Wednesday, November 30, 2011

It's beginning to feel... a little... like Christmas!

Christmas is less than a month away... and up until this point it hasn't really felt like the holidays... Thanksgiving just isn't the same without the parade and football and warm snuggly sweaters.

However, this week it's finally starting to get cold here. I actually got to break out my North Face and GLOVES yesterday! But it's beginning to feel more like Christmas for reasons bigger than the weather.

This week we have a group of 30 women here who have named themselves the "Christmas Ladies". They are bringing Christmas in various forms to each and every children's home that we work with. Yesterday was their first day and they started things off with an all out Christmas extravaganza at Casa Hogar Douglas complete with crafts, cookies, 32 pizzas, Christmas performances, Christmas carols and candles. It was a little bit crazy... but what Christmas party with 70 children isn't?

After all the madness the night ended with one beautifully calm moment. Each child was given a candle. Not gonna lie... I had extreme reservations about giving each child an open flame. But to my surprise no one died. No one caught on fire. And instead, it was beautiful calm and quiet as we sang Silent Night in our respective languages. It was so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes to see each little face that I love glowing in the dark.

And it finally started to feel like Christmas :)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I confess.

If you haven't noticed by now I'm kind of obsessed with the 20 boys I get the privilege of caring for each week. It's the 10 8-12 year olds on Monday and then the little guys on Tuesday. And honestly that are my very very favorite days of the week. It usually means working two 14 hour days in a row and Two mornings of getting up at 5:40 AM. But for some strange reason I love it. I guess it's something about getting to be their home base for that whole day. During those days I have the incredible privilege of sharing the highs and lows of their day. It means really hard conversations about what we do with anger or how to speak with respect. But it also means really sweet moments of snuggles on the couch or an unsolicited "I love you". I could blog for hours about all the moments I love during any given day. I could also talk for hours about each and every one of them. Like I said, I'm kind of obsessed.

And as I reflect on this fact I realize that for as much as I'm obsessed with them, God is so much more obsessed with them. The love I feel for them is only a fraction of the love their heavenly father feels for them. And all this love that I feel is really just God giving me a tiny bit of his love for me to pass on to them. The Lord is passionate about the orphan child. Over and over again in scripture we are command to defend and protect the fatherless. The promises God has for them are astounding. It is God who is obsessed with them, each and every one of them.

So maybe that's why I love taking care of them so much. Because for that whole day I get to be a conduit of the obsessive love the Lord has for these boys. If I am abiding in him, God continually fills me with more and more of his love to give out. And how can I not love a day when I get to share the love of Christ all day long?

My prayer before each day is that these boys would experience that too. That they would feel the love of Christ in the same way that I do. That they would experience true genuine love and it would bind up their little hearts just enough for them to experience the love that comes directly from their heavenly father.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Will You Join Us?

Meet Alex.
Following a conversation I had with Caroline this morning, I wanted you all to meet him and to ask for your help.
You see, I adore this little guy. And tears literally come to my eyes when I think about the next 10 years of his life. He was an infant when he and his two brothers arrived at Casa Hogar Douglas. And, because of the laws in place and custody that his father maintains, he is stuck. The way it's looking now, he is doomed to live in an orphanage forever. There isn't any forward motion or solutions being sought out. He is just there and will be there forever. And that is just not ok with me. This can't possibly be it for Alex. Right now, he is smart and kind and hilarious and loves to cuddle. But the statistics about the ways that life in an institution negatively affects a child mentally, physically and emotionally are astounding. When I think about his life and his future I feel helpless and powerless to do anything. I just want to cry and beg that somebody, anybody would do something. But then I'm reminded of the power of prayer. I am reminded that I have a heavenly father for whom nothing is impossible. I'm so quick to forget just how powerful God really is. He's sovereign over laws and governments, and he's sovereign over Alex's future. So won't you join us in praying that the earth would shake and the mountains would move and somehow someway Alex would have a family?
Caroline also posted about Alex on her blog, you should check it out for yourself!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Feliz Cumpleanos Jair!

