Thursday was a rough day in this country. With tears running down my face, I wanted to write and share with you what happened. I woke Thursday morning unaware of what took place overnight and into the morning. Here in Guatemala, there are private children's homes, and there are government ran children's homes. Private children's home tend to offer a higher quality of care, due to outside financing, which we all know is not easy to come by. Government ran homes tend to be overcrowded and understaffed with poor living conditions due to poor government funding. Children are forced into government ran homes due to a lack of private homes and foster care/adoption. There are various reasons for this, which is another story for another day.
The Virgen de Asuncion children's home just outside of Guatemala City is a government ran home.
This home has been in the news recently due to poor living conditions, physical abuse, and sexual abuse. This home was equipped to hold 300 children. It is said that nearly 900 were living within its walls. The original story that came out on Thursday morning stated that overnight, the children had enough. A riot broke out within the home, and the children set the home ablaze in protest to the conditions they were being forced to live in. During the fire, over 60 children were able to evade the security guards and escape from the home. The fire quickly spread and took the lives of 19 young girls, between the ages of 14-17. Over 30 children are suffering from severe to life-threatening burns.
Today, Sunday, the death toll is up to 40 with 4 more still in critical condition. The government is under heavy criticism as it allowed something like this to happen, and many are even saying it was the government itself that did this. It is said that the young girls where locked into the room where the fire broke out. This specific home has been temporarily shut down, and most children have been moved to another government ran home. The situation is far more complicated than it sounds, as there are multiple government entities that are responsible for private and government ran children's homes.
Ultimately, the story is tragic no matter how it is looked at.
Surely we can help, and surely we are going to do everything that we can to help. This blog however is not so much about how we are going to help though. This blog is more so about how we should all be helping. Not just helping here in Guatemala, but helping right outside your front door.
I remember a month or two ago I was leaving the grocery store with my 3-year-old. We took an elevator down into the parking garage. Lucy loves elevators, and sometimes gets distracted by the sheer fun they can be. We reached the parking garage and the doors opened, I began walking out the doors with Lucy when she realized her sticker had fallen off her shirt in the elevator. Instead of walking out of the elevator, she turned back to pick up her sticker. At that point, the doors began to close. She noticed, and I noticed. I was able to stick my foot in between the doors to open them back up before they came to a complete close. The damage had already been done though. The thought of getting stuck alone, in an unfamiliar environment, with zero control, wrecked my little girl. She bolted into my arms and began crying uncontrollably.
Later that night as I lay in bed I thought about how many children around me live that experience every single day. In Guatemala, they could go from children's home to children's home. They could have a new caretaker every week. They can be abused behind closed doors regularly. In the United States, they can go from foster home to foster home. They can have people pretending to care, but only to receive a paycheck from the government. They too, can face abuse daily behind closed doors.
Unacceptable. And yet so many tolerate it.
It is time to stop tolerating it, and to start taking action against it.
This blog is a plead to you all, to fight for the children who have no one fighting for them. There are so many ways this can be done, but it starts by using your voice.
I don't know everything about this topic, but I promise you I can point you to someone who does. If you have any questions about how you can help children who have no one, please reach out to someone. If you have no one to reach out to, please reach out to me.
Because of Jesus,
We have been blessed and overwhelmed by the amount of people that have contacted us wanting to help. Currently, the most logical and practical way to help apart from prayers is to help provide for needed items of children who have been moved to homes that may not have the needed resources to care. We are accepting financial donations to purchase some of those items needed through our website. However, it is very important that you send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with the amount donated towards this specific cause so we can be sure to allocate your donation. Thank you for understanding.
I actually have been wanting to write something, ANYTHING, for awhile now but just could not muster up the "Get it!" to do so. However, it is a nice 62 degrees outside, and at least 7 degrees cooler inside our tile and concrete block home. Jen and Lucy are learning about the letter 'S' across the table from me. I am wearing shorts, a hoodie, and socks. Coffee in the mug and some pretty decent tunes in the background. Feeling it a little bit this morning.
But not just am I feeling it, I actually have been thinking a lot about our family lately, and how we got here where we are, and what we have learned since we have been here. Obedience has been kind of a big topic in our house lately, and no, not just because we have a 3 year old living amongst us, but also because it is a battle we continuously fight as adults, and man is it a confusing and difficult path.
Before I met Jen, I remember the constant fight of trying to figure out the "perfect plan and path" that God had for my life. I spent most of my time completely stagnant asking, and justified it as "waiting". I knew the desires of my heart, but just did not know how to make them happen. One thing became very clear after SEVERAL years of waiting for that perfect opportunity. I was wrong in my waiting. Partially because I was terrified of walking outside of the "perfect plan and path" that God had for me. I actually turned down amazing opportunities because I was so scared of making a wrong decision! God is faithful and I am living my dream, but it was somewhat of an ugly path to get here.
What if God's only perfect plan and path for you is that you actually stop worrying about the perfect plan/path and just love Him with all your heart? Do we actually put ourselves in a religious trap by thinking what we do is more important? Does worrying about the perfect path/plan actually make our faith more about works than about loving the Lord our God with all of our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind? Does it actually prevent us from loving our neighbor as ourself?
Obedience is actually the first step. Obedience is the first call. But obedience to what? To love. True selfless love towards Him. As missionaries it is amazing how often we fall away from that first call of obedience. How easy it is to sometimes view our ministry as a job, rather than an act of worship. God has been rocking our hearts when it comes to this mindset. We must all stop waiting and start doing. Start loving Him with all your heart, soul, and mind.
