The Final Chapter

                It’s the day we have dreaded all week, our final day with the kids at the center.  We knew it would come, but all of us hoped it wouldn’t.  We hoped that somehow we could delay it, but we can’t.  Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. . .” Our season in Guatemala has come to an end.  Hopefully I can stall the tears long enough to complete this post.
                Today was the day all of the families came to visit.  I don’t know who was more excited, the children or the team.  We all waited somewhat impatiently for the Mommies and Daddies to arrive.   First there was a worship service for the parents and then the nannies started taking the children to their parents.  One Mama came directly to the baby room for her daughter.  The joy on her face when she spotted her daughter was priceless.  Some of us were permitted to take the children directly to their parents.  I cannot even begin to describe the feeling of being able to hand the precious baby girl I was holding, over to her mother.  Many of the team members stood by witnessing the family interactions.  There were smiles, joy, sadness and tears.  I could barely keep my emotions in check.  Observing the tortured expressions of the mammas as they once again handed over their children ripped me to shreds.  Seeing the crocodile tears of the children was no easier.  Fortunately the team was available to cuddle and comfort the little ones.  The rest of the morning was a rather subdued affair.
                The families did not leave completely empty handed though.  Some of them gave their hearts to Christ during the mini-service which means they no longer walk alone; they now have a savior to comfort and guide them.  Each family also received a gift from their child; a craft with their hand print, and a photo of them.  A team member captured a photo of each family together, I expect those will be presented during their next visit.  All the groceries lovingly packed by the team went home with the families as well.
                There have been happy moments today too.  This morning when I entered the infant room to prepare one of the babies for her bath, she greeted me with her toothless smile, like I was the most important person in her world.  Another toddler caught onto a game of, “answer the phone”.  He entertained all of us by picking up the toy phone, placing it on his ear and saying, “Hola.”   One team member received the priceless gift of a visit from one of her babies who had been at the center during her visit two years ago.  It is all of these seemingly minor things, that really are huge, that will keep us going in the days to come when our sorrow threatens to overwhelm us.
                Our time in Guatemala has affected each of us differently.  Exactly how our lives will change is difficult to predict, but I fully trust that God brought each of us here for a specific purpose.  For some of us that purpose may have already manifest, for some it may take a little longer to recognize.  And honestly, some of us may never fully understand every part of His plan.  What really matters is that we continue on in this life of faith trusting and knowing that God is always in control, even when we can’t see the plan.  And for now, we bid farewell to Guatemala.

Welcome 2014!

                Well, it’s here!!  Whether you welcomed or shunned it, a new year is upon us.  Somehow it just seems incredibly remarkable that this team chose to begin their new year on the mission field.  I can’t help but think that means God has something extraordinary planned in the lives of each person serving here in Guatemala.  Today is a holiday for most Americans, which means relaxing, watching college bowl games, and doing anything but working.  For the team, it is another opportunity to serve, another opportunity to be the hands and feet of Christ, and another opportunity to be a tangible expression of God’s love.
                As I mentioned in a previous post, the children here are not orphans, they have families who love and miss them.  The center hosts family visitation twice a week, tomorrow is one of those days.  Honestly, I have mixed emotions about what tomorrow will hold.  Part of me is excited for the kiddos to see their families.  Part of me looks forward to seeing the brief reunions, but part of me just wants to weep over the thought of it.  These families have had to turn the care of their most precious gift over to strangers.  These families have had to relinquish the right to make day to day decisions in their children’s lives.  These families are missing many of the cherished milestones we all treasure.  Though these families get to visit their children tomorrow, they will leave broken hearted and empty handed.  The depth of their pain weighs heavy on my heart.
                In preparation for the visits, the team has prepared large sacks of food for each family to take home.  Every bag contains about $50 worth of groceries; rice, black beans, cereal, instant soup, pasta, tomato sauce, cooking oil and maize.   The purpose of the center is to get these children healthy and back home with their families as quickly as possible, so as we prepped the bags, we prayed over each family receiving them.  We know that with God all things are possible and that He is able to do exceedingly and abundantly above all that we ask and hope for.
                Today seems somewhat bittersweet.  We have been here long enough to bond with the children; they have fully captured our hearts, and yet tomorrow is our last day with them.  It is difficult to reconcile the reality of our love for them with the possibility that we may never see them again.  Many of the team members have already planned return trips.  Some of them have said the only way they are able to walk away and not fall apart is with the knowledge that they will return.   This afternoon as I placed a beautiful little one in her crib for a nap, she began to cry and so did I.  Come Friday we will all be back home re-engaging with our everyday lives, but I have no doubt each of hearts will ache for the children of Guatemala.
                With a new year comes new opportunities, and for anyone desiring to step out of their comfortable lives and embark on an adventure, I challenge you to go on a mission trip with Orphan’s Heart.  I can almost promise you that although it may be your first, it most certainly won’t be your last!

