Friday, July 15, 2016

My heart grew three sizes that day

Our missions trip to Guatemala and the Casa Shalom Orphanage has changed the course and direction of my life.  100 something children, different ages, needs, genders all had a profound effect on who I am and the direction God is leading me.  I walked on the grounds of that orphanage as one person and came out completely different. I held babies, played with toddlers and children. I hugged teenagers and I watched the miracles that are unfolding in the lives of those children.

Five children came into the orphanage while we were there. One little boy came in whistling and singing and a bubbly, bright little boy full of hope and sunshine.  He captured my heart with his bubbly personality. He was part of a sibling group and they still had the light of hope and a future in their eyes. I do not know if their placement by child protection will be long or short, but they still had hope. Their eyes still sparkled with the magic of childhood.

Three more children came in that weekend. A baby, a toddler and a 7 year old boy. On those sweet faces was written a story far different than the other two children. Agony, devastation and horror were in their eyes. Their world came crashing down and despite all the love that was being offered and that will still be offered as they find their fit in the orphanage, their eyes did not have sparkle.  Their eyes were full of pain and sorrow.  The baby had the protection of infancy but as I held her frail little body in my arms and felt the weightlessness of a child who was malnourished my heart broke. She looked into my face as I sang Jesus loves me to her in my language. A language she does not know, but she looked into my eyes and she smiled. She knew love when she felt it. Not because of what I was doing but because Jesus stepped into that moment and touched that sweet little baby with a little bit of love the only thing I had to offer. 

I looked into the face of her toddler sister, age 2 and I saw pain. Occasionally, a smile could be pulled out of her but her face was so full of pain.  I do not know all of what those little eyes have seen. I do not know everything she has experienced but in her two years of life she has known great sorrow and it is written in her eyes. The thing is, she is now in a place that can give her love, love of people, the love of Christ and peace.  She has a chance to become something wonderful.  She let me hold her and talk to her in my broken Spanish and did not shy away from gentle touch. She was hungry for love.  She has house parents and staff at that orphanage who will be able to minister to the broken places through the love of Christ. 

I watched as her 7 year old brother grieved the loss of his family. Yes, he was "rescued" but to him, despite his home life, it was not a rescue. His world had just been turned upside down. That's the thing, with abused kids, that I learned back in the day when I worked as a foster care counselor.   Just because we as grown ups know we are doing what is best for them, these kids do not feel that way. They love their parents, no matter how good, bad or ugly their lives have been.  It doesn't matter to them that they have been rescued when it happens. It WILL matter one day. He will understand one day. The orphanage has a psychologist and staff that is and will continue to help him heal.  I watched him at a window, tears rolling down his tiny face, begging for us to take him to his Mama. I watched him make a connection with one of our team members who though she could not speak his language she gave him unconditional love. I watched the staff and house parents minister to him. The last night we were there, I began to see the beginnings of hope blossoming as he found his voice to answer a question or would talk to someone.  I held him in my arms during movie night, his frail, body waiting expectantly for his world to right again.  He would ask me what time it was, simply because he has hope that at a specific time he might get to see his Mama again. I don't know when or if that will happen, but I do know that the orphanage is helping him.  

I watched little children want to keep their party plates because they were pretty. I saw a little boy try some garlic toast. He did not like it, but he ate it anyway because he has learned in his life before Casa Shalom, you eat what you have when you have it. 

I saw poverty unlike anything I have ever seen in a near by village and it was one of the less effected areas as far as poverty is concerned. 

I enjoyed working on the projects we did and working along side a team whose main goal was to show the love of Jesus in everything, we did, said, sang, touched, etc.  Our goal was to show love to not only the kids but the staff and anyone we met. I think through the help of Jesus we did that. 

In all of this, God has called me back to working with abused children.  I said back in the day, I would "never" do that again.  He has called me to learn Spanish and work with abused children. I do not yet know how this will unfold but it will happen.  I am on a mission to learn Spanish so that I can work with both English speaking and Spanish speaking families in our communities here in Chattanooga.

I am not nor have I ever been a Grinch, but you know the line where it says and "the Grinch's small heart grew three sizes that day"(Dr. Suess-how the Grinch stole Christmas).....I feel like my heart grew in Guatemala.  I can't explain it. I can't prove it. I can't even show it. I just know my heart, soul and mind changed through this missions trip. 

I do know that life is forever changed for me, greatly impacted by the children and staff at Casa Shalom. From the head to the cooks to anyone and everyone that works on that campus, the children and the house parents. It's amazing what one week can do to your life.  I haven't even touched on half the stuff I learned or experienced.  All I know is God is powerful and He is changing these little  hearts and healing them through the loving ministry at Casa Shalom.  I pray that this ministry will send out future missionaries, preachers, teachers, doctors and more for the glory of God.