God Doesn't Have a "Plan B" (Part 2)
Updated: May 28, 2018
“It may take place in a foreign land or it may take place in your backyard, but I believe that we were each created to change the world for someone. To serve someone. To love someone the way Christ first loved us, to spread His light. This is the dream, and it is possible.” ― Katie J. Davis, Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption
Part 2 of 3
To me, this excerpt from “Kisses from Katie”, very simply explains how I came to feel about my life. Even though I had dedicated my life to Jesus at this point and I loved being a teacher, we were still living mainly for ourselves, filling our house with “stuff” and getting lost in our pursuit of more. It was both painful and liberating to eventually sell all of this stuff but three years later we still fight our inclination to buy more, even here in Guatemala.
After a few weeks of intensive Spanish classes in Antigua for the whole fam, Phil began the process of finding a home and getting it certified with CNA (Consejo Nacionales de Adopciones) as an orphanage or hogar de ninos. Being a big picture guy, a builder, he was in his element and there is no doubt that in those first few months, the Lord was clearly guiding us. He brought amazing people into our lives, blessed us with a supportive community with whom we still rely on daily and provided the kids with a wonderful school full of other missionary kids and Guatemalans.
While Phil and his assistant Jorge got busy building the Hogar the kids and I started school. Since we knew it would be several months before we started receiving children, I decided to do what I know and love best, and accepted a teaching job at a small, bilingual Christian school. Six months into the job, the principal quit. He just walked out the door one day. Being the most “mature” teacher on staff I was promoted to principal, a position I have both loved and loathed for two and half years now. At the time I couldn’t believe someone would ever walk out on kids mid-year. Who does that? But now that I have walked in those shoes for three years, I get it. It’s a tough, crazy, painful, beautiful, horrible job and there have been many days when I almost ran out the door myself, but God always brought me back. He has been with me every step and I see now how he has used everything, all of it, both the pain and the joy, to get me to this place.
I think at this point I should back up the truck and give some background info about why there is such an orphan crisis in Guatemala. I mean, there are orphans in every country so why come to Guatemala? In 2001, when we lived here before, it was very common to go to Antigua and see several foreign couples cuddling their newly adopted Guatemalan baby. Sadly, some misguided people chose to exploit the system and people’s desire to adopt, and it became common for babies to be stolen and sold to unknowing families in other countries who thought they were doing a good thing. In 2008, in an attempt to stop these heinous crimes against children, the Guatemalan government closed all foreign adoptions. They put the brakes on and quickly a bad situation got much worse as children were now crowded into underfunded orphanages not prepared or staffed to properly care for all of the children.
Fast forward to 2018, there is still an orphan crisis in this country, but slowly things are starting to change. Local churches and ministries are working to break down cultural barriers by providing education about adoption. International pressure stemming from horrific incidents in government-run orphanages, are all forcing the government to make changes to the system. One change is that foreigners may now adopt IF they are permanent residents in Guatemala. This change has allowed many missionaries to open their homes and hearts to children, many of whom have been waiting years for their forever family. But there is still much work to be done.
Back to our story… after 355 days, our orphanage was blessed with its first child, a swarthy little boy, who immediately stole my husband’s heart. Shortly thereafter we received a baby girl, just four days old, abandoned by her young mother at the hospital.
These children were the first of many we received over the next year, all with difficult and often heart-wrenching stories of abuse and neglect. Some came and stayed for a short time until other family members could be located, or released from jail, or until a parent demonstrated to the courts that they were once again fit and able to care for their child. They came to us at all hours of the day and night, in a little van full of children all going to other homes, and we usually were only told minimal information- name, age, medical needs, and often this information was not even correct. For weeks we once called one child by the wrong name because it was incorrect on the paperwork.
Most of their stories were similar but a few stand out and are imprinted on my heart forever. One four year old girl showed up early in the morning with terror in her eyes and blood splattered on her shirt. She had witnessed her father shooting and killing her mother then killing himself. She’d spent hours in a courtroom in the middle of the night, then was loaded into a van and brought to us. We all loved on this little one for several months, trying to nurture her back to physical and emotional health after an unthinkable tragedy. We taught her about Jesus and how he loves her unconditionally. She became part of our “family” at the hogar but this would never be an adequate replacement for her own. Then one day several months later, we got word from the courts that she had grandparents! This lovely elderly couple had been looking for their granddaughter since that fateful day when they lost their own daughter, but the system is not easy to navigate and without support and resources it took months for them to locate her. But find her they did and this story has a happy ending as we were able to reunite this broken family.
Many stories are not so happy. There were times when the courts ordered us to turn over crying children to unknown relatives because increasingly, the judges are being pressured to place children with family members regardless of suitability. This is not a jab at the hard-working psychologists and social workers who, like us, are working within a broken system, but a recognition that the system is still in great need of change.
One night Phil got a phone call from the nannies (the blessed young women who lovingly care for the kids day and night) at the hogar that another child had arrived. This little two year old girl was found wandering the streets alone in Huehuetenango. She was brought to us in a black police pick-up truck with four police escorts.
Phil made breakfast for the officers who then had to turn around and make the five hour return trip back to Huehue. This traumatized little one spoke and understood only Quiche, one of several indigenous languages, and she cried every day, all day for two weeks. She would sneak off into the yard and poop under a tree and clung to our one nanny who could speak this indigenous language. Like most of the kids who came to us, she was dirty and her hair was infested with lice. Slowly her story unfolded and though we discovered she is a true orphan, she is not yet deemed “adoptable” by the courts, so for now she remains at the hogar and waits for her forever family.
I share these stories not just to tug at your heart strings but to try to bring understanding of our work here in orphan care because, after two years, the Lord has once again been working on our hearts to take another huge leap of faith, off a cliff, into his waiting arms. In part three of this blog I will share our exciting news with you all!