Meet Jair. Two weeks ago he turned 10 years old. And I had the incredible privilege of attending his surprise birthday party. Recently Jair had new caregivers move in to take care of him and they went above and beyond for Jair’s birthday. There were balloons hung glitter signs made and cakes baked. We all hid upstairs with the lights off and when Jair opened the door we yelled “Feliz Cumpleanos!” and started singing the Mexican happy birthday song. Jair was beaming. We then ate spaghetti and pizza (which is a huuuge treat around here) and played some N64. It was a great night. But the best thing about it was that anyone who looked at Jair’s face knew that he felt so loved. You see, Jair is kind of a special kid. About a year ago a group of audiologists came on a medical trip with Back2Back and decided to do some hearing screenings at Casa Hogar Douglas. The kids were told to raise their hand when they heard the high pitch sound coming through the head phone. When it was Jair’s turn to go, he never raised a single hand. The doctors figured the machine wasn’t working and tested it themselves just to be sure. As it turns out, the machine was totally fine. In fact, it was Jair’s ears that had the problem. He was born prematurely and then apparently experienced repeated undiagnosed and repeatedly untreated ear infections causing him to lose nearly all of his hearing. However, no one had any idea that this kid was nearly deaf. Suddenly his speech and behavior problems along with his constant yelling finally made sense. For years people had made fun of him and called him dumb. He was never the cool kid in school. Plus, he was constantly scolded him for not listening or following directions. Little did they know Jair is actually really smart and has actually taught himself to read lips. So, as soon as this discovery was made Jair was changed to a school for kids with special needs and with this change his self-esteem and confidence sky rocketed. He was finally supported and encouraged and school and now he loooves learning. And on this night, the night of his birthday, you could see his confidence coming out of every bit of his being. He felt loved, he felt important and most of all he felt really really cool. Here are some pictures from his awesome party ☺

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Prayer of a Child.

This post is kind of a continuation of the one below because it happened on the very same night. Anyways, as I was in the process of putting the boys to sleep that night I went around as usual and prayed with each one. Normally I do most of the praying and they just agree in their heads, add anything they think I’m missing and then we say “amen”. It’s always one of my favorite parts of the day. I cherish the opportunity to proclaim truth over them and pray for protection from the nightmares that some many of them experience each night. But this night Rodrigo’s prayer in particular stood out amongst the rest. I guess I should back track a bit and tell you a little more about Rodrigo. Rodrigo is 12 years old and the oldest of three siblings that were dropped off at the children’s home in March. He looooves to sing and proudly told us last week that he dreams of one day being a worship leader and telling everyone that God loves them and has a plan for their lives. I’m telling you, this kid can preach. And for a long time this is the only side of Rodrigo that we knew, the one that is happy go lucky, loves to sing and loooves the Lord. However, a few weeks ago it finally came to light that Rodrigo has really been having a hard time in school. More so, he just refuses to do pretty much anything at school. It is not because he is lazy, or not smart or a bad kid. It’s because he’s hurting. It’s because he can’t control anything in his life so he’ll find control in whatever area possible. And for Rodrigo, that’s his schoolwork. He has the power to refuse, that he can control, so he will. Yesterday I asked Rodrigo about all this, about why it was he wasn’t working in school. He basically told me his heart was too full of anger and sadness to try and work on anything else. We talked about how he could try to give his hurt and his sadness to God and ask for God to give him the strength to work in school. But honestly at the end of the conversation I wasn’t sure I had been much of a help. So all that to lead up to the point where Rodrigo called me over to his bed and said he wanted to pray. I knelt down by his bed and closed my eyes and Rodrigo began to speak truth over me. He gave thanks to God, that I let them use my cell phone and the N64 to play games. He praised God and thanked God for me and my life. He prayed that I would know just how much the boys love me and that I would know just how much more God loves me. He gave thanks for the work God is doing in my life. He gave thanks that I am here to encourage them and help them and love them. He prayed that God would give me the strength to keep working. And he prayed it all in the name of our wonderful savior Jesus. I was pretty much dumbfounded and couldn’t think of anything to say but thank you, I love you, goodnight. I really just wanted to cry right there. I was so incredibly humbled by his words. I know his life circumstances; I know his heart is hurting, yet he had the faith and selflessness to cry out to his heavenly father on my behalf. That night I was blessed beyond measure by the prayer of a 12 year old orphan. Lord, I pray for a heart like Rodrigo, a heart that is sold out and dependent on you even when I am hurting. When life seems unfair and out of control I pray that I would look beyond circumstances and with the faith of a child cry out to my heavenly father and give thanks. Amen.