May He be known and glorified through all that we do!
Last week, my fellow missionary friend, David, and I were sitting outside discussing my recent trip to the states. I shared the joys of visiting family and friends, but I also shared the difficulties that were involved. He took his turn and did the same about the times when they visit the states. It's always rewarding, but it's not necessarily a break one would expect when visiting “home home”. We often come back more tired than before we left, and we're not always encouraged to come back “home”. (SIDE NOTE: We missionaries no longer really refer to our home country as being home. When we move out of the country we literally change where we call home. For our heart's sake, it's a must.) We also know our visits are often unfair to those we visit, and hard at times for so many others involved. So please, accept our letters below.
I am sorry that "keeping in touch" has resorted to Facebook reactions and Christmas cards. I'm sorry I can't just pick up the phone and ask how your day went. I can't even keep up with current events, and though the internet has helped, my television is in Spanish so by the time I am able to sit down and watch it, my brain no longer wants to interpret. I'm also sorry that our kids won't have the opportunity to grow up together and to do everything like we did, side-by-side.
I am sorry that it seems like the only time I call you is to ask for money. Your friendship means more than that to me. I'm sorry that we really only know each other from our once-a-year coffee shop meetups. And, I'm sorry that when we do have plans to sit down, I'm often running late from a previous meeting, and I look like a zombie that just ran a marathon. Support raising can be tiring.
Dear Anyone Whose Asked Me What I Do,
I'm sorry my response to your very polite question included a PowerPoint presentation and handouts.
I am so sorry that I eat all of the food in your house, and that even asking me to pitch in for groceries makes you feel like a bad person. I'm sorry that I spend more time outside of the house in meetings than I do in it with you. I wish my schedule didn't have to be full when I'm at “home home” visiting you. I truly love you and I desire to spend that quality time with you. I am sorry I'm so far away when you need a shoulder to cry on, or somebody to laugh with. It hurts my heart as much as it hurts yours.
Dear Instagram Followers,
I'm sorry, but...my photos aren't telling the whole truth. Life here can be much more difficult than I've lead you to believe, but those kinds of photos don't always get the most likes, so I stopped posting them.
Dear Mom & Dad,
I am sorry that you only get to see your grandkids once a year and that you've had to sing them Happy Birthday and wish them Merry Christmas through a computer screen. I am sorry they look different every time you see them because time doesn't stand still when they are away from you. I want for them to go fishing with you and I want you to teach them to cook. I am sorry my kids don't always run to you with open arms that first time they see you after a long stretch. I promise I talk about you to them regularly.
I'm sorry you have to repeat yourself so often during our conversations. I'm trying to keep up the best I can. I am sorry that sometimes I take pictures of you without asking. I think you really are beautiful and I want the world to see. I'm sorry for assuming at first that my way was the right way. Thank you for your grace and patience. And on top of that, I am sorry that I can't always give you what you need. The fine line between helping or hurting is something I struggle with daily.
I am sorry you don't get to grow up with a front or backyard. I know how precious grass is. I am sorry that your favorite cartoon shows aren't always available. I am sorry that sometimes it may look like I care more about them than I care about you. You will always be first in my heart. I am sorry that you often don't know which language to speak, and that sometimes it may be too much for your little brain to handle. I am sorry that you are awoken at all hours of the night by loud fireworks or barking dogs. And, I'm sorry that despite where we go, you don't feel like you belong and that you hate the question "Where are you from?"
Dear Missionary Self,
I'm not sorry. I'm not sorry you gave up your new pickup and potential job promotion. I'm not sorry you had to leave the comforts of the back pew for the ever uncomfortable role of full-time ministry. I'm not sorry the lines of work, family and recreation are always blurred, or that you had to miss the last big football game for a ministry activity. I'm not sorry that on the hard days you wonder why you ever left. I'm not sorry because you're obeying the will and commandment of God, and there's nothing to be sorry about when you're abiding in his will.
Dear everyone listed above,
A Missionary (or two)
Last week, I had the privilege of attending The Summit, a yearly conference held by Christian Alliance for Orphans which consists of leaders worldwide gathering together to collaborate and learn about how we can continue to serve vulnerable children across the globe. It was such a beautiful time of togetherness where we got to honor the Lord for not just what He is doing, but also for what He has already done for us.
During the week, I was able to spend a lot of time reflecting on the ministry we are beginning to embark on. I thought about the children we will be working with and how my view of them was often very pure in heart, but also very incorrect.
I began to think of how I referred to the orphan situation in Guatemala. I would often refer to it as an orphan problem, or as a little more catchy term, “orphan crisis”, which very much has the same meaning. As I would listen to testimonies from the various speakers, I was really convicted in how I referred to the situation. Because in fact, the orphan truly is not the problem. Here I was, taking children (a child is a person), and referring to them as a burden. A child who did not chose the life they live. A person who had nothing to do with the situation they are in.
How so often do we resort to orphan care as an extra task? As if it is some sort of problem we will get to if we can. It is not supposed to be an extra task, it is supposed to be an act of response and worship!
James 1:27 – Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
Isaiah 1:17 – learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause.
Matthew 18:5 – “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me..”
In reality, the orphan truly is not the problem.
The problem is our understanding of the Gospel.
As we once were left alone in a world of sin, God, through His son Jesus Christ, rