Loving the Fatherless
his is Amy and Phil, writing the blog for the team today. Today is Saturday. We have been here for 3 full days and it seems like a different lifetime. There is no way to put this experience adequately into words. Our agenda for Saturday and Sunday is ministry at the Casa Bernabe Home for Children. We left the Camarena home this morning and drove for over an hour to reach the children's home. (It is not politically correct to call it an orphanage, but it is). Jenni, our trip leader, said this orphanage is the nicest institutionalized home she has ever seen. It is extremely well organized. The children are housed in individual homes with house parents (12-15 children per home, plus those of the house parents). This seems like a much healthier atmosphere for the children than rows and rows of bunks in one huge room. The children in Casa Bernabe are either orphans or have been removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect. We saw this first hand later in the visit.
We started out in the common area and met the toddlers from the Casa de Alabanza home. We met the house parents - Amanda and Billy - and found out they have 15 toddlers (age 3-6) in their house. Can you even imagine? We spent an hour or so loving on these children who just soaked it up. Many of them wanted nothing more than to be carried on your hip. Phil experienced a little boy who repeatedly held onto Phil's finger. It was clear that the little boy ached for his daddy.
We found out the Baby House needed help (yippee!!) so we walked down 108 steps to get there. We each were drawn especially to a different child. We were asked to help get the children (all 13 of them) up the hill to a little party. We each got to love on a little one and help them eat hot dogs and cake. The children are amazingly adept and coordinated. It is clear that they must learn early to fend for themselves.
s we spent more time with the children, we noticed so many were marked by scars. It was truly heart-breaking as we wondered if that event could be the reason the child was removed from the home. Regardless of how it happened, the environment in Guatemela is nowhere near the safety we presume to have in America, but we don't have time to go into all of that. Each face we see makes us think of our precious Sophie (4 years old and adopted from Guatemala), and how she could so easily have been in this poverty. We are so grateful to have her as our daughter in America.
Our next mission was to bless Amanda and Billy and their 15 toddlers with a pizza party. We got to give the house parents a small break, and love on the toddlers with a treat of pizza. Amanda and Billy moved here from Boston a year ago. They have a 13 year old son named William, a 15 year old daughter (Emily) and a 6 year old son (Yates). Hanging out with the toddlers was actually a really fun time, as long as you could protect your heart from the realization that they have each experienced some horrific event to get here (either their parents died, or they were abused to the point of removal from the home and neither one is a good answer).
The children sleep in miniature bunk beds. There are 5 girls and 10 boys in separate rooms. We got to witness the bathtime event, which was truly hilarious. We were standing in the hall, while Billy shared his heart with us. He is concerned for his son William, who has obediently followed the call on his parents life to Guatemala, but is not happy about it. We can so identify with their dilemma as we tried to picture our son Jackson (age 13 also) surviving life in Guatemala if we were missionaries (you people can stop snorting now!). We truly felt for Billy and Amanda AND William. While we were having this serious discussion, children started walking down the hall stripping. They were throwing clothes into a laundry basket in the hall (impressive) and walking into their respective bathrooms for a group shower. There were 5 girls in one tub and 10 boys in another tub, being "hosed down" with a removable shower head. Meanwhile, Billy is completely calm and ignoring the chaos, pouring out his heart about his concern for his son. We were in awe of the organized chaos - it reminded us of a 6 & under swim meet!. We got to step in and dress a bunch of them in PJ's and socks and snuggle for kisses and "buenas noches".
Today was a more light-hearted day, considering the previous events in our trip. The poverty we have witnessed is completely heart-stopping and mind-numbing. It makes us vow to ourselves we will never complain again. It makes us vow to get home and figure out a way to do more. The need is so great. If you have read Katie Davis's book, her main theme is to "help the one in front of you". She says she feels like she is trying to empty the ocean with a dropper. That's what it looks like here. The need is so great that it's hard to know where to start. However, making a difference in one life is valuable, so that's where we will start.