James 1:27 - Loving Orphans!
Written by: Lisa, Morgan, and Conner on behalf of the team
Hola from Guatemala! After a night of sleeping in bunk beds at Casa Bernabe' and sharing our quarters with a great mission team from Ohio, we awoke on Sunday excited to help get the children ready to worship the Lord Casa Bernabe' style. Like the prior day, as our team struggled to help get approximately 12-15 children ranging in age from babies to two year olds ready for church, our team continued to be amazed at the enormous amount of responsibilities placed on the house parents and their teenage assistants. They truly have a calling on their life in order to sustain the daily tasks of caring for these children. When the kids were ready for church, we once again climbed the steep stairs (approx 120 steps) with a baby in our arms or holding a little one's hands to reach the area in which the church services were held.
The children were dressed nicely for church and you could definitely tell the children were accustomed to this routine. As Amy blogged yesterday, the children are organized into homes, called Casas, and the children in the homes sit together during church. It was fun to see all the children, staff, and visitors pour into the church area excited to worship God. Our team each had a child to love, sing, and dance with during the service. The worship band in Morgan's words was "amazing". Conner commented that it was an "astounding" site that Guatemalans and Americans were praising the Lord together. The energy of the service was apparent to all those participating. There was a man waving a flag and dancing during the worship time along with dancing by the front stage by the children and even our own team member, Marlene. The precious children of Casa Bernabe', though they come from tough circumstances and will continue have real struggles in their lives, are being fed the Word of God which will give them the strength they need throughout their lives.
After church, we took the 3 year olds to the playground area for Sunday school and some fun playtime. We each had particular children that we established relationships with in a short amount of time. Conner had a little boy named William from the Baby Home that he bonded with and William wouldn't let Conner put him down without a fight. Morgan and I bonded with Mariella (who loved the monkey bars) and Veronica, (who loved to twirl) from the Toddler house (ages 3 to 5) and Hanna and Dulce from the Baby house (up to 2 years). Dulce was always attached to Morgan in some way today. Jenni bonded with Adan in the Baby house and could often be found singing sweet Christian songs in Spanish to the children. Phil thought Antonia and Katerine were pretty special and tried to keep up with the energy of Antonia. Amy also bonded with Mariella and Jackson loved spending time with Stephania from the Toddler house. Marlene had fun spending time with Adan, Claudia, and Veronica.
Though particular children touched our hearts in special ways by just being the one in front of us that needed some loving and hugging, all of the children have made lasting imprints on our hearts that won't be forgotten. We all prayed over as many children as possible throughout the day and some of us also felt led to sponsor some of the kids God placed in our paths. We are excited to continue these relationships with the children. Guatemala is closed for adoptions so there is an overflow of children going into the orphanages and they need help providing for these children.
During the afternoon, we helped the Baby house with lunch after they got up from their naps. It was so cute to see 12-15 little ones sitting around patiently in a circle in their high chairs ready to be fed. We helped the kids through their lunchtime routine and then took them outside to play. While at the baby house, we met the mother of one of the little boys. Morgan and Conner were astonished to find out that the mother was only 12 years old. Unfortunately, here in Guatemala, this is not an unfamiliar story. The culture here is to have a lot of children. The mothers and various caretakers are young themselves so a lot of unnecessary accidents and illnesses result as a lack of education on safety and hygiene.
Towards the late afternoon, we took the children in the Toddler house for a walk on the large grounds of Casa Bernabe'. During our walk, we saw a huge mansion high on a hill. It makes one pause to see that much wealth overlooking an orphanage in need. In Guatemala, you only see extreme wealth or extreme poverty. Two very sharp contrasts that are hard to reconcile in one's mind. If only we all saw our possessions as God's and not our own, there wouldn't be such extreme poverty in the world today. This is something that everyone will wrestle with on our return to the States.
After dinner, we headed back over to the Toddler house to help get the kids ready for bed. We had an assembly line going as the kids were showered and dressed for bed. Once again, it was a hilarious process. When the van arrived to take us back to Art and Lisa's home in San Lucas, we said our last good-byes to the children which took a really long time. We couldn't give the children enough hugs. We do know that God will be them always.
Just like hot chocolate on a ski slope that tastes better after it's earned, we will all sleep soundly and happily tonight knowing that our day was well spent. Tomorrow, we will be spending the day in Antigua and will have some time to process the past few life changing days.