Nos Vemos, Honduras

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Friends and Family,

It is with great joy and sadness that I announce my time in Honduras pursing full time ministry is coming to a close.  I am beyond blessed to have been in this unique position to serve God by serving his abandoned and neglected children living in children’s homes, on the street, and in the bordos of San Pedro Sula, Honduras for two and a half years.  The decision to return to live in the U.S. did not come lightly.  After many conversations with my pastors, my counselor, and first and foremost my Father God, it was laid upon my heart that this is the next step is an ever growing journey.  During this time I have; walked side by side with the children’s home Senderos de Amor (Paths of Love) assisting wherever and however I can, taught English at the Sparrow Academy to children living in impoverished areas, participated in numerous outreach activities with other organizations, and grown in community with other missionaries living in Honduras.  Last and certainly, not least, I have developed a deep dependency on God’s unwavering faithfulness, confidence in His Holy plan, and rested assurance in His blessed insurance.  I can confidently say, I love deeper, wider, and longer than I ever thought possible.    I am grateful for you and your prayerful support and financial investment that have allowed me to submit and serve in a truly spectacular way.  
 
I will return to Arizona on May 4th, 2017.  My immediate plan is to rest, restore, and process many of the experiences God has given me these past few years. 

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The leaving is as difficult to explain as the coming. God’s call for me rarely seems to be easy. There’s always a period of submission. It’s a contradictory time when my flesh wants to stay in routine and the Spirit urges me to move. But when submission comes, as it always does, His peace and joy flood my senses and make the next step so incredibly bearable. In a few days I’ll be embarking on this ‘next step’ of returning to live in the U.S..

When I was preparing to move to Honduras, I had no idea how long I would be here. ‘Indefinitely’, was my response to everyone’s questions. While my lips said indefinitely, my heart said forever. Honduras will be my home. And for over 2 years, I put every effort into making it my home. In many respects it is. I have formed deeply woven relationships with friends that feel more like family. Friends that I’ve sat knee to knee with praying, shouldering, and witnessing the weighted effects of poverty on the children we love. Our shared experiences, adventures, and meals reflect so much of the community of the early church. We gather and eat and cry and encourage and vent and joke and take in every single moment of the privilege it is to serve in this way. From progressive dinners to Taco Tuesdays, rarely do I eat alone. It will be hard to leave this community.

Each step into the brokenness, into the shattered life, reveals such raw and significant beauty. In every opportunity to show Christ’s love to those that are hard to love, hard to reach, I find myself standing at the precipice of Holy Ground. Here, Holy ground is often covered in the mud, the tears, and the blood of the broken that are aching and craving love. Stepping into and on this Holy ground is the only way to show love. It is where love lives. It is how love lives. Holy ground is so far out of the comfort zone, so deeply imbedded in generational brokenness, easy to pass by and ignore, and so incredibly inhabited by the Holy Spirit which constantly urges me to go deeper and deeper into the mire. And when I get to the other side, when I crawl and claw through the trauma and tragedy I find small little mirrors echoing the cry of humanity for a savior to come and redeem and restore. I see scars of abandonment and neglect, abuse and misuse – to which a 5-year-old soul feels 55. I find truths in these little mirrors that I have not yet discovered. They have persevered such hardships that they can recognize genuine love. I find home and hope in their stories and struggles. It will be hard to not walk side-by-side daily with these incredible souls.

I leave Honduras knowing that it is simply my time to no longer live here right now.  She is a beautiful country and has taught me many things. Unforgettable things. Unfathomable things. She opened up her mountains and lakes and beaches, her islands, tropical flowers, and beautiful sunsets to me. She cradles the many beautiful sons and daughters I’ve had the privilege to hold and love in the in-between times.  Because of you, Honduras, I have 2 homes and more family that I ever dreamed of.  Because of you, Honduras, I love deeper, wider, and longer than I ever thought possible.  I am eagerly anticipating the day when my twos home will be one.

It’s not good-bye, it’s nos vemos – I’ll be seeing you!

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The Mother of all Mothers

Nope, this post is not about my momma. HOWEVER she is, to me, the best mother in the world.

And this post is most definitely not about me and my inept ability to love surrendered and abandoned children in Honduras.

This post is not about Kate and her 8, or Saint and North’s mom.

This post is about women whom I’ve seen in passing while doing life. Most I’ve never met, some I’ve only seen out of rear/side view mirrors. Others I’ve had a meal with. Lately, It seems every median and corner I drive by there are women that are doing things they probably would rather not do to keep their family alive and together. They sell things, they sell themselves, and they send their children into stopped traffic to beg for money, children smaller than the hood of my car.

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This would not be acceptable in many first world countries. This would not be acceptable in many Christian communities. This should not be acceptable socially and economically. It shouldn’t even exist theoretically. Yet, it does. And, I have to admit that it’s easy, very easy, to dismiss. It’s easy to slip a 1 Lempira bill out of a cracked window and whisper a blessing to the momma who is sitting sun baked under a tree surrounded by wrappings from last night’s or last week’s dinner. It is easy to judge them. It is easy to have compassion for their children and harsh criticism for the women.

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And I can’t help but think how acceptable it is for them, these mommas, to do a thing like this. Most of these are women who would do just about anything to provide for their children. Things we couldn’t fathom doing. Every day I encounter women who are faced with lots of decisions to make. And the decision that seems to weigh the heaviest is, ‘how do I provide for my children?’ Do I give them up? Do I leave them in the care of my family while I try to find work? This often puts them directly at risk for abuse and neglect? Do I abandon them on the side of the road because they are born with a disability that I cannot care for? What must a woman come to when she decides to leave her child in a plastic bag alongside a pile of trash in an ally? What thoughts have ran through her head when she decides to leave the hospital room without her child? What sort of past trauma or generational sin has she endured when she decides to leave and never look back?

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My highly sensitive and empathetic heart breaks as I think about their stories. And what terrifies me the most is the numbness in their eyes. For some have accepted that this is what life has to offer and these choices are apart of this life. It just isn’t right. And, it just isn’t fair.

So I turn to the scriptures to make some sense of this injustice of the heart.

‘And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for 12 years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak. Because she thought, if I touch his clothes, I will be healed’.

The Gospel of Mark describes Jesus, after understanding who touched him, and the woman falling at his feet, trembling with fear confessed that it was her that touched him simply said to her,

‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering’.

Maybe we’ve seen this woman on the side of the road. Maybe she’s an outcast from her community for things that she’s done, or things that have been done to her. Maybe we’ve offered her a 1 Lempira bill. Maybe we’ve taken her to the doctor for her condition.

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Some of these women have hope. After 12 years of suffering, and all of her money gone, she still has Hope. When I see someone who has nothing and still strives for everything, they give me hope. I feel like they can see something that I often can’t often see or sometimes forget to see. And maybe that’s the very active, very real presence of God’s grace that is constantly redeeming our past, preparing a future, and giving us a hopeful present.  It’s not a sugar-coated hope that gives the warm and fuzzies at night.  It is  the ‘down on your knees praying for your next meal, or protection for your children’s purity, from your husbands rage, or from your neighbor’s son in a gang’ type of hope that propels you to do unthinkable things to keep your family fed and together.  I may not agree with their choices and I may not understand their motivations, but I do respect them.

This is the very real and raw life lived in poverty and pain which bring the hope of the Gospel to life.

Being Home

I have a desire to be home. For a while, I thought that meant to be where I spent the majority of my life, in Tempe, Arizona. Where my mom makes the best tacos. Where my dad sits outside at dusk and waters grass that refuses to grow.  Home has my Target, my Fry’s, my favorite bookstore, and my favorite sunsets.

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Since I moved to Honduras nearly two years ago, I’ve struggled being so far from home. Trips home, video calls with the family, and visits from friends have eased the longing for home, comfort, and familiarity. But I wondered how long it would take and how many prayers needed to be said to detach from my Arizona home and consider Honduras my new home, because having two homes is impossible, so I thought.  I hadn’t realized how deeply rooted I was in being home, until I wasn’t.

And in the middle of all of this homesickness, God was wrecking my heart for children who also had homes but couldn’t go home – for drastically different reasons.

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Yesterday I met David (not pictured). He’s one of the handful of new kiddos at Senderos de Amor. This home has recently opened its doors to receive children for temporary placement while the government decides where they will continue on in their journey. These are children that were rounded up from street corners from random ‘clean-up’ sweeps by the police, children deported back to Honduras that were detained trying to cross the U.S. – Mexico border, and includes children recently surrendered and/or abandoned from their families due to neglect, abuse, and extreme poverty.

David sat at the edge of his bed looking quite frustrated, mad even. When I approached him, he gave me the ‘don’t talk to me’ glare. With my hands up, I gave him the ‘Too bad, I’m coming in’ look. Getting to know recently surrendered children in children’s homes can be a lot like planting a tree in a parking lot. On a good day, you have the seeds in your pocket, the tools needed to dig, and you even have sunshine. But the thick layer of concrete that separates you from rich, rich soil is nothing you’re ever prepared to break through.

‘I’m worried about my mom.’

‘I hate it here.’

2 small truths were all he managed to say.

2 undeniable truths that no child should every have to say.

Being someplace you have to be, maybe even feel called to be, and recognizing that sometimes it’s not where you want to be, is difficult. I think we were all created in a way to be anchored to something that manifests and exemplifies the unconditional love of God, whether we know it or not.  It could be family, friends, a home, or even creation. And the moment that anchor slips out from underneath you, we feel vulnerable and exposed. If you’re anything like me, not having a home, not being home, and not feeling at home affects how you do life. What do I anchor to? Where are my comforts, safety, and security for my heavy head and weary heart?

I didn’t have any balmy words to say to him to soothe the ache for home that David was feeling. In fact, all that I could think to say was is what Jesus is currently teaching me.

Home is where I find and seek Jesus.

This sentence alone can be very off-putting and irritating for some kids. Kids that have endured way too much trauma and neglect don’t want to hear about Jesus.   Kids that are hungry, haven’t showered in days, higher than the clouds, don’t want to hear about Jesus.

What can he do for me that I can’t do for my self?

Where was Jesus when __________ happened?

He doesn’t believe in me, so why should I believe in Him?

Ok, that’s fair, I think to myself as I curse the thick cement in the parking lot.

A pivotal point in my own personal testimony was understanding how relatable the Gospel was to my own story.  The Gospel isn’t just God’s story, it is mine as well.  I needed to see my scars reflected and redeemed in Jesus.

15293424_10209846923002449_404991704_oSo David and I talked about how Jesus grew up in a poor family – much like David.

We talked about how God put something very unique and special in Jesus – much like he did with David.

We talked about how Jesus had gone from his family and spent some time in the desert encountering adversity and opposition – much like David.

We talked about how Jesus traveled far from his family meeting new people and finding family with friends.  And through his travels, Jesus felt at home because he was able to see beyond the messy, messy world.  Jesus was at home wherever he went because God was with him.  God was within Him.  God saw everything he saw, felt every emotion he felt, and God’s love never, ever left him.

15302452_10209846924762493_1512476353_oI explained to David, that if I carry Jesus with me, I’m always home.

Home is choosing to persevere under the heavy burdens while choosing to consume His word on a daily, sometimes hourly basis.

15303814_10209846923882471_929776952_oI hope and pray that kids like David, enduring very difficult circumstances can choose tHome is feeling safe under His armor when politics, crime, and poverty threaten the lives of those I love.

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Home is common ground, shared wounds, and deep sighs.

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Home is choosing to BE home, understanding that I am right where I’m supposed to be as long as I keep Him where He’s supposed to be.

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Or in Jesus’ words, Home is asking the Father to have those he has given to me, to be with me, wherever I am, and to see His glory, the glory He gave because He loved me before the creation of the world.

This is home.

As I sat on the floor and talked to David about his home and all the things he missed, I assured him and myself that even in the midst of transition and change, we can find pieces of home when we look inside and find something that doesn’t change:

God’s love for us.

Rest.

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I’m learning a lot about this 4 letter word these days. I thought rest was something you did while sick. When your body clearly can’t handle life’s normal threshold of stressors because of a fever or a broken bone, you rest to regain your strength. Or, rest is something you plan out in advance. Like taking a vacation at the end of a very busy season of life. For those of us who are kind enough to our bodies, rest is also something you plan into your daily life. Giving your mind and body time at the end of a long day to rest, relax, and restore.

True rest seems to be a bit more complicated than that.

I have been sick for a while. I ran myself a little too ragged a few months ago which resulted in a weeklong stay in a Hospital in Honduras. My GI tract had more or less shut down. I lost about 12 pounds in 8 days. And what was most concerning was that the doctors were not too confident at what might be causing all of this confusion in my body. At their suggestion, I caught the next flight home to see some answers in the U.S.. After a couple nights’ stay at a hospital in Phoenix, over two dozen tests, and a follow up appointment with an infectious disease specialist, I finally have a few answers. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a listing of lab results that lit up like a Christmas tree with so many results out of range.

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I had/have 3 enteric infections that ruled my GI tract. One went rogue and became septic. I’ve also have exposures to a handful of other infections, one being Dengue. I’m happy to say that I’m on the upswing. Many of these infections are working their way out of my system. And per doctor’s orders. I’m resting. This rest is different. It’s a forceful rest.

My body has taken a huge hit. I’m working to regain the strength in my muscles and test the limits of my digestive system.   My immune system is in disarray and my heart has been a little more flip-floppy than usual.

I think forceful rest is necessary when your body and your heart are misaligned. And in my case, no two things about me were pointing in the same direction.   There are many things that I was unprepared for while being on the mission field. I had no idea that sickness would throw a monkey wrench into my bicycle-tire of a life. It caused me to stop, when I didn’t want to stop.

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All of this stopping, and resting, and sickness makes me think about just how Jesus handled life. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t recall reading about any part of Jesus’s body shutting down during his three years of ministry. And, I don’t think he took the disciples to Roatan for a long weekend get-a-way. However, at various times throughout his ministry he does talk about finding true rest, true harmony, and seeking true peace in Him…amidst the chaos. I think what Jesus was talking about was that true rest is found IN work, not from work. Because true rest requires work. It’s laborious to enter into rest and peace and confidence when the world is staring you straight in the face with a never-ending to-do list. I really do think that God designed us to operate out of rest and not stress or fear, or worry.  And maybe that’s why, now at 36, finding true rest is very difficult for me because it requires so much work to shed the layers that fear and worry have built.

I’m looking forward to learning a thing or two about resting in His good words, and trusting that true rest will come when I learn to get out of my own way.

Just over 1

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February marks my 16th month of being on the mission field in Honduras. There should be a chip for that. Because missionary life is very much a sobering reality of the world we’ve been given.  More times than I’d like to admit, I feel hopeless and helpless. Yet, I constantly interact with children and families that barely have the means to survive. And in most circumstances I find that hope is often the one thing that is in abundance. Hope for themselves, hope for their children, hope that one day someone, somewhere, or something can come and ease the burden that poverty brings.

Here are a few things I’ve learned after 16 months in Honduras:

Enduring a Honduran summer has changed my perception of HEAT.

There is only one kind of bug spray that works here. It’s is a fine mist of 1-part liver-destroying deet and 2-parts Holy Spirit.

Love grows on trees…in the shape of avocados that are as big as your head…from your neighbor’s yard.

You’ve completely acclimated when you can sleep with a blanket and no a/c in the dead heat of summer.

Every day I seem to lose my mind as I unfold stories of trauma and neglect for the children I serve. I get it back when I unpack my day to a God that knows it all.

Family is a fusion of cross-cultural, multi-generational, like-minded servants all choosing to seek the face of Jesus in every child, and who love to eat pizza. Lots and lots of pizza.

I am incredibly incapable, not at all eligible, very unqualified for this.

I have two homes. Both of which, I’m terribly homesick for, all of the time. Neither of which is complete.

Children die here from completely preventable situations. Situations that will break your heart into a million pieces.

Sometimes the only break you get, is the break you force yourself to take.

Change is inevitable. Although here, change seems to occur at a faster rate. Maybe it has to do with being only 15 degrees away from the equator? Probably. One of the most difficult obstacles to adjust to is just how quickly things change, from the climate to the policies and procedures of the children and family services department. Change has always rocked my boat a little bit. I like the routine, safe, and ‘normal’ rhythms of life. Yet I’ve noticed that the sweet nectar of grace often lies in the constant discomfort of change. Because only through change can you grow, and only through growth can you have an impact on someone’s life.

Showing the love of Jesus and living out the gospel will take every bone in my body and it may also break every bone in my body.  I don’t know about you, but sometimes, the good news of the Gospel doesn’t come easy for me.  Sometimes, I get lost in the destruction and death that I neglect the resurrection.

He constantly challenges me that for every face I see, every baby I hold, every teenager with deep scars on their face or in their heart, every child living with special needs, and each mirror I pass by to look beyond the scars and tears to see the beauty that is his image.  He challenges me to see the redemptive process, the joy of reconciliation, and to recognize that progress is not always immediate. Each day is a new opportunity to step into the brokenness and decide what role I will play.

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I’ve noticed lately, on my regular visits to Senderos de Amor, that I’ve seen this face too often between windowpanes.

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Castigadoed. Punished.

He’s a good kid. He’s bright, funny, and playful. Which makes me question why he’s punished so often. I mean, I’ve known for a while the many reasons WHY he’s being punished. Such as, not respecting adults, not playing fair, not listening, not doing chores. But, I’m looking for a deeper WHY. The why that explains his change in behavior, attitude, and disinterest in anything normal. Lately, It’s always something with Moises. His lanky little body isn’t quite overpowering enough to be a bully. Yet, his words cut like a razor blade. In the past he was one of the first ones to greet me. He would run up and wrap his skinny little arms around my waist and not let go until I was halfway across the playground. But lately, he’s DIFFERENT.  When I talk to him directly, his eyes will not meet mine, his body language changes, and his gaze is far off letting me know he’s not at all interested in talking. I’ve noticed changes in his behavior. He’s testing boundaries, pushing authority, wandering further from how life is expected to be lived in a children’s home.

He’s slipping. I can feel it in my bones. My mind struggles with finding a way to engage him. He tells me he wants to leave. NO! NO, I fight the feelings in my throat. I know where this is going. He wants to run. He’s getting the itch. I’ve seen it before. How long can a child really ‘belong’ to a children’s home before they realize that there is life outside of a home? If he only knew. If he only knew just how dangerous it is to go it all alone at 8 years old. The pressures of the streets, the attractiveness of drugs, the starvation.

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This kid affects me in a different way. Not because his behavior has changed, not because he’s growing, and certainly not because the blinking of his big puppy eyes will somehow slow time. It’s because he’s abandoned. Fully, completely abandoned. He has no birthdate. He has no identification number. What he has is a file with lots of questions about his beginnings. The frustrating parts to me about children being abandoned are normal to him.

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How can they NOT have a family?

How can they NOT have a birthdate?

How can there NOT be anyone outside of these walls that thinks about his welfare and safety?

He is not attached to anything. And that is his normal.

This is one of the many situations in which I feel completely helpless. I literally have no idea what to do. I don’t know what more to say to him. My biggest fear is that I will return one day and Moises will not be there. My hearts desire is to see a family step up for him. To see him adopted into love. To see anyone give him the opportunity to belong. But because he’s 8 and his identity, character, and personality is somewhat established, the chances of him being adopted are very, very, very, low.

So let’s you and me, keep this little guy in prayer.

Because in a world that continually tells him he’s not enough, we need people believing that he belongs.

Sharing Joy: Building Minds

First and foremost,

DSC_0560from these little guys at Senderos de Amor!

Secondly,

Meet *Carlos, 14 years old.

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And meet *Eduardo, 15 years old.

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They are going into the 3rd and 4th grade next year.  This is quite the accomplishment for both.

They have families.  And for many reason, they can’t live with them.  Both have been in and out of children’s homes for most of their lives.  Both are receiving an education.  Both have always had a place at a table for a meal, with many other children in similar situations.  Both have always had a bed to sleep on.  The beds may have been lumpy and the food, not enough for a growing boy.  But, it was enough to get them to this point.  To enter into the 3rd and 4th grade.

The question I always face, when building relationships with children in children’s homes is, is it really enough?

Food, water, roof, clothing, bed at night?

Is it enough to prepare a child for their 18th birthday when they can no longer stay at the only ‘home’ they’ve ever know?  When that day comes, they have lots of decisions to make.

Where will I live?

What will I do?

How will I provide for myself?

The unfortunate reality here is that children attending public schools will progress to the next grade without much thought to their academic achievement.  Standardized tests are not really a thing here.  And teachers don’t always need a degree to teach. Children living in children’s homes also carry with them the emotional toll of abandonment and neglect. Emotions such as anger, resentment, or sadness can have an effect on their learning capabilities.

And so what happens is kids like Carlos and Eduardo get caught in the fold.  Sometimes they advance because they age into another level. And because they are not encouraged to grow past their current learning capabilities, the developmental process is slowed.

This year, The Children’s Home Project is raising $5000 to hire a part time educator. This educator will lead after school learning activities, specially prepared for children that are behind in their education, children whose 18th birthday is quickly approaching.

In cooperation with a psychologist, this educator will develop a plan and learning program for each child they work with to help them advance at school and in life. Our hope is that when kids like Carlos and Eduardo receive individualized tutoring, they will become more confidant in their learning abilities and begin to take control of their academic achievement.

My answer to my question above is always no. The basic provisions of life are not enough to help a child succeed. They need more. More time, more love, more food, more help, more investment, more education, and more of you (and me).

With only 10 days left we’ve raised $12,555 of our $25,000 goal! With your donation, kids like Carlos and Eduardo can receive the educational help they need to prepare for living a life outside of a Children’s home.

Click here to become apart of this journey!

(*names changed to protect identities)

Investing in Hope

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It is that time of year! That most wonderful time of year when we as a community, as a family, as a like-minded people embrace the cooler weather, the hot cuppa something, and the brotherly (and sisterly) love! We want to offer you a unique way to spread that love. This year, The Children’s Home Project is focusing our annual fundraiser on supporting educational and psychological services for the children we serve. Because we believe that “they must be equipped with more than hopes, dreams and good intentions. Education consistently is the key to opportunities, to connections and most importantly, to a new way of thinking.”

In general, I find that building relationships with children is exciting and challenging. Building relationships with children who have endured trauma, abuse, neglect, and abandonment can be downright difficult.   The hard-to-swallow reality is that their past often makes it difficult to get excited about a future. And when you’re not excited about your future, well, sometimes you just stop trying. When you don’t have the resources to be productive in school, sometimes you just settle for much less than your potential.

For the children that have the opportunity to go to school, many are behind for their age. For children living on the street, they’ve had to focus on things like eating and staying safe more than say, homework.   For kiddos growing up in children’s homes, they’ve had to focus on chores than say, a school project.

This year, a portion of the funds we raise is going towards equipping  Senderos de Amor, a children’s home, with an educator to help with educational and psychological services. What does that mean exactly?

Well, can you imagine how much more attentive you would be at doing homework if there was someone interested in your educational growth helping you?

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Can you imagine sitting down with someone to play games with while at the same time learning math?

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Can you imagine someone meeting with a psychologist and helping to create a plan to further advance your educational opportunities?

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I can.

We can.

Hopefully, you can.

Our desire is to hire a part-time educator to help with after school tutoring, assist the psychologist with group therapies, and give ‘charlas’ or talks on the importance of cultivating a desire to learn (but, in a fun way). It is our intention for kids to feel loved, empowered, supported, and encouraged on their journey to adulthood. We want to invite you in on this journey! Would you consider investing your financial support to help us help some really amazing kiddos? We are raising $5000 to fund this person for the year.  That’s $5000 for a BIG increase in educational support for the amazing boys at Senderos de Amor!

We are raising $25,000 through December 31st. We are currently sitting at $1430, still a ways to go but plenty of time for you to get involved!

All donations are tax deductible through The Children’s Home Project. Click here to donate to Sharing Hope: Building Minds. Every little bit brings us closer.

Collaboration and Community

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At times the mission field feels so, SO big and I feel so, So small.  I’ve only got two hands and two feet and boy o boy is there a lot of need here. In this line of ‘work’ we are constantly interacting with other organizations all working towards the same goal: meeting the needs of surrendered and abandoned children in Honduras and trying to alleviating the impacts of poverty, abuse, and neglect. This is not easy. We meet people that are here for different lengths of time, have different service projects, yet choose to love wholeheartedly the child in front of them.

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It’s difficult to capture photos of collaborative efforts. It’s not always safe to whip out a smart phone and snap away. So, instead I’ll show you some amazing images of this beautiful country that I’ve caught on camera.

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Over the past year, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to experience the work of several organizations and churches. Some work in the bordos (very poor neighborhoods) teaching skills to young men and women and offering opportunity for work placement. Some provide homes for young men living on the street, offering an opportunity to get clean from addictions. Some care for babies and toddlers while in transition to avoid placement into children’s homes. Some work directly with the Honduran government to improve policies and procedures for domestic and international adoptions. Some drive around the city passing out food and hygiene products to the homeless. Some provide church to the homeless. Some host medical brigades that provide surgical practices not available in the country. Some visit the public hospitals, places very destitute where hopelessness is painted on the faces of many awaiting medical care.

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A by-product of collaboration is community. Sharing in unique and sometimes traumatic experiences often deepens your relationships. Common bonds develop as you stand side by side and pray over babies and pregnant mothers in the public hospital. Friendships form as you sit and talk over coffee about how to provide education to kids living in bordos or on the street. Like-minded conversations about meeting needs happen as you sit on a 2nd story balcony overlooking a futbol practice in a children’s home.  The ‘I know’ look is shared between two adults as they use their body weights to hold down a 4-year-old boy with Leukemia who had just received a spinal tap without anesthesia.

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I am continually astounded at the heights, depths, and lengths that many organizations go through to meet needs. Resources are often limited and funds are always low. Sometimes it feels like there isn’t a band-aid big enough to stop the traumatic effects of poverty. And it’s only when you’re in the boat together, that you look around and find comfort in knowing you’re not alone. Answering the call to serve in this capacity is, by far, one of the greatest and challenging movements of my faith. I didn’t know how big our God was until I moved to this small country. I didn’t know how resourceful I could be until I depended on Him to provide. I didn’t know how big the gap was until I stood in it with my fellow brothers and sisters. I didn’t know how far God walked through my brokenness to save me until he called me to walk through brokenness to show His love to others. It is a good thing I’m not alone.

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Feliz Cumpleaños, Senderos de Amor

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September 10th is a special day. Not only is it Children’s Day in Honduras, but it’s also the anniversary of Senderos de Amor, a children’s home. This year, they celebrated their 31st birthday as a home. I’m not sure how I feel about being older than the home that I serve with, but HEY…neither of us feel or act our age.

As part of this year’s celebration, one of the boys, Christhian put together a ceremony for the home and volunteers. There was singing, piñatas, cake, lots of candy, and lots and lots of smiles.

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After this ceremony, was yet, another ceremony. A bigger ceremony. There was live music, dancing, a delicious meal, and lots and lots of smiles. This was a good day.

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And for some, it was also a hard day. Because celebrations are also reminiscent of time spent with family. Many of these boys have families, and sometimes they miss them. Most are here because their families live in poverty and simply cannot afford to feed, clothe, and give their children an education. I’m constantly faced with the argument of whether it’s better to be in a children’s home receiving adequate care, or to be with the family living in poverty. There is no answer, because children shouldn’t live missing any of these elements. And yet, they do.

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Children’s homes are often a breeding ground for raw emotions. Some emotions are pretty hard to face. Some children are hard to face. The reality of why children’s homes exist is hard to face. Words like neglect, abandonment, abuse, trauma, poverty, violence, and addiction have labeled the history of the children they hold.   If there’s one thing I learned from serving with this home over this past year, it is that you have to push through the hard exterior to find the soft, palpable presence of a beating heart.

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And when you find that beating heart, you walk beside it and you beat with it. You celebrate with it, you cry with it, you sit in silence with it. Because we are called to live in community together, we are called to sit and share the experiences of life. And, because we are called to be the family to those that are missing their own.    DSC_0913

There’s sports, and then there’s futbol.

Organized Competitive Sports.

I’ve never been a fan of playing them. Which is why I opted to run cross-country in high school. Any sport that allowed me to ‘play’ while not talking to others was something I could definitely do. I’m not a competitive person by any means. And I don’t thrive on the challenge of winning. I mean…if you want the ball so badly, here – take it. That’s the kind of attitude that got me booted from the soccer team… and the volleyball team in high school. But, anyways, I digress.

Towards the beginning of this year, a fellow non-profit organization, Sparrow Missions (check them out on FB), sent in a coach to start a futbol program with Senderos de Amor, a children’s home that I volunteer with. Twice a week, the boys practice and every weekend they have a game against a school, neighborhood, or a team from a futbol club. As important of a sport as futbol is in this country (Hondurans live and breathe the game), it hasn’t always been at the top of the priority list for this home. Things like educational materials, uniforms, food, cleaning supplies have taken precedence for money and staff resources. This became quite apparent as I watched the boys play today.

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I wasn’t planning to stay for the game, however, I became aware of our visiting team’s fan club. Family and friends for the visiting team had plopped themselves on the grass next to the field.

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Oh no. This cannot be. Me, the cook, the Psychologist, the secretary, and a few Tias and Tios crowded around our boys to cheer them on. As soon as the whistle blew, ‘los pequeños’, the little ones of Senderos de Amor battled up against a group of boys not older than them but clearly had more experience and practice time.

The other team had uniforms, very nice uniforms. From privately sponsored jerseys to the uniform tacos (cleats)

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Our boys had one-size fits all jerseys sponsored by the local beer brewery and foam, Crock-like, slip on shoes for cleats.

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Their coach yelled sporting-like directives (help me out here, I don’t know the lingo) like: Kick it! Go after it! Block it!

While our coach yelled things like: Open your eyes when the ball comes! Don’t eat the grass! And, your jersey is on backwards!

 When their players fell down, they looked to the coach to see if they would be yelled at.

When our players fell down, they laughed, as did our coach. Get up! Brush it off!

 When they won, they found favor in the arms of friends and family.

When we lost, we found encouragement in each other.

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This is not to say that our boys are not taking the game seriously or that they are not training well. In fact, their weekly practice is one of the activities that simply allows the boys to be…boys. They look forward to it. Yet, even more than learning the game, they are learning to be humble. To appreciate and share what’s theirs because tomorrow it may not be there for them.

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It’s a beautiful thing to watch these kids become. Become humble beings whose beginnings are rough, yet they continue to write their own stories into adulthood.

Sponsorship Program at Senderos de Amor!

BIG News!

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The Children’s Home Project (TCHP) is starting a sponsorship program for children living in Senderos de Amor!!! As many of you know, I’ve been serving with this home since the beginning of the year. It has become my home away from home (away from home). It’s not the physical structures on the property, the tire swings, the computer lab where I spend most of my time, or the aroma of freshly made tortillas that make it feel like home. It’s the boys. All 40 of them.

These boys have stories to tell, and they are quite anxious to tell them.

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Which is where YOU come into place.

Becoming a sponsor for a child living in a children’s home is about way more than paying a $35 monthly amount. I could list all the things that you could give up in your monthly budget to financially sponsor a child. I could tell you all the amazing things that will happen to your life when you sponsor a child.

But, I won’t. Instead I’ll tell you what it means to them, the children, to be sponsored.

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To them, you have become family. They hold you, your words, and your affections in their back pockets. And when they need to, when they’ve had a rough day, or when they want to rejoice they will think of you. I’ve seen this many, many times in other children’s homes. A picture of you and them will be shoved under their pillow at night, or taped to the top of their trunk where they keep all of their belongings. Sometimes this picture will end up in their schoolwork. They will ask someone to read your letters to them over and over again, savoring your jokes and soaking in your encouragement.   To them, you are that special someone who cares. This is a big deal for children who are surrendered or abandoned. Most of these little guys have been raised with no mother or father figure in their lives. Most have had to learn how to be adult at a very young age.

So for them, you may be one of the few people who lets them enjoy their childhood. You may be one of the few people in their lives that works to reverse the lies the world has told them about who they are.

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I find, that most children in children’s homes are grieving a loss. It may not be a death of a loved one that they grieve. It may have been abuse or neglect by family, they could have been separated from their family due to poverty, or they witnessed or were a victim of a tragedy in their young lives. I also find that the best way to walk beside a child who is grieving is to love them right where they are at. Your love will impact them in a BIG way.

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For the nuts and bolts of THCP’s sponsorship program, click here. I will tell you that your 35$ donation will go towards all of the costs associated with caring for the children like food, clothing, medical needs, transportation, and education.

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But the biggest impact is will be the relationship you can develop with your child.

Feel free to contact me directly if you have any questions, or take a look at our website (click here) for additional information!

Gone too soon

I first met you three and a half years ago. You were a brut force in a small frame with big brown eyes and a crazy, big smile.   If I closed my eyes, your voice and presence would tell me that I stood before a confidant and quite assertive young man. In reality, you fought for your voice to be heard because your small body was often the target of ridicule. You moved with a force in front of crowds, yet savored the comfort of hugs and tickles. The deep scars on your face tell a story of survival. Your perseverance through life’s toughest land mines was seen and heard through your character.

You survived many of life’s difficult moments, you overcame periods of trial, and now, sweet Jose Luis, you can rest.

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Jose Luis lived in one of the most dangerous cities in the world and died at the hands of poverty. This is a harsh reality for many young boys and girls who live life on the streets of San Pedro Sula, Honduras. We fight and struggle with changing the status of their environment, while they fight to eat and bring home money for their families. We fight to change the cycle of poverty, while they fight to stay out of gangs.

And, sometimes despite our best efforts, despite the available resources, despite the order of how life should be, we lose children way too soon. Every day, this city looses children to gang violence, abuse, neglect and poverty.

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It’s not fair and it’s not right.

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It’s moments like these when I literally have white-knuckle faith. I cry and lament the ‘why’s’ and ‘what if’s’. My theology gets bashed in when little faces like Jose Luis remain unnamed at the local morgue and then I think about all of the bereaved mommas who have to go the morgue when their children haven’t returned home from school.

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Forming a relationship with just about any kid on the street or in a children’s home automatically places you in the role of momma or dad. Your hearts’ desire is to see them grow, receive an education, make good decisions, and to have a childhood that they have been robbed of for most of their lives. But, even more than that, there is an aching in your bones that cries when they cry because you want so desperately to bring healing for their past pain and soften the blow of whatever life has in store for them. Jose Luis left an impression on my heart as he did many of yours. He will be dearly missed.

Let’s celebrate his life and take this opportunity to draw close to those that need love and support, the children of Honduras.

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Love one, Love well

I recently came across an instagram post from an organization called Love Rowan. They work with the Rural Orphans and Widows AIDS Network in Eastern Uganda.

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‘Sometimes it gets overwhelming with thousands of kids with so many needs – there aren’t enough stars in the sky to count them all. It’s best when you love the one in front of you. If each of us love the one well, the world would transform.’

I admit, that when I take a step back and realize how big the abandoned and surrendered children problem is here in Honduras, there is an overwhelming need to FIX what has been broken. From the children and family services program, who are severely under staffed and out-resourced, to the numerous children’s homes across Honduras, who are all understaffed and in always need of resources…it never seems like there’s enough. Not enough time, not enough human power, not enough food, not enough clothes, not enough medical attention, not enough donors. Many organizations work tirelessly to fight on behalf of the children here. We fight to end the cycle of poverty, to change the economic environment, and to empower and encourage each other to continue the fight.

But, we can’t. I mean, we can’t do it all, right away. I have to constantly remind me that it takes time. A lot of time. And most importantly, it take Love. Lots and lots of love.

Because children that are often the most difficult to love, need it the most.

Reading the post above reminded me that if we can pour ourselves out and into one or some children, then we have made an impact. If we take the time to nurture a relationship; the ups and downs, the growth spurts, the tough conversations, the sweet embraces, the numerous card games, the bouts of silence, the awkward hair cuts, the ‘can I drive your car today?’…if we pour 100% of who we are into that one child who so desperately needs it, the return is way more than we ever could have asked for.

This is one of my ‘ones’.

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I first met him three and a half years ago. It was my first trip ever to Honduras. My Spanish was…awkward, and he was all smiles. He taught me Spanish and I taught him how to play connect 4. This continued for the first 2 days. And then things changed. By day three, I was being ignored. Not just casually ignored, but very – in your face I’m ignoring you for a reason! It wasn’t until much later that I learned that his silence was a coping mechanism. He got too close. And all of his emotions told him to back away because I would be leaving when the week ended.

I left Honduras with a chunk of it aching for this boy whom I had just met. Over the years we communicated by letters. I decided to sponsor him, which made me his Madrina (godmother). This is a role not taken lightly in Honduras. He’s called me mama ever since. For three and a half years I’ve watched him grow, mature, mess-up, and trip over his bad decisions. I’ve also seen him flourish into a compassionate and very smart young man. He’s 18 now and will graduate in December.

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My momma heart is so worried about his next steps: where will he live when he leaves the children’s home? What kind of a job will he get? Will he make enough money to support himself? Will he be close enough to have lunch with me every week?

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I don’t know the answers to any of these. But for right now, all I know is that the time I spend pouring into this kid, praying for his life, and just being there when needed is not wasted. It’s not my presence in his life that will make him succeed, because I don’t know what his future holds for him. What I do know is that I choose to love him with the same love that Jesus offers me.

As one of my favorite authors, Anne Voskamp says

‘Love large, Love on, Love always, and Love for all your worth.’

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Paths of Love; Senderos de Amor

Tucked back in a neighborhood, here in San Pedro Sula is a children’s home called Senderos de Amor.  Roughly translated, means Paths of Love.  This is where I’ve spent most of my time lately.

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Senderos de Amor is home to about 30 boys, whom at one point were surrendered to the children and family services department.  It is also home to 9 specially needed kids.  These are the same specially needed kiddos I wrote about in my early post.

Since the arrival of the specially needed kids, many organizations have surrounded this home to offer support, resources, and most of all, Love.  As is, the home could use a good tune-up. The buildings are quite old, there always seems to be an issue with the water, windows and screens are missing, broken, or torn, and staff and resources are few.IMG_4435

I don’t want to spend too much time talking about what the home ISN’T.

 Instead, I’m going to share with you what it IS and just exactly why I love it.  

When you think about 40 children living in one home, one of the first needs that come to mind is space.  They need it, and lots of it.  Senderos sits on a rather large parcel of land.  They have a soccer field and a courtyard with playground-like stuff.  All things important to boys.  They also have a large dorm building, adequate space for 40 kids.  Other buildings you might see on the property are the dinning hall/kitchen, the office and a laundry area. I hope this gives you some idea what the home looks like, because I would really like to talk about the most important part of Senderos de Amor…the boys.

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Boys are hard to get to know. They just are. Especially boys who have lived such hard lives. Boys with emotional and physical scars often have the thickest, toughest, and highest walls built up, just aching to be scaled. My first few times visiting Senderos was difficult. I didn’t speak the language well and I had little to offer them, except snacks. All kids (and just people in general) love snacks, right? Day after day, I walked onto the property armed with snacks and my Connect 4 games. After spending time each week at Senderos, I’ve come to know the staff, the kids, their schedules, and have an idea of the needs that arise.

I can’t even begin to describe how amazing it is to dive into the lives of these kids. So, I’ll show you…

with pictures.

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My co-worker, Jilli, handing out snacks!

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One of the greatest gifts we can offer to people is the gift of presence and time. Children above all, need these gifts the most. So what happens when you root yourself on a bench day after day helping little ones with homework or show them how to use a computer? Those walls they built up begin to crumble, bit by bit. You gain their trust and respect. Time spent is no longer about homework, computer classes, or winning the next round of Connect 4.   It’s about loving them right where they are at. Meeting needs was one of Jesus’s greatest strengths during His ministry here on earth. He did that by knowing people, calling them by name, learning their stories, their pain, and offering them something that was scarce, love.

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I have a lot of hope for this home. I have hope for these boys.  The thing about hope is that sometimes it doesn’t come easy; sometimes you have to fight for it.   And fighting for hope may take every single ounce of strength you have.

DSC_0661 And that’s what I see when I look at the little faces of Senderos de Amor.

I see the fight, I see the battle scars, I see the perseverance, I see the strength and most importantly,

I see the hope.

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A New Hope

Honduras is full of children. It’s also full of bananas, churches, and coffee plantations. But these are not the things that draw attention worldwide.  It’s the children. The homeless children on the street, the abandoned children in overcrowded homes waiting to be adopted.  The surrendered children in children’s homes whose parents cannot provide a home for them.  The discarded children found in hospitals, dumpsters, and back alleys.  They are the victims of poverty, neglect, abuse, and abandonment. There is quite a large short-term and long-term mission investment here.  So, I thought I would share with you a glimpse of what I have experienced while serving the beautiful little faces of Honduras.

Three and a half years ago, I walked into *Nueva Esperanza, the government owned and operated orphanage in the city where I live.  I had heard many things about this place called ‘New Hope’.  I knew even before I stepped through the daunting gate that I would never be the same.  I had come to simply hold babies.

Upon walking into Nueva Esperanza, you would see an array of 90+ children aged 4 to 15.

Children sleeping 3 to a bed or sometimes on the floor.

Children locked in bedrooms left to play a little game of survival of the toughest.

Children fed twice a day and bathed maybe once or twice a week.

Children covered with lice, scabies, hosting a wide array of intestinal parasites, open and infected wounds, and swollen bellies.

Children with severe anger outbursts, behavioral issues, and perhaps delayed mental capacities.

Children hardened by their past.

Fatigued by abandonment and communal living.

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Pushing past the 90+, the injustice, the scarred, the scared, you would come to a door that read Sala Cuna.  The nursery.  When a door reads “Nursery” we envision an open room, with a couple of cribs, soft colors, maybe soft music, and babies. Healthy, happy, cooing babies. This nursery would be different. Very different. Heavy with babies, 5-20 depending on just how many were surrendered that day. Many cribs, side by side and sometimes double parked. Each contained a child, sometimes two, sometimes three. With arms lifted high, lice-ridden hair, fevers, and sweat soaked onsies, these babies craved love. Seemingly normal, only time would reveal an imprint of their entrance into this world. Their stories were just plain terrifying; found in a trash bag, pulled from a dumpster, left at the hospital, or rescued from abuse, neglect, poverty.

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Pushing past the 5 to 20, the bruised, the colic, the reflux, the fevers, the hydrocephalus, you would find children with no space of their own. Children with needs so crucial to quality of life, the only suitable and politically correct word used is Special.


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They sat in cribs that lined the back wall of the Sala Cuna. Furthest from the door, furthest from the air conditioning unit. Easiest to avoid because their needs didn’t appear immediate. They sat and watched.

I’ve never before met human beings facing multiple oppressions at the same time.

They cannot communicate their needs. Instead they grunt and groan, and sometimes yell absurdities. They seize and convulse, pinch and bite, pull and push.  Their muscles are so atrophied from neglect that they cannot walk.  Most of these children are in adolescence ages, but they appear to be much younger. They wear diapers and their bodily movements are uncontrollable.  Some were born to mothers addicted to alcohol and/or drugs. Some were left in a trash bags so long that it changed their biology and chemistry for the rest of their lives. Most were born to mothers, too poor to afford prenatal vitamins and regular doctors visits. They needed constant care – to be fed, to be bathed, to be changed. Their needs far exceed what’s required for living a ‘normal’ life.

“Widows and orphans and ‘untouchables’ enjoy a special access to the gospel that I do not have.  They benefit immediately from the good news that freedom is found not in retribution but in forgiveness.” Rachel Held Evans

After spending time with these particular kids I’ve come to realize they are not just special needs kids,  but they are Specially Needed, kinds-of-kids.  I grew an attachment to each one.  I learned their names, their stories, their likes and dislikes.  The more time I spend with them, the more I learn from them.  I like to think that because of their unique circumstances, they have to be that much closer to the heart of God.  Perhaps they can see, hear, and touch things behind the veil that we can’t imagine.  And that makes me want to be around them, all the time.  They continue to show me what love, joy, peace, self-control, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness look like.  Their struggle is real, and they don’t fight the struggle.

 “It seems the kingdom of God is made up of “the least of these”.  To be present among them is to encounter what Celtic saints called the “thin Spaces,” places or moments in time which the veil separating heaven and earth, the spiritual and the material become almost transparent.”  Rachel Held Evans (I just love her).

Some societies, cultures, governments, and religious institutions with gold embossed, embroidered, and draped shoulders have called these special few the least of these.   And sometimes with a prideful tone they pray away the sin that cripples their little bodies.  Because only then will they enjoy the life they were meant to have, right?  But what if, instead of praying their circumstances away, we embraced their uniqueness?  What if we joined them in their journey? What if we look for the blessing and grace in their struggles as we should our own – and learn from it?   What if we let them teach us?  How must we see them?  As brothers and sisters.  As children who know far more about life than we ever could.

Jesus too, called them the least of these. But when he did it he knew something that we often ignore.  To be last means that you have traded pride, prestige, wealth, and authority for humility, sacrifice, and love.  Because they are the least by society’s standards, they are the first in the His Kingdom.  Not only are they first, but Jesus JOINS them in their circumstances.

“The people our culture calls “least” are the ones Jesus has called “great” in God’s kingdom. They are the ones who have been given eyes to see and ears to hear God’s in-breaking reign in ways which I cannot. They are the precious ones, the ones who go unnamed on our streets but whom Jesus calls by name. – Perhaps more than being fed, clothed, or visited, the least of these long to be called by name. They long for another to look into their eyes and see there the precious image of God, so dear to God’s heart that Jesus spent his days on earth with people just like them. Once we know someone’s name, once we begin to spend time with the people Jesus did, we begin to see their needs as they do. They are no longer a “cause” or an issue of tolerance or even human rights; they are our brothers and sisters.”  Allison Chubb, an Anglican priest and chaplain at St. John’s College in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Jesus didn’t call us to be bystanders of injustice. He calls us to step into injustice, grab the face of the oppressed and usher them into a New Hope. The New Hope that says, there is no condemnation, there is no judgment, no fear of acceptance, no guilt, no shame, no sin-laden oppression that will remind them of their past. There is only Love.  A Love that heals, redeems, rejoices and restores.

Stay with me as I post more blogs on this New Hope.  Because it’s alive, active, and spreading like a wildfire here in Honduras.

*This orphanage has since shut it’s doors.  This is good news.  However, there remain too many to count children’s homes that are over flowing with surrendered children.

From cardboard boxes to board games

When a child makes the decision to leave behind a life lived on the streets and enter into a residential facility, finding a sense of normality is very difficult. The transition period from the streets for homeless boys and girls is often a rough time. Even the simplest of tasks seem rather daunting. For the 90+ young girls and boys living in ProNiño, all have had to reshape what ‘normal’ is.

Life should be ‘easier’, right? After all, they traded a cardboard box for a twin mattress. Unfortunately no, this transition time means learning new responsibilities.

On the streets, homeless children have little to no household responsibilities. They don’t have to make their beds, clean their clothes, take out the trash, do the dishes, and help make dinner, cut the grass, or perform any other chores.

Their biggest responsibility is to survive.

This means begging for money to buy food, or digging through trash to find their next meal. Daily showers and available clean clothes are a luxury not really experienced.

Not only do they have to learn new household responsibilities, but they also have to learn what it means to live in community with other children as well as to be respectful of the educators and administrators who care for them.

Wouldn’t you know that board games, card games, and all sorts of other games help greatly in this area? Settling in to a good game of Connect 4 is about a lot more than an afternoon of fun. The child is learning what it means to take turns, to be respectful of their opponent’s next move, and learning strategies for winning the game. Don’t get me wrong, there’s often a lot of smack talk that goes down. However, the more they play, the more they learn about fairness, respect, responsibility, and how to play a better game next time.

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The Scholastic website states that, “Board games have distinct boundaries. Living in a complex society, children need clear limits to feel safe. By circumscribing the playing field — much as tennis courts and football fields will do later — board games can help your child weave their wild and erratic side into a more organized, mature, and socially acceptable personality. After all, staying within the boundaries (not intruding on others’ space, for example) is crucial to leading a successful social and academic life.”

So why am I writing about board games the day after Christmas? As you may know, The Children’s Home Project is in the middle of an end of year annual fundraiser. We are raising funds to help provide educational and mental health services to the 90+ children, who once lived on the street and now live and thrive in ProNiño.

Half of the money raised will help children receive mental health services such as one-on-one therapy sessions with a psychologist. It is so important to continue working with children in other ways. A portion of the funds raised will go towards purchasing board games, table games, material for communication exercises and group therapy sessions. As you can imagine, materials such as these often take a beating when passed around between 90+ children. The Children’s Home Project would like to ensure that these materials are ALWAYS around so these children will ALWAYS be free to explore, learn, grow and most importantly to have fun.

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As I perused my Facebook news feed on Christmas night, I couldn’t help but notice that many of you posted pictures of friends and families gathered around a table engaging in a good card/board game.  Quality time well spent.  Beyond the smack talk and friendly competitions, you provided each other something worth more than any material present.  You slowed down your pace of life to spend quality time together.

Will you consider The Children’s Home Project for your end of year donation?  Together we can provide these amazing kids with materials and services for a brighter future.

Click here for more information, you can enter a donation under ‘Sharing Joy 2015’

 

 

Building Hope

Building Hope.

How does one build hope? I suppose impending vacation plans build hope for a period of time with no work. Date night without the kids? That would surely build hope for a time of reconnection with a significant other.

Graduation

A career change

Cancer in remission

A healed wound

Forgiveness

 All would bring hope for brighter, happier, and healthier days.

But what if your earliest memories are as an orphan living with 5 to 500 other orphans? What if you now live in a group home with 100 other children? What if you don’t know who your mom or dad are? What if you were prostituted out as a young girl?

What if your face showed scars so big and deep, they made your heart sink?

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For some, the effects of oppression and poverty seep deep into one’s being. The trauma endured, the unimaginable sufferings can often shape who you become. I cannot imagine what this looks like for a 10-year-old boy or girl. Breaking the cycle of poverty is tough. Available education, good nutrition, a warm bed, and appropriate clothing are essential to the health of a child.

But are they enough?

An important component in building a future is to be able to process your past, to grieve in a healthy way, and to have hope for things to come. Mental health services provide powerful tools for building hope. Hope is powerful. It is an expectation, something we long for, something that pulls us through life. Dale Archer, a clinical psychiatrist said, “If I could find a way to package and dispense hope I would have a pill more powerful than any antidepressant on the market.” Many children here have been robbed of hope. They are the smallest victims of a broken system. The children of Honduras may not know they live in the #1 murder capital in the world where words like fear, anger, hurt, and the feeling of rejection are all too familiar.  But, they are not too small to believe in hope.

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The Children’s Home Project is raising $40,000 to support mental health and educational services for boys and girls living in ProNiño. Half of this amount will go directly towards mental health support.  We currently support the salary for one psychologist. As the need for counseling services increases, the work of this one psychologist is spread thin. $10,000 will go towards a second psychologist on salary for one year. We can also utilize counseling resources in neighboring cities that offer specialized one on one counseling services.  We also want to provide employee training for small group therapy to address issues such as anger management, communication skills, as well as sexual health education.

Please consider a donation to help provide mental health services for these amazing kids.

Let’s give them the tools to build hope.

Click HERE and enter your donation in the ‘Sharing Joy’ field.

Ay! Gasolina?

 

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This is the view from the couch in the living room. I sit here to work sometimes.

Today, I sit and work and sweat because it’s 93 degrees, while I wait for ‘a guy’ who will bring a chimbo (propane tank) for the stove. I’m not even sure how one goes about getting a gas tank for their stove. I made a call to a neighbor, understood ¼ of the conversation. The rest is all very Mafioso. Within the hour, I’m hearing whistles and belly yells outside of my front gate, but it took me a few seconds to realize he might actually be trying to get my attention. After each random whistle and noise, I sank deeper into the couch hoping this random person would move on and terrorize someone else. Queres chimbo?! Oh, yes, wait…that’s for me. I run out to unlock the gate. He’s all of 4’9”, riding a moto bike with 3 chimbos strapped in with string – it’s all very impressive. He waddles it in the house, hooks up the stove, and motions that…it’s all good.

Well folks, I’m a month in and I think I just passed the honeymoon stage of missionary life, which lasted all of 1.5 weeks.

These first 30 days in Honduras has been my training ground for change. Change in everything, from the food I eat, the language I speak, the way I drive, to the number of times I change my clothes in a day due to the intense humidity. Seriously – this is winter?

I really, REALLY wanted this post to be about how I’m settling in. I wanted to post pictures of the beautiful home where I live, the car I drive, and the strange new veggies I see at the supermarket. BUT, honestly, I’d rather talk about how spectacular life has been. That ok with you?

Since I arrived in Honduras one month ago, I’ve been serving at a transition home located in the same neighborhood where I live. The home is run by an organization called ROOM (Reach Out Orphanages Ministries). They have taken me under their wing and call me family – seriously, I have a spot at the dinner table :).  The house serves to transition children who have been surrendered to the child and services family department here in the city. Normally, these children would go into the public orphanage. ROOM has created a fostering system by placing these children into the care of temporary foster families or into a transition home. In serving with them I’ve had the opportunity to dive deep into the hardships of caring for kids that are abandoned.

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Let me tell you how UNEQUIPPED I am for this. Daily life is more about riding the waves of change and processing the roller coaster of emotions as they come. I don’t think I’ve prayed quite so much in the past year as I have in the last 30 days. I sit and watch, observe and learn about the underbelly of the child and family services department in this city. It is FULL, and heavy, and deeply in need of prayer. At the very center of it are a precious bunch who sit abandoned, malnourished, and in desperate need of a great rescue.

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Minutes matter here (as they do everywhere). But here, minutes is all it takes for the government to decide if a child should remain in foster care or be moved to an orphanage. Minutes to transport special needs kids from one prison cell (ahem, orphanage) to another. Minutes to hold down a 3 year old cutie-pie after he’s had a spinal tap to see where his white cell count is as he continues his fight against cancer. I am unequivocally blessed to be among other volunteers who, with each passing minute proclaim victory over abandonment.

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This is not easy living; fear and bravery constantly one-up each other. The choices I make carve out a new territory. Yet, there is a freshness in living by faith. I get to unpack my day to a God who knows it all. He’s felt the heaviness of my heart in missing my family, the weight of the tears I’ve shed while praying over abandoned babies, and the joy in making my way to the supermarket – all by myself. So I swallow hard, the newness and harshness of stepping out of comfort, while being folded into intimate harmony with a savior who knows what it’s like to drive in Honduras.

 “When God moves us out of our comfort zone – into places that are way bigger than us, places that are difficult, hard, painful, places that even hurt – this is a gift. We are being given a gift. These hard places give us the gift of intimately knowing God in ways that would never be possible in our comfort zones.”    Ann Voskamp.

I have a little fun every now and then.  I even participated in the Color Run here in Honduras.

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Clean-up at pump #5

I thought it would hit me the on my last day of work when I handed in my badge and left the parking garage, but it didn’t. I thought, perhaps, packing my life up into two very small suitcases (well, they look small compared to all that I want to take) would set me over the edge, but it didn’t. It happened the other night while pumping gas. I lost it.

Full.on.ugly.cry at pump #5.

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(Sorry Kim K., but I was NOT going to post a pic of my ugly cry)

These were not tears of sadness that come from pulling away from relationships or a job that offered me safety and security. They were tears of joy and thankfulness.

If I could give you a taste of what the last two weeks of life have been like, it looks something like this:

chronic headaches, fatigue, anxiety, heart palpitations, awkward conversations about my leaving, random freak-outs about not getting a paycheck every other week, an unexpectedly high quote on international medical insurance coverage, check engine light = on, my brother’s planned surgery a week after I leave, my uncle’s unplanned surgery as I type this blog, and about half dozen new mosquito bites every day (seriously, where are these mosquitos coming from?!).

This was not the plan.

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I knew leaving home would be hard, but I didn’t expected to get hit with so many difficult emotions during my last few weeks here. And, to do it alone is a little more than I can handle.  A few times I’ve caught myself saying, God, you got the wrong girl. I’m not qualified for this.

You see I have no people that I’m responsible for, like kids or a husband who can see my daily or sometimes minute-ly roller coaster of emotions and offer words of encouragement, support, and love.  Kids and husbands do that sort of thing, right?

My people, instead are a people quilted together from life’s experiences. The cashier at my Fry’s knows every detail of my life over the past 15 years. She hugs me, asks me open-ended questions, and leaves a smiley face on my receipt. My people are former coworkers who have become the dearest and sweetest of friends, my mechanic of 12+ years who changes my oil and talks about Moses and the Exodus. My people are new friends who have old souls that compliment mine, friends who stop, drop, and pray, and old friends who keep me accountable and true to myself.  Some of my people are committed to meeting everything Thursday evening to eat, pray, laugh, and cry together.  My people are prayer groups in a mobile home park whose hearts’ ache over the abandoned children in Honduras and ceaselessly pray over every pain and praise in our church.  If you are reading this, chances are you are my people.

God is good. And sometimes, when the world gets the best of me, this becomes rhetoric. Sometimes believing in God’s goodness is hoping for a great rescue to restore and redeem right away. I forget that God’s goodness is also in his creation. He purposed us to beat suffering and hardships.  He created us to be in relationship, to balance out the fruits of the Spirit. What I lack, can most definitely be filled through the goodness of God by words from loving friends.

These people, my people, have spoken the truest of words to me that sooth every raw emotion I’ve encountered over the past few weeks. They remind me to be thankful in ALL situations. Why? Because, everything is redeemable. Everything is worthy of prayer, the good, the bad, the hard, the tragic, the littlest of things.

I will thank Him for the heart palpitations, because it’s a reminder to surrender every part of me, especially the parts I have no control over. I will thank Him for ridiculously high medical insurance premiums, because it means there are no exclusions to my coverage.  I’ll thank Him for meeting every.single.raw emotion with grace, love, and forgiveness. And, I will thank Him for the overcome-able-ness (yes, I said that) of headaches, anxiety, and even mosquito bites.

So, am I ready? No. Absolutely not. But, I sure am willing.

 

If you’ve been considering a way to support this ministry, please follow this link to The Children’s Home Project.  I’m 75% funded!

Two-weeks notice and One-Way tickets

Two and a half years ago I created a monster of a spreadsheet.  Oh, it was formatted and coded to perfection.  Detailed to-do’s on how to move life towards Honduras.  I felt sheer joy in checking off task after task.

This list looked something like this:

  • Cancel cable ✔
  • Sponsor a child in Honduras ✔
  • Rent out my home ✔
  • Pay off debt ✔
  • Lose weight – meh?
  • End my career in Public Health…
  • Buy a one-way ticket to Honduras…

Last week I completed the final two tasks

*PAUSE TO BREATHE* (The air goes in and out, or out and then in…right?)

But, it seems lately I’ve been doing more de-checking than checking off of a different list.  You see after I graduated from college, I had this list of things to accomplish to become a financially independent, successful, productive member of society (gross, who thinks of such things after college?).

My list looked something like this:

  • Start a career
  • Retirement plan
  • Travel
  • Buy a home
  • Lost weight…meh?

These are things that I PLANNED for.

These are things that I SUCEEDED WELL in.

These things became MY PRIORITY – what I lived for.

Check, check, check, check, and…well I just like tacos and chocolate too much.

Two years ago, I took a long hard look at myself, my list, and the cross.  Check marks all over the place.  But, for what?  These priorities are in fact, priorities in our culture and society.  And, they are good priorities to have.

But what about the other ones?  The ones that say:

  • GO and make disciples of all nations.
  • Love, as I have loved you.
  • Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.

Are those not also the priority?  Puts my lame list to shame.  Slowly, He chisels.  Steadily, He peels back the layers revealing super raw and vulnerable spots.

And I cry out, but God…my retirement?

He says, Your treasures are stored in heaven.

But God, my house?

He says, I will build your foundation, down deep, on rock.

But God, my career?

He says, I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.

It seems I have a new list.

In order to do what He’s asking me to do, I have to trade in prestige for obedience, pride for prayer, and success for service.    It’s a good thing I’ll forever be a work in progress.

My flight leaves Sunday, October 19th!  So many mixed emotions as that is less than a month away.  I have just over $4,400 left to raise until I’m fully funded.  If you’d like to support this ministry, please follow the link below or email me!

The Children’s Home Project – donation link

*Just a note to say that all of us are called to serve, and act, and love, and walk humbly.  Whether it’s in our own backyards, in our offices, at the schools we teach at.  Wherever we are living life, is where we can be called to serve.  Not all have to let go and move across an ocean to serve – this is just how it happens to be for this girl.*

What a year!

Hello Friends!

As I write this I find myself eagerly anticipating my upcoming move to Honduras. Much has happened this past year as I’ve marched my way through a season of transition. Although I am taking the steps in this journey, it is also a journey for my community of friends and family.

Here is a little taste of all that has gone on in the past year that I couldn’t have done on my own:

Two GIGANTIC garage sales:

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A little restoration project for my patio home in preparation to rent it out:

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Moving day (out of my home and in with my folks).

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Paid off DEBT (raised funds were not applied toward my personal debt, but all the steps above sure made it possible!)

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A successful fundraiser!

(Sadly, no photos – a little busy socializing :))

I can’t even begin to describe the amount of support and encouragement I have received.  I am beyond blessed to be a part of such an amazing community that fosters love and devotion to this ministry.

Did you catch that?

I said THIS ministry.

Because, it is very much a movement of hearts and not just my own that leads me to prepare to live a life of service in Honduras.  You are as crucial to this ministry and my own hands and feet.  And at the very core of this calling for us, beats the heart of the One who continually shows us how to love, live, and fight for those least loved.

As of today, I am happy to report that I am at 70% of my fundraising goal!

AND…

I have chosen a departing time frame of mid-October.

This is less than two months away!

 My invitation for you is to be a part of a very active and living ministry of loving those that are least loved. Please consider investing your financial resources to make this ministry possible. In working with The Children’s Home Project, I will receive a $350 monthly stipend to help offset costs. My goal is to raise additional support for the first year expenses. These expenses include monthly living costs, start-up costs, flights every 90 days at the expiration of the Visa, and vehicle maintenance costs.

For your consideration, monthly and one-time donations can be made through The Children’s Home Project. I have been asked what my preference for support is, monthly or a one-time donation. I have a preference of monthly support, as this ensures that funds are readily available for monthly living expenses; such a food, international health insurance, Honduran cell phone coverage, and gas (which can reach upwards of $4.50 per gallon).

All donations are greatly appreciated and can be made in the following ways:

By Website: www.TCHProject.org. The Donate link provides a separate space with my name, Anita Betancourt.  You can enter a one-time donation or set up a reoccurring donation.

By Check: The Children’s Home Project, 4350 E. Ray Ed, Ste# 109, Phoenix, Arizona 85044. Indicate my name (Anita Betancourt) on the memo line.

All donations through made through The Children’s Home Project will qualify as tax deductible charitable contributions.

 

With a very grateful heart,

Anita Betancourt

You want me to do what?

A few years ago, I prayed that prayer. You know that one prayer that could possibly change the course of your life?

It went something like this:

God, how can I serve you?

God, give me a passion for your people.

God, use my journey to glorify you.

This was not a confidant prayer. Honestly, it was more of a mutter of words in a prayer-like fashion, and I was not completely convinced that it was the ache of my soul. You see, at the time I had come to the end of me. Life and all of its hoop-la had landed me in a very fortunate position of recognizing my need for a savior. It was time to take my focus off of me and put it on the one who created, rescued, and to this day, continues to carry me.

A seed was planted to serve. I had hoped or rather, expected that God would call me to serve with local organizations that are always in need of volunteers. Sure, I thought, I could spare some hours after work or on the weekends mentoring, encouraging, and just being present. I can definitely do that.

I was not at all prepared for the amazing ways in which my life would change. A few months later, in January 2012, I was on a plane to Honduras, serving on my very first short-term mission trip with a team from The Children’s Home Project (more on this organization in a future post). The beginning of that year, I deemed it ‘my year of missions’. I wanted to see the world and the people in it. I wanted to see how people lived life with less. That year, I didn’t hop on any other planes, except ones headed to Honduras.

A week later I came home exhausted, sick, and feeling awfully displaced by the 1st world culture of home. Those 7 days in Honduras were the scariest, most physically exhausting, and the most emotionally challenging journey my heart had been on in quite a while. Yet, despite the challenges of this trip, my heart ached. Not over the brokenness and poverty I had experienced. It was the skinny little arms that I played arm wrestling with, the gigantic smiles over connect-4 victories, the broken conversations about young lives lived on the street or childhood memories of orphanages. Night after night, I stayed awake looking over pictures and re-reading my journal entries from the trip. I spent hours trying to latch on to feelings from moments which turned into memories. I made two trips that year and a few more trips the following year.

God was definitely up to something. And I knew exactly what it was. My only response was, Yea, I can’t do that. Let me tell you how relentless God is when He wants His way (more on this in yet, another post). This decision or obedient submission rather, did not come lightly. I had many, many (many, many, many…many) Jonah-type moments along the way. I have seen God swing doors open wide and pave rough terrains that I thought would make this journey absolutely impossible. And, at the end of every night, there is a peace that surpasses all understanding of what He’s calling me into.

Here I am, two and a half years later completely convinced that God has placed a calling in my heart to serve Him through serving His children living in orphanages and children’s homes in Honduras. It is only through my own journey with God that I am equipped with strengths, abilities, and a deep compassion to serve children living in poverty. It is only by His good works in me and my desire to know Him more that I feel compelled to show these children that which they have been most denied, love.

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Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting more about this beautiful country called Honduras, the wonderful organization I’ll be working with, and of course, the humor of participating in God’s plan.

 

 

When they push back

Doing what I do, I find that when walking a path, when working out a plan, when desperately seeking out a vision of caring for someone other than yourself, intentionally, wholly, deeply, sometimes it is no longer wanted.

And that might possibly be the point at which fruit starts to grow.

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At least, that’s what I hope happens.

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I’ve experienced this several times in establishing relationships with kids in children’s homes. As you grow in relationship, conversations transition from basic interests, school activities, character, and playing table games to much more serious conversations about family history, goals, visions, dreams, and plans.

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You begin to pour and pour and pour into them.

You tell them they are of value

They are beautiful, created with a purpose, and they have a big and bright future.

And, that it all depends on the decisions they make.

You talk about what it takes to make good and healthy decisions.

That it’s more difficult to make a good decision than to make an unhealthy one.

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Your words are constantly competing with things that have been spoken over them, like:

I have to hurt before I get hurt

I can’t afford to dream of a future because of the past I’ve lived

I am useless.

And some think, I won’t live past 30, so what’s the point?

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For some kids, the reality of the world they were born into gets to be too much for them and they start to think:

I don’t need you.

I don’t need what you offer.

I will never be the kid you have a plan and vision for.

I’m not good enough.

I am a failure and I’m not worth it.

You should just go.

You should stop.

I will continue to disappoint you and you will continue to disappoint me.

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Yesterday I was told by a kid I’ve known for many years that he no longer needed me. That what I had to offer was not wanted. That what was needed, I couldn’t give. Those words left his mouth like bullets. Ones with serrated edges shredding through every fiber of my heart.   Like buckets of ice water that washed over my hot skin soaking up all of the 118 degrees that the sun had to offer that day.

And, he said it with a smile.

There was probably a fair amount of teenage angst in there somewhere, but still, ouch.

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Children that have been denied love over and over again are most resistant to receiving love, over and over again. Sometimes, the more you love the harder they push back. And yesterday, I got pushed hard. How are they supposed to know the love of Jesus, the love of God the Father, the Creator, the Savior, when the love that has been show to them was very much based on conditions?

They have been conditioned to not expect much and to earn everything.

That nothing is free.

Love is for the weak.

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My flesh wants to walk away from where I’m not welcomed. My mind wants to appease his request to just stop, leave, and never look back.

I want to throw in the towel and say, “You got the wrong girl, Jesus” and admit that the devil got me good this time.

But I can’t.

I won’t.

Because that would be proof that it is all for nothing.

That the great war that was raged years ago between good and evil was for nothing.

That the cross was for nothing.

The blood that was shed, and the lamb that was slain was for…nothing.

There is no quick fix. There is no clearly, drawn-out path for next steps. There’s just time. Patience. And lots of love. The unconditional kind. In between the failed attempts, the false truths, and the unrest is Jesus and his grace, and mercy, and forgiveness.

There’s also hope that this was not for nothing.

That no part is wasted.

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35

If 40 is the new 50, and 30 is the new 40, that puts me right at 45?

Crap, I said the ‘F’ word.

35 is not a milestone.   There’s nothing so significant about hitting this mark.  Nothing, except falling into a different age category of taxes, the census, and CDC demographic surveys.   The good news is: I’m officially past young adulthood. Which means, I don’t have to know the latest dance moves – my 90’s skanking moves are just fine (whew). The bad new is: I’m officially past young adulthood. So when I do something incredibly childish (which happens on the daily), I really can’t blame any part of my developmental growth process. I’m surrounded by young, early 20 something ladies on the mission field who love to compare my life events to their birth events.

‘You started high school the year I was born!’ (insert expletives here).

The 20’s are supposed to be about discovering identity, I spent them recovering sanity. The 30’s are supposed to be about settling down, not uprooting life and being in a constant state of TRANSITION.

As my youthful years pass, I look less like my Latina counter parts in the same age bracket: Rosario Dawson, Jessica Alba, Zoe Saldana, America Ferrera.  And I begin to look more like my momma when she was around my age. My closest friends are my Tias (who are in their 60’s and 70’s).  My skin care regimen now involves copious amounts of sunscreen and the latest overly priced wrinkle deifier. I happen to be adamantly against working out.  Serious, if you don’t have a diet and exercise routine by 35, it just isn’t going to happen.  I do not want, nor will ever need a thigh gap. This year, all I want for my birthday is a chiropractic adjustment. Compression socks are at the top of my ‘to-buy’ list when I get stateside. They are FOR TRAVEL, not everyday use. As if.

The way I see it, I have two options. When I wake up in the morning and see a terrible case of bed head and squish lines on my face – I could judge myself, my life, and my attitude by 1st world cultural and social standards. I’m not skinny enough, I’m not pretty enough, I’m not enough – enough.

-Or-

I could look at every one of my wrinkles, laugh lines, and grey hairs and think about all the emotions it took to get me here. I could feel each heart beat and know how many times I’ve over come death and how many times my heart had to be restarted. I could trace scars on my body – the little ones from tripping over my own two feet and the big ones, my battle wounds, that have roots tangled up in my heart and remember the grace and strength it took to get me through. I can whip up a mean batch of enchiladas and enjoy each bite without worry about making it to the gym (my gym involves being chased by 90 something kids every week).

So today I choose the wrinkles and the enchiladas.  I choose grace and forgiveness.  I choose life of the Kingdom calling me.  I choose love.

Yup. 35 is looking quite good.

Xavier

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IDEALLY, he would be here with me today, he would have turned 13 today. We would have had many arguments over homework, how much tv time is ok, which friends are bad influences, and whether his attitude was deserving of the next new shiny gadget to hit the market.

Ideally.

REALISTICALLY, he’s not here with me today. His birthday will still be celebrated in my own special way, as I have done so for the past 13 years. I’ll make him a cake, sing him happy birthday, wear my momma locket that my mom gave me for my first mother’s day without my son, and I’ll fall asleep clutching his beanie babies. The beanie babies that propped him up, all 1.5 pounds of him in the incubator 13 years ago.

This year, I have learned more from his presence and absence than any other year. His journey, our journey for 6 weeks was my very abrupt intro to motherhood. A transition my body was not willing to make, yet my heart openly embraced. He was born too soon, and this world was not at all ready for a soul so precious, so perfect.

I can’t post pictures of him, of another year passing, or of celebratory milestones like taking a first step, loosing a first tooth, or graduations.

But what I can do is used what I gained. I can be a mother to the motherless. I can hold children who are surrendered and abandoned and need momma arms to wrap them up and whisper a sweet something in their ear.

Loving another child as ferociously as I love Xavier is basically all that I know how to do, and I do it well.

For so long, I had rejected the truth of the Gospel. I rejected hope. I rejected His promises of a new Kingdom. I rejected restoration, redemption, and His love. The Gospel didn’t become relevant to me until God became relatable to me. In all of my frustrations, anger, and reluctancy, I failed to see that God, too – lost his child. Completely different circumstances, yet traumatic no less.

There are a million and one ways in which my son’s life could have played out. But, just as Jesus’s life could have continued in a million and one different way, he knelt in the garden of Gethsemane and cried to his father, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will , but your’s be done”.  There’s a certain peace that comes in knowing our Father’s will is often different than our own. As difficult and traumatic as my son’s death was and is, each year I see the fruits from my obedience. I can see and taste and hear the glory from God’s goodness. He is good. So good. All the time.

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My Feet, His Will

Ever heard the Footprints poem?  Ever been angered by the Footprints poem?  I have.

Sometimes, I can look back into the places, spaces and times in my life when I’ve convinced myself that I KNEW God wasn’t there.  He was ‘up there’ or over there, but not in here.  Nowhere to be seen or felt.  The only footprints in the sand were mine.  I can recall every footprint…every step into and out of the depths my valleys…every blister, every thorn, every stone that I tripped over.  I can even recall the rugged terrain my footprints traveled on…the twisting, winding, double backing at every fork in the road where I made a ‘wrong’ turn.  And most of all, I can recall the numbness.  The emptiness.  The lack of awareness, the drain of strength.  Yet it was in this numbness that I walked.  I’ve often wondered, how do you go forward when you are numb?  This poem, and more importantly the Bible tells me I’m never alone.  He…the good, the just, the true is always with me, and never for a second loses sight or grip on me.  I felt I was lacking a map, an agenda to tell me what to do and how to feel.  Some might call it depression.  I called it auto-pilot or survival mode.

Survival mode seems to be something of a norm these days.  Without an anchor, we wake up, do this, do that, go here and there, work, play, go to bed…rinse…repeat.  I’m willing to bet there is some small degree of numbness in most of us.

So where does this treacherous journey leave me?  Alone…disappointed…in God?

We feel betrayed, even abandoned. Sometimes these feelings fester and need a place to grow, so we turn to God and say…how dare you. Creator of all, more powerful than anything…how could you let this happen?

I believe disappointment in God comes from not knowing the truths about who Jesus is and why he came.

Who is he exactly?  Well my journey of discovering Jesus is probably just beginning.  It had a rough start to be honest.  I started from a place of indifference.  It started as a victim of life, of sin…of choice.  We learn about who Jesus is and how much he loves us, but maybe we take this image too far and project on him a God who will cover us in a veil of protection from anything bad.  The bible dosen’t say that, in fact it says the opposite.  John 16:33 says “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  It is a truth that this world is broken, he has prepared us for this.  He asks us to take heart, but to only do so in him, for he has overcome the world.

He was in my numbness.  My road may not have been easy, my map may have been absent…but on that trail there was a path.  A line in one of my favorite songs, Forever Reign by One Sonic Society is “You are good, You are good, when there’s nothing good in me”   Sometimes he works through you, even when you don’t feel in control or have strength to do life.  He’s there…watching, waiting, stepping down and into my feet.  As hard as my journey was, the bible tells me that Jesus felt every emotion and encountered every sin known to man while he was here.  Did he stumble and fall? No.  But he felt it…all the way to the cross.  So the next time I feel like my savior has abandoned me, I’ll take a long look at his feet and the journey he took to save me.

“No one trusts you unless you share your wounds…”

“No one trusts you unless you share your wounds…” Tangible Kingdom.   

I admit, this statement makes me conflicted.  I want to agree with this statement.  Whole-heartedly.  Unveiling my vulnerable side of a past hurt, tragedy, misfortune allows another person to see…firstly that I am human and can be trusted because I am capable of enduring and surviving…and secondly, that MAYBE the crazy adventure of life has brought me an ounce of wisdom that can be of use.  And sometimes it shows that I can stand beside my wound and marvel at its scar…maybe even take a little bit of pride in how deep and wide it stretches…at how it affects not only other body parts, but also other ‘mind’ parts of my life.  That a scar is not only a physical representation of my past but might-could-be a milestone in which I may have changed direction.  

Or maybe the wound is fresh, open…gaping?  In need of treatment, bandaging…in need of care.  Does sharing a wound, at best, offer vulnerability?  So how is it that by becoming vulnerable allows another to open the door of their life to you?  Doesn’t seem like a fair exchange.  Then again fairness seems to be an equal exchange of what is deserving…and deserving, well don’t get me started on the selfish cry of my inner child.

Sooo why does Jesus have scars after he was resurrected?  I mean come on…he ROSE from the dead.  Images of a clean-shaven, perfectly complected Jesus appearing in white garments…looking…smelling…clean, heaven’s bright lights shown around him in glory…come to mind.  But in fact it may have been the opposite, Jn 20:14 says even Mary thought the risen Jesus was the gardener…She turned around and saw Jesus standing there but didn’t think it was Jesus.  Risen, transcended, the image of redemption himself had scars.  Scars that he used for others to believe it was him…to trust that it was him (John 20:27).  I can’t help to think that Jesus didn’t want to be vulnerable, maybe he kept his scars to connect…to relate…and what better way to connect than by being human and sharing the scars of being human.