking with God’s plan for their children, but sharing her transparent views on the challenges and joys of raising kids who are powerful, effective and devoted to God.” Pastors Steve and Kathy Gray, World Revival Church
“Leilani’s transparency separates herself from many authors. I love her honesty of the things she may have done wrong and even her honest feelings of how she had to give up some of her desires to raise her children. Her stories will make you laugh, cry and at times make you stop and think about how precious your children really are. As a child advocate, I’m so grateful for Leilani’s willingness to put her life on display to help parents put a priority in raising this younger generation for the Lord!” Tricia Reyes, co-founder of Church Of Joy Reach A Generation, author and blogger, Talks With Tricia
“If you have a passion to see your children love God and walk with Him in their teen and adult years, then this book should be at the top of your required-reading list. You will find much more than good advice. You will be given tools to help your children cultivate a personal faith that they can own and defend and examples of how this works in real life. Leilani’s personal testimony of how she walked away from dysfunction to raise children who are impacting the kingdom of God in tangible ways will inspire you to invest eternally in your own children.” Rosilind Jukic, author, “A Little R&R,” and founder of Christian Blogger Community
I’m dedicating this book to my mom Aloha, who took care of children that were not her own. Please join me in advocating for children by either purchasing this book, or sharing about this book with your friends. You can also make a donation to the Orphan Justice Center. Click here to buy the book.