Week 1 cont’d…
We ended our week of medical brigades with a morning of giving to pastors and their families from the surrounding areas. We had a bag of “provisions” prepared for each family and Hermana Otilia and her daughter Karla (our brilliant chefs) cooked them a spaghetti lunch. Norma and a few of us shared words of encouragement then we had a prayer before serving lunch.
After the pastors and their families left, we loaded up for a fun day at the Copán Ruins and zip-lining through the canopy!
>>> I forgot to add in my last post about a special family I met on our way to Santa Cruz! <<< A few years ago when I was in high school and was spending some time at Children’s Hospital shadowing the Spanish interpreters, I met a man who worked there named Amado who was from Copán, Honduras. It was amazing to find out that we had several mutual friends who were from and/or connected with the country in some way. This past trip he was able to get in touch with me before we left to send some medicine and photos and things in a package to his mother. We passed his parents’ house on the way to our first village and were able to stop and meet them for the first time! It was such a blessing to see how his mom was touched by the gifts from her son and grandchildren and for me to be able to see where he had grown up. Unfortunately we were on a schedule and were not able to visit for very long but I just loved being a part of that. 🙂
Week 2 – Hope House + public orphanage
Sunday morning I said goodbye to the Alabama group as they departed for the U.S. and I met up with friends and Angie (Hogar Esperanza, “Hope House” children’s home director) and Eduardo Altamirano at church, Vida Nueva, “New Life,” in San Pedro Sula. It was so good seeing the Hogar Esperanza kids! Several of them saw me a few rows behind them during the service and waved. It took some of them a while to recognize me.
Angie and the older kids had begun to make trips to the public orphanage some Sunday afternoons to visit and minister to the children there and I was able to come along this day as well as the following Sunday. I had visited this orphanage once before with my university a couple years back and it really shocked me. It is one thing to hear the horrors of kids “being raised” in state facilities such as this but is completely different to experience it first-hand.
I will describe what I saw and felt in my three visits to the public orphanage:
A large gate opens in the tall, barbed-wire-topped cinderblock walls that surround the building and we pull our vehicle in. I walk through the entranceway to an open-air cement courtyard. Children in dirty clothes are playing in what looks like the barren remains of a once functional establishment. Paint is chipping from the walls and very few children are wearing shoes. When they see us visitors, many run to cling to one of our free limbs. Some suffer from mental instability, most are starved for personal attention and affection. Before arriving, visitors are warned to leave jewelry and any expensive items at home. It is typical that before learning any moral values, these kids learn the rules to a vicious game called survival.
Right over the property wall to the left of the playground sits a juvenile detention center. This is the only view that many children have of the “outside world.” What a reality to live up to.
The nursery is probably the most heart-breaking aspect of this orphanage. Never in my life have I seen babies with such cold expressions and seemingly guarded attitudes. They sleep two or three to a bed and the cribs fill the room. They are rarely held, played with, sung to… or prayed over.
When they are fed, they are placed together in three cribs that line the wall and a few workers walk down the side with a bowl of baby cereal and one spoon. Each baby gets a turn for a bite of food, unless they are particularly impatient, for which they receive several bites at a time in order to pacify them. (which consequently teaches them the inappropriate way to get what they want in life)
Guests are again warned about holding the older babies because they always cry when placed back in their cribs. They seemed to expect it.
One little boy who came up to me and held my leg was especially insecure about me letting him go. When I would shift him from one hip to the other he would desperately cling to my shirt and try to keep his arms and legs wrapped around me and start whimpering like he was about to burst into tears. When I asked him, “Qué quieres?” (“what do you want?”) he would point toward the door. I tried to ease away by sitting with him in the floor before leaving but I could not handle seeing him cry like that. Even after I placed him in the crib where they were serving food he continued to cry and would say over and over, “mama, mama.”
The role that Angie and her kids play here:
I was amazed at the love and compassion and grace that the kids (ok, let’s be real – young adults) of Hogar Esperanza showed to each child in the public orphanage. Knowing that many of them came from similar situations of hopelessness, they are able to relate and truly share the hope and love of Christ that they now have.
The second Sunday I was with Angie, we went up to the toddler room to give snack and a Bible lesson to the children. They were thrilled when they saw the familiar group from the home! Angie’s kids had prepared the snack and they were ready to lead the group of toddlers in giving thanks to God. They teach them practical things like saying thank you and taking turns. I was touched so much when Angie began singing Jesus Loves Me and the precious babies knew the words! In the Spanish version, it says “Christ is my faithful friend.” Their goal is to instill into these children that He is with them in every situation. When they feel alone. When they feel neglected. When they feel unloved and overlooked and unimportant in the world. Jesus loves me, this I know.
After each visit, Angie’s kids take turns sharing what they saw, felt, and where they saw God that afternoon in the orphanage. Hearing their honest and intuitive reflections really impressed me. I can tell that these kids are going to be (and already are) world changers.
When I visit the orphanage, I tend to get frustrated at the difficulty of adopting a child out of Honduras. There are so many couples all over who would jump at the chance to love and care for a child and this orphanage is an example of the great need for loving caretakers. I can’t wait to show footage of this orphanage in Hogar Esperanza’s support video I’m working on. I will write about that process in a later post and will post the final video once it is ready.