I’ve just returned from my eight weeks of studying Spanish in Antigua, and boy did those two months FLY! That charming city and it’s inhabitants have stolen my heart! I thought I’d become disenchanted with it and sick of the tourist influx over the weekends, but I never really did. It feels like a home away from home. The streets have become more familiar, but never dull. The enormous Volcano Agua to the south is stunning, and I’m always intrigued by Volcano Fuego (who is constantly puffing and erupting). The people here are kind and inviting. I’ve come across countless strangers passing by on the streets who wish me a good day as if we’ve been acquainted for years. I’ve become quite attached to many of the people that have become dear friends. I adore the family and students I’ve lived with, teachers and students at the school, my new barista friends, and my sweet church community at Shoreline City. My return to Quiche was bittersweet, as I was anxious and ready to return to the kiddos, but I will miss these people and this city dearly. Antigua, you will always have a piece of my heart… I’ll be back!
These 8 weeks have been a whirlwind of vocabulary and grammar, but I’ve successfully passed through three levels of the school! In my four hours of class, my teacher and I discussed what I was learning in the Word. It’s not part of the curriculum, but really helpful in building my conversational skills… not to mention holds me accountable to read (and comprehend what I’m reading) daily. I’ve been going through the Bible chronologically and explaining what I was learning in Leviticus in Spanish was quite the challenge! Additionally, I read “The Gospel-Centered Life” (La Vida Centrada en el Evangelio) with my teacher in Spanish, which has been a lot of fun! This is the book I plan to use when I start a young women’s bible study in my home, so it was good to start reviewing the contents with a Spanish speaker.
I also attended a bilingual church called Shoreline City, and loved it! It’s been great to have a church family away from home, and worship Jesus in my heart language.
I also had the opportunity to attend a bilingual small group during my final month in Antigua. This community was a great encouragement to me there, and provided opportunities to serve in the community I hadn’t had yet. One of the women in our group lives in a poverty stricken community 20 minutes outside of Antigua. There are two young women who are pregnant, and two more who just had babies. She felt the Lord asking her to throw them a baby shower, and had begun the process of planning. She asked for prayer during our first meeting together, and suddenly the whole group became very involved, pitching ideas and volunteering to help. I put a post out to a few Facebook groups in the Antigua area, and had an AMAZING response! There were so many women willing and able to help provide gifts, clothes, and financial donations to the women. At the party we had about 75 women and children show up, and had a blast. By the grace of God, our snacks and sweets stretched so that everyone got some. It felt like a modern day “2 fish and 5 loaves” moment. I’m so thankful I got to play a small role in bringing joy and meeting some needs in this rural community.
As I’m transitioning back into “normal” life, I’m reminded of the chaotic week just before I left. I had a lot of preparing to do for court cases happening that week or while I’d be gone. For each court case, I create an informational packet for the judge about each child including basic demographic information for each child, medical and dental history, a letter of recommendation from me, psychological evaluations, letters from the court, visitation records, grade cards, etc. Each packet for the court takes me anywhere from 8-12 hours to complete, as it involves completing the information in English, and then translating it to Spanish. It’s an exhausting process, especially when you have 4 to do in the span of two weeks! The purpose of these packets are two-fold. One, a thick stack of papers shows the judge that we don’t take the future of our children lightly. I’ve had several judges mention how impressed they are with the packets (not to toot my own horn, because it’s absolutely a team effort around here), and it’s just another way to show… “Yes! These children are important to us! We value their lives and futures!” It sets us apart from the other institutions that are overflowing with children. I imagine the constant circulation of children in institutions start to blur together for many of the judges and PGNs here, but our little home is much more stable and intimate. We keep it small, around 22, to maintain the family environment and care for each child to the fullest extent possible. My goal in each hearing is to show the judge that we are NOT like other big institutions… and we put forth considerable effort in the care of each child. Not that all other institutions are bad, but children often fall through the cracks in the larger ones due to the sheer need and shortage of help. I hope the judges are beginning to see that we are different, and the children are flourishing under our care. Additionally, we reference these packets during the hearing. Sometimes I’ll refer to how many times an individual has visited the child or a quote from a child in an interview, to point at potential malintent the adult may have in adopting the child. I also will reference the packet to show that we are meeting their needs. I’ll point out to a judge where a child may be struggling in school, and that the grade goes up as we provide tutoring for them in the afternoon.
