A Hope Worth Fighting For

PROVERBS 19:21 “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.”

Yesterday was a day full of anxiety and uncertainty. The day began with my silly little street dog escaping (You can take the dog out of the street, but not the street out of the dog… am I right?).  It also rained for the first time in months. The cracked ground desperately needed it, but I was not quite as appreciative as I puttered down wet dirt roads on the four wheeler. I arrived at Casa to discover that we had four visitors waiting at our gate. I was already frazzled and damp, but to learn that these were from CNA (which is basically the CPS of Guatemala) was a little unnerving.

They come once or twice a year to check up on the standard of care we provide. This is technically a good thing… but (for a perfectionist like me) I dread these types of visits… especially when they are a complete surprise and I can’t prepare a thing for it! Also, Shane was gone for the morning – so it was just me and Maria (our house mom and talented cook) to search for requested documents and answer their questions.

So, please, just heap some extra hot fudge on the surprise sundae I did not order that day!

This agency exists to ensure that children’s homes in Guatemala are providing quality care, which I’m thankful for, but we disagree on a few fundamental things that really come down to a disagreement of our mission as a ministry. The core of our mission is to take in the abandoned or orphaned child with no viable family options, and to raise them into adults. We want to be the stable family that they lack. This agency sees us as a temporary institution until a permanent solution can be found for every child sent to us. They look (and are also asking us to search) high and low for any relative who might possibly be interested in taking in a child. Don’t get me wrong… temporary institutions ARE necessary, but that’s not OUR heart for the children in OUR home.

We want to be the last hope that points them to their ultimate Hope.  We want them to be free to feel safe and secure, a basic human right they have been denied for much of their lives. This revolving door of court hearings (and this agency’s recent recommendation for us to call and ask the judge for MORE hearings) is in opposition of allowing the children the fulfillment of their most basic needs.

As they were giving us their “recommendations” on ways we can better serve the children, I found myself resisting the urge to roll my eyes or giggle. Some of these recommendations are good things that I’ll be happy to implement, but most of them revolved around this fundamental divide on what our purpose and mission is as a home. One of the more ridiculous recommendations was: “You need to call the parents of the children who haven’t been visited, and remind them that their children live with you in case they forgot, and encourage them to come visit their child.” Umm…. What? You want me to take time out of my day to hunt down this child’s mother, and remind her about the child whom she gave birth to? The child that she later abandoned (or worse… abused)… and THEN I’m supposed to encourage her to rebuild a relationship with this child when she has made NO effort to do so in years? I can only imagine how that conversation would go. “Um, excuse me señora, I’m Alex with Casa de mi Padre. Umm.. this is awkward, but I wanted to call and remind you that we have your three children here, you know in case you forgot. We are feeding them, clothing them, and giving them all the love you have failed to provide, but if you could please just come visit your children that would be great. I’m sure it’d brighten their day to think you want them. And I know what you’re thinking… but don’t worry! I’m the counselor here, so I’ll be ready and available to pick up the pieces when you lose interest again. No problem! Can I pencil you in for Saturday morning?”

Okay, so that’s a little sarcastic – and we do have a handful of families that visit regularly and truly love their children… they just lack the resources or stability to provide for them. I want our kids to have strong (positive/beneficial) familial connections if possible when they leave our home (whether at the order of a judge or at the age of 18). It can be very healthy and good (depending on each child’s unique situation).

All that to say I’m struggling to get behind some of the recommendations that I find ludicrous, but this organization is not the highest authority that we answer to… God is. Yes, he has called us to respect the authorities in our lives (including the government), and we will. We will do our very best to meet the standards they have set for us, but at the end of the day GOD has given us our mission. We will always choose obedience to Him when any person or organization comes into opposition of what He’s called us to do. He is sovereign and good. He intimately knows the hearts of each of our children, and cares for them far more than any individual from any agency. It is first under my Jesus’ authority, that I fight for these children.

