We are now on day three of lots of sunshine, Spanish, and wonderful, heart-breaking service! Sunday (yesterday), we attended the Union Church with Lorraine and met and were encouraged by some of the other believers. After lunch with our translators we headed over to Mi Casa, a home for orphaned boys and girls. We had worked with the kids from Mi Casa on saturday night to put together a drama to present in a community park on Sunday afternoon. The kids from this orphanage are so well behaved and loving towards each other, it is truly encouraging and wonderful to see. Some of the older boys (college age) who used to live in the orphange but have now 'graduated out' have chosen to stay involved with the orphans who are still there. These young men live together in an apartment, go to work each day at their jobs, have their own bills to pay and their own lives to worry about, yet they have all decided that they want to spend some of their free time with the younger children, and spend some of their salaries to help with the upkeep of the orphanage! It's incredible the love that exists between these kids!
At the park we put on a drama and a little bit of music. There was not a huge crowd of listeners, but our mission was as much about sharing the gospel of Christ as it was about teaching the orphans and helpers to share the gospel of Christ. The kids were wonderful and really seemed to enjoy putting on the drama! Laura, Sheila and I began the singing in the park with our fumbling Spanish, but by the end the children had taken over and were singing the Christian songs they knew. It was a beautiful thing to witness! As they sang, several people from the park (most of them claiming to already be born-again christians) came up and asked for prayers and talked with our team some!
Today (monday) was the most difficult day for me so far. We got an early start and went over to a state orphanage that houses babies, children with special needs, and young pregnant girls who have all been raped by family members. We split ourselves into two small groups: one group with the babies and the other group with the children who had special needs; we switched stations after lunch.
It was difficult to see the conditions of these children. Most of the babies had rashes and their skin was dry and cracked from the heat. The saddest thing, however, was that their eyes just seemed so lifeless. The woman who works in the baby room truly does love the children, but the fact of the matter is she is one woman who sometimes has over a dozen babies to take care of. She told us that sometimes all she can do is start at the first crib and go down the line changing all the diapers, then start over going down the line giving each child a bath, then start over again with a bottle for each child. She has no time to give special attention to each child, nor hold and play with each one. We prayed over the babies and told each one that God made them and loves them more than they can imagine. It is my prayer that those words will follow those children for their whole lives, and that they will come to know just how much they are worth in God's eyes.
Playing with the children with special needs was fun, simple, but emotionally challenging. Most of the children are in make-shift wheel chairs, and only a few can speak. Their smiles say it all however, when you begin pushing them around in circles. Their eyes lit up like Christmas had come; and all we had done was push their wheelchair and make zooming noises. In those smiles I saw complete joy, and felt complete sadness.
For the most part, no one is allowed into this orphanage to visit the children. For several years they shut out any groups wanting to come in and help because some people were taking pictures of the children and then getting the organization in trouble for the conditions of the facility. It is not so much that the organization neglects the children or that they don't treat them well, it is simply that they do not have enough resources or staff to keep everything perfect and lovely. These people do the best they can with what they have, and it is a blessing that there is a program for these unwanted children at all. But even so, the children get hardly any personal interaction - no sensory stimulation - and they seem so lifeless. We did meet a man today who has been coming to the orphanage to do physically stimulating activities with the kids for the last 4 years. He told us that today was the liveliest he had seen the children in a long time, and he believed it was because of the attention and interaction we were giving to them! We praise God that we can be a spark of light in the lives of these children!
(By the way, because of the recent tension over visitors in the facility, we are not allowed to post any pictures from the state orphanage on the internet).
We stayed at the state orphanage today from early morning until mid-afternoon and afterward were mentally and emotionally exhausted. But God is our sustainer and we trust Him to give us new strength for tomorrow! We are having a wonderful time here and being blessed by everything we see and everyone we meet. We are growing in our giving, and I know God is working in us just as much as He is working through us.
Keep checking for updates!