Friday, November 11, 2011


Children arrive at a children's home for lots of different reasons. Whatever the reason may be, the circumstances of their lives has brought them to this point. And now here it is, the life changing day that they are dropped off. Yesterday my roommate Caroline and I were working at Casa Hogar Douglas taking care of the Primario dorm (this is the dorm that includes 9 boys ages 8-12) so that their caregivers could have a day off to rest, when it happened. At about 2 o'clock Mario arrived at our door. This was the first time that I have ever been there when a new kid arrives at the dorm, and not only was I there, but I was the one in charge that day. We gave him a quick run down of everyone's names and a tried to offer some explanations about why these two american girls instead of the couple that would normally be taking care of them. We showed him where the bathroom was a found a place to put his small bag of stuff and then that was it. Here he was. One of the boys, Antonio, quickly jumped to Mario's aid and started showing him how to play N64, where everyone else lived at the home, and just how fun the giant slide outside is. I was overwhelmed and so proud of the compassion that Antonio showed him. In fact, they all did an incredible job of coming around Mario supporting him and showing him all the ins and outs of living at Douglas. At the end of the day I showed Mario his new bed and tucked him in. We then talked through everything that would happen the next day "Who will wake me up?" "Will we eat cornflakes?" "Are they all going to go to school?" I sat there and answered question after question about this little man's new life. And all the while my heart broke into a million pieces. You see, Mario also has two sisters that are 3 and 4 years old and they too were going to bed in a whole new world. This is the first time in their lives they aren't sleeping in the same room as their older brother. In fact, the 4 year old was so distraught over this that before bed she spent half an hour camped out in the boys dorm. When she finally had to leave she cried "I want my brother, I want my brother" and ultimately "I just want my Mommy". What response did any of us have to that? Of course she does. Of course she wants her mommy. This new place she's in is new and different and therefore to her, it's terrifying. She belongs with her mommy. But the brokenness of this world is creating circumstances that don't allow for that right now. The safest place at this moment for these kids is in a children's home. By no fault of their own, their world has been turned upside down. And I hate that for them. My heart breaks over the pain that their little hearts are going through. Life in a children's home is not easy. Even when it is a place that is loving and good and safe, it is still hard. We could slave away working day and night to make it the best place ever, but it still wouldn't be enough to prevent the wounds to their heart that they will inevitably experience being 1 of 70 children at the home. I don't say that to be pessimistic or as an excuse not to try our best. But instead, I say it because I honestly believe it's true. I will work my hardest to pour love and affection and attention over these children and then I will cry out with all my heart to the Lord on their behalf. That he would work to bind the wounds and heal their hearts. I will trust that this is his plan and that it is good. "God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing" Psalm 98:6

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Tutoring Jose

One of the biggest projects I’ve begun working on while since I moved here is tutoring Jose. Jose is 7 years old and in second grade. He’s made quite a few appearances on my blog before because for whatever reason, this sweet child just has my heart. I knew from previous years that he had been struggling in school, especially with reading. Therefore, he was a target of mine from the start. As soon as I got here I did some assessments and realized he only knew about 15 of the 33 letter sounds he needed to know in Spanish. So we started with the letters. Everyday we do his homework together and then play games and read books to help him practice letter sounds and learn to read. And I am SO excited to announce that as of October 18th he knew ALL of the letter sounds!! We’re still working on putting the sounds together to read words… but it’s progress… definite progress. So I am praising the Lord for that. The hour a day I spend with Jose is literally my favorite hour of the day. I love the concentrated one on one time that tutoring has allowed us. I get to speak truth into his life about who he is and who God created him to be while we work on the very necessary life skill of reading. I can’t think of a better way to send my days.

One day last week Jose didn’t go to school because he had a dentist appointment, so I brought him to our apartment and Jose and I had “home school”. This is a picture of us building words together.