The kids aren’t used to me spending so much time in the office, as I’m often out playing and goofing around with them (I know… my job is rough 😉) So while I was pounding out those packets in the office, there was a revolving door of precious ones grasping for my attention. Gallego wasn’t feeling good and needed a little “mom-ing” and some cold medicine. Yaser David tugged on my hand begging me to play. Virginia and Elda would crawl into my lap and just start chatting like I had nothing else occupying my time. As a task-oriented person/perfectionist, it’s difficult to stop what I’m doing and say yes to the never-ending cycle of sweet children demanding my time and attention. My brain is always whirring with reminders of my ever-growing to-dos and approaching deadlines. But when I see their pleading eyes and expectant smiles, I know what truly is important in that moment. They need to know in that moment that they are worthy of my time and attention. That they are more important than my computer screen. That they are valued above any project that may be occupying my task-oriented brain. They don’t understand that the work I am doing is for them and their futures. They perceive my “No baby I’m sorry… I’m really busy right now…” as rejection. Yes, there were moments that I had to say no for the sake of an upcoming hearing, which now ends up looking like shutting the office door… which sometimes doesn’t even work that well!
And yes, leaving my “work” to go play left me finishing up projects at home in the wee hours of the night. But it’s all worth it if the children know AND feel that they are loved. I mean, that’s why our ministry exists… right? Even now I’m calculating the “to do” list and court cases I’ll need to prepare for (there wasn’t a lot I can do remotely) and starting to sweat a little. BUT! Regardless of the impending project mount, I am resolved not to let my tasks hinder how the children perceive my love for them.
COURT UPDATE: Yeshua and Andre’s hearing in January went unbelievably well!! Thank you all for your prayers! I was unable to go as I had already begun my Spanish classes, but I sent two thick informational packets to the judge, with a letter of recommendation from me for the boys not to return to their grandmother and mother’s home. Their previous hearing three months ago, the judge made it seem like at the next one they would be ordered to return, regardless of whether or not these two women could handle the boys. He further stated, that if they ended up back in the gangs, that he’d put them into a Juvenile Center. These two boys have grown a lot with us, but we all feared that should they return to that environment, it wouldn’t be long before they returned to their previous patterns. This time, they had a different judge, who knew the boys since they were 6 and 7 years old (they’ve been in the system half of their lives now). He saw such a significant change in the two of them, and they BOTH asked to stay at Casa de mi Padre. The judge ruled that they could stay at Casa THROUGH THE ENTIRE SCHOOL YEAR! I write that in all caps… because THIS NEVER HAPPENS! The judge usually either gives a 3 month or 6 month (if no one seems to be coming forward for the child)… but 9 months?! That’s amazing!! This will give us a lot of time to love on the boys without them having the fear of leaving us in a short period of time. They can settle into life at Casa FINALLY, and feel the security of “home”.
Lucrecia and Elda had a surprise hearing while I was gone in Antigua. There’s not a lot that I can share about that case at this time, but please be praying that the Lord would give us and the judge wisdom as we assess what is best for the two of them. Also, pray that the Lord would give the girl’s peace and understanding during these complex and difficult conversations.
FUNDRAISING GOALS: I have received $3,310 towards my goal of $8,720. I have paid off the $2,720 to CSA, and so I can focus on car shopping now! I have about $5,410 left to raise!! I would love to find and purchase a vehicle before the rainy season starts in May. If you feel the Lord tugging on your heart to help, please consider giving financially to help me obtain these needs! I also am in need of monthly donors, as I am usually coming up short every month in my living costs. God has been faithful and provided when I needed it, but having a more steady inflow of cash would be helpful in assessing where I can start branching out in my giving and spending in the community of Quiche. All info you need is in the “GIVE” tab or you can click here for credit/debit donations : https://mxmerchant.com/mxcustomer/d/fdaef733-8a39-4e94-beee-bd1fef2a085f/v3?showmemo=1&memo=33-A%20Putthoff