We will still function like a family to our kiddos, as we did last night. We have a wonderful mission team from the States with us this week, and they planned and provided everything for our big party for all March birthdays – celebrating Juanito (16), Walter (14), and Virginia (6). Virginia excitedly reminded everyone of her birthday party all day, and was walking on cloud-nine throughout the party. This was the first time she’s ever had a birthday party in her whole six years of living. She told me today that her favorite part(s) were “the cake, the piñata, OH! And the presents! I love my new baby and my new shoes!” It was such a joy to celebrate with them! To show them that we are GLAD that they were born (regardless of the initial circumstances of their origin) – and that they are loved, valued, and cherished.

{{I’m working on uploading a video of everyone opening presents, but after an hour and a half of “error upload”, I have given up for the time being. I will post it soon though!}}

COURT UPDATE: I had another surprise sundae recently. We got a call one morning from the Quiche courts rescheduling Brenda’s court case to 11am the following day. For those of you who don’t know Brenda’s story, she was living with her older abusive sister at the age of 7, whom her mother sold to an old man. Her mother has 9 children, and she has pawned off or sold all of them – and is now trying to get Brenda back (who conveniently has turned 12 and is turning into a beautiful young woman). I don’t know her mother’s intentions, but it’s clear that she does not have the resources or stability to provide for Brenda. Brenda’s younger brother isn’t even living with theri mother, but with a “family friend” because mom can’t take care of him. She’s had several hearings in the last 9 months that her mom has showed up for, and each one held some tension as the judge seemed to consider her mother’s tearful pleas.

The day for this hearing also happened to be a day Cole and Shane were gone (one of whom I usually do this with), so I was going to fly solo with our talented cook. My stomach dropped when I got the call, and tied up in knots throughout the day as mini-emergencies kept taking priority over my time and preventing me from preparing for her hearing. If you read my last post, you know that:

1. I spend a ridiculous amount of time preparing for hearings and typing up and translating paperwork for the judge. and…

2. My Spanish is significantly better after spanish school, but not good enough to keep up with the speed with which they speak during hearings.

I ended up typing and translating furiously into the wee hours of the night, and then printing everything at Casa the next morning. Thankfully, the LORD was not blindsided by this little surprise like I was. He was still in control, and provided all that we needed to be successful. The evening before the hearing I called Analu, one of our child care staff who also speaks fluent English. She called into her other job and was able to get some time off to help. We met early the morning of  the hearing so that I could coach her in all the things we were going to cover with the judge, and especially what we’d need to address if things started going south. She was instrumental to the success of that hearing, and did a wonderful job translating and expressing eloquently Brenda’s needs to the judge.

Brenda’s uncle and aunt also came to the hearing. The courts are investigating him as a potential guardian for Brenda. She has a lot of positive memories with his family, and wants to live with them. I was saddened and anxious about this when it first came up 3 months ago, but after meeting him and his wife I think it could be a good fit. They are Christians, live close by, he has a stable job, their children are healthy, and they seem very loving. They aren’t wealthy, but they’ll love and provide for her. I was also impressed by how boldly he spoke against her returning to her mother’s custody to the judge, even with her mother sitting two seats down from him!

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Please be praying that the investigators will do their jobs thoroughly, and that if there’s any danger or mal-intent with this family that it would be brought to light now. Also pray that the Lord gives us, the families, and the courts wisdom in this whole process. I did have a chance to propose my 12-week transition idea to the judge, and he seemed to like it (though he was relatively non-committal and vague in our discussion about it). The seed has been planted, and I pray that it takes root!

FUNDS UPDATE: I know my last post was relatively recent, so I don’t have any new numbers for you. I’m also running low on my general funds. I have a handful of monthly supporters, but most of what I’ve been living off of have been one-time gifts. My faith has been stretched as I’ve watched the funds shrink, but I know that He has a purpose for me to fill here. So I will continue doing what I’m doing here until it runs out!

My current monthly support combined is $375 per month, and my monthly costs average out to $1,165.  Please consider joining me as a monthly supporter in the work I’m doing with these kids, bringing restoration and healing to the precious little hearts! If you have any questions about my budget or the process of donating monthly, please feel free to reach out via email (alexputthoff@gmail.com) or Facebook!

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