Adventures on the Mission Field

                After a busy and adventuresome Monday, we boarded the busses for home.  None of us were really ready to leave, but knowing we would return in the morning kept the pep in our step.  The trip home was filled with jubilant renditions of everything from B-I-N-G-O to Amazing Grace.   Just when we thought our day was complete, we discovered more to love about this beautiful county.  Off the beaten path, up a scenic drive, nestled among the trees, stands a huge cross.  Beyond the cross is a panoramic view of the city huddled against a silent volcano.  We posed for a team picture and spent some time trying not to photo bomb everyone else trying to capture the breath-taking scenery for posterity.
                One never knows what to expect food-wise on a mission trip, but everything has been fabulous.  Breakfast and dinner are served via buffet at the hotel with lunch at the center.  There is an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, which for me personally is a big plus!!  Meals are a great time to mingle with the other team members.  With sixty of us here, there is always someone new to chat with.  Much of the team is from Florida, but there are a few Texans too.  It’s fun to hear the stories of what brought this particular team together.  There are a quite a few families on the team, and all of the kids/teens help keep the group lively.
                During the day at the center, the team is rather spread out, so after dinner we gather to share and reflect on our experiences.  It is encouraging to hear others share how much better many of the children are now compared to their last trip.  One person shared about a child who had arrived this summer and was very ill.  Yesterday, when she walked down the hall, he recognized her immediately, ran towards her, threw himself into her arms and exclaimed, “You came back!”  What we are doing here makes a difference!  We may never know the how vast the impact, but it is happening, nonetheless.
                An hour before breakfast each morning, all the adventurous souls meet in the lobby for a walk around the city.   I am happy to sacrifice sleep for the opportunity to explore the city, to witness it come to life.  The architecture is stunning; I have taken some of my best photos during the morning walks.  Each day we visit some place new; yesterday it was an elegant hotel hidden behind a plain wall.  Inside the wall was a magnificent Guatemalan wedding destination complete with fountains, ancient ruins and crypts.  Today we entered a silent chapel, no speaking permitted, where the city residents come daily to pray.  Our tour ended with a stop at the panaderia (bakery) to sample the local pastries.
                After only a day, the center feels comfortable, like we belong.  Upon our arrival this morning, everyone quickly dispersed to their assigned areas and jumped right in.  In the Canary Room that means bathing babies, dressing them for the day and feeding them breakfast.   It’s been a few years since I had to bathe a baby, but the pint-sized sweetheart I got to bathe just smiled and sat patiently.  There are several teens working in the baby room and I love watching them interact with the little ones.  I expect that when they return home and share their tales of Guatemala, their friends will be encouraged and want to serve on mission as well.
                We are called to be salt and light and that is exactly what we are doing here in Guatemala, living out the gospel in a very real and tangible way.  Some may view it as a sacrifice, but to most of us here, it’s just what we do, servant-hood is a way of life and we love doing it.

The Malnutrition Center

Our first day at the center has come to a close and a great day it was. Being here with the babies puts me completely in my element.  While I’m here, they are all mine. I love snuggling with them, kissing on the them, cooing over them and lying on the floor playing with them.  My babies are all grown, each of them taller than me, so I love getting the opportunity to be mama to little ones.

What’s different about this trip is these babies aren’t orphans. These babies have families that love them dearly and are broken over the separation. That really hit home with me today.  I was holding one of the smaller girls, cooing over her when it struck me all her Mama is missing out on and how incredibly difficult that must be for her.  I cannot imagine being unable to care for my child, temporarily turning over custody and only being able to visit once a month.  Understanding the circumstances surrounding these babies makes me realize even more how important my time is here.

I don’t know when it will post but I blogged on behalf of the team today. You can watch for it at http://fbchinternationalchildcare.blogspot.com.

Guatemala Day 1

Well, I’m here in Antigua, Guatemala.  I am happy to report a fairly uneventful trip.  Making my connection at DFW and exiting the airport in Guatemala City were somewhat stressful, but everything worked out.  The team is huge, 60 members!!  I’ve not been part of such a large group on any of my previous trips.

The hotel is about an hour from the airport.  Guatemala is gorgeous, reminds me of Haiti, but surprisingly modern.  We passed several McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Wendy’s, Shell stations, and even a Wal Mart!!  Dinner was tasty; pasta, fish, turkey and lots of fruits and vegetables.  I’m always happy when fresh fruits and veggies are available.  The water for the shower was tepid, but I’m clean!  I was also happy to learn there is a group walk scheduled every morning for anyone that is interested.  Ooo, ooo pick me, pick me!!

It’s only 8:00 but I’m plum tuckered out plus typing on a tablet isn’t easy.  Until tomorrow. . .

Broken

Strength wanes, resolve fades
Hope extinguished
Emptiness swims behind haunted eyes
Fighter instincts make hasty retreat
Beaten.  Weary.  Lost.
Failure, once held at bay now leaves destructive carnage
Searches for meaning, discovers blank pages
Comfort; no words can bring
Barbed wire, broken glass, hazardous trail
Darkened sky; no navigational compass, no stars for light
Forward motion futile, barricaded path
No rescue.  No escape

Turmoil

Silence explodes, deafening in it’s eerie quiet
Invisible shackles bind her to this place
Coyly taunting, Freedom taps at the windowpane
Writhing, twisting, she struggles to break the bonds
Strong. Determined. Vice-like. They hold.
Spent, she crumbles, still bound, no escape
Precious sleep brings momentary respite
She awakens to hope, but it is fleeting
Heavy chains drape her shoulders, pulled tighter by each careless act
Kindness offered, ne’er returned
Worn. Weary. She stumbles.
Wounded, she cries, weeps wretched tears
Blinded by sorrow, unable to breathe
She looks for purpose
Hidden away in secret depths it remains
Digging, scratching, searching
Bloody, bruised and dirty, she is lost
Lost in a cell she did not choose,
Yearning for a stay of execution