“You give me love, hugs, everything I need, and you discipline me because you love me.”
It still warms my heart when I remember these words from sweet Reyna, the oldest of our four newest children. I was preparing her for her upcoming court case in a counseling session, and that was her answer to “What do you like about Casa de mi Padre?”
“She gets it!” I thought to myself, holding back tears. She understands that we love her, which includes the “warm fuzzy” moments and hard things too. This conversation occurred just after she had received consequences for choosing not to turn in and complete multiple homework assignments (even though all the kids have two hours set aside daily for homework and studying). She didn’t have a lot of experience in school, because her father had pulled her out shortly after enrolling her. So, at the age of ten, she’s learning basic concepts that our first and second graders have mastered. She began to fail her classes and we were getting notes from her teachers. To help her help herself, we grounded her from certain privileges until she could get her grades back up. We discussed the value of education, especially for a young lady in her predicament. We talked about how finishing her education would provide an abundance of opportunities in her future, including college. Having an education is CRUCIAL to attaining a job that will keep her out of extreme poverty. For many Guatemalans, a full day’s work could award them 20 Quetzales (Which is about $3 in our currency). We expressed how much we love her and want to see her flourish and confirmed that we are here to help her succeed. Tears were shed, and I wasn’t sure if she was truly sorry or because she was going to be missing movies for a while. AND THEN thirty minutes later, she answered the question, “What do you like about Casa de mi Padre?” with “You give me love, hugs, everything I need, and you discipline me because you love me.”
She understands that our love for her doesn’t change no matter what she does, just as Jesus’ love for us never changes. I’ve seen her adjust into the constant outflow of love at Casa and settle into feeling safe in the warmth. When she first came to us, she was timid and wary. I remember how she would melt in my hugs, but not in the “aww, that’s adorable!” way you would think. She was uncomfortable and would limply melt out of my embrace with a sheepish smile and shifting gaze. She was guarded. And after living in four (or more) places, I can understand why she’d be hesitant to open her heart again. Overtime, this precious child has begun to trust and feel safe in our home.
She has expressed what it was like in other homes. With her mother and father, she suffered from a variety of abuse and neglect. In other institutions, she talked about how when she got in trouble, they made them do a lot of “hard exercises”. Older kids bullied her and stole her belongings and food, and they wouldn’t let her see or speak with her grandmother. She said she cried herself to sleep every night when she lived there. These kinds of descriptions of other “homes” or “institutions” the kids have lived in is common, as they find themselves constantly being shuffled around from one unstable family to another.
Now, I believe she is beginning to feel safe physically and emotionally. Safe from those who have exploited and hurt her, and safe to give and receive love. Within the last couple of months I’ve gotten hugs from her where she doesn’t withdraw after the obligatory 2 seconds. She just holds on as if she’s in the safest and most natural place to be. I pray that she will not be ripped away from the safety and love she has found in us, and that the Lord would pursue her heart fiercely.
In other news:
-Two of our kiddos graduated this last month! Congratulations to Cristina and Gerson!! Gerson will be attending a college in a nearby town starting in January, where he wants to pursue an education in computer science and programming. Cristina is pursuing a career in clerical work and would like to be a bilingual receptionist someday. She’ll be going to school in Quiche this year, and potentially going to school in Guatemala City in the future to study English. They are both so intelligent and have bright futures ahead of them.
-I completed a 32-hour training in KC for Trauma Healing through the American Bible Society and hosted by the Sending Project. I learned so much about using the Word of God to bring healing in the broken parts of our lives and am excited to bring this knowledge back with me!
-Christmas is coming up people! We have our big Christmas celebration coming up in a couple of weeks, and I’ll tell y’all all about that in the next blog post. This year we have six kids experiencing Christmas for the first time, and I’m so excited to share the wonder and excitement with them!
-Please pray that the kids would feel safe to open their hearts up during counseling sessions. In Guatemala there is such a culture of secrecy and shame, and it’s so difficult to fight this! Please pray that I will be able to break down these walls, and that the kids will open the closed off places in their hearts to Jesus!
-I will be attending Spanish school for two months soon, which is an additional $2880-$3040 (depending on how many hours I take per day) through the Christian Spanish Academy in Antigua. Though I will be sad to be away from the kids for so long, this will IMMENSELY help me in my ministry as I will be able to much more effectively communicate. Additionally, I am working on purchasing a four-wheeler to drive to and from the orphanage. This is an additional $1,800. I am anxious about raising an additional $4,800, but I know that the Lord will provide! Please prayerfully consider giving your end of year contribution to support what the Lord is doing at Casa! Go to the link “Give” above to see how you can help meet these needs.
Thank you for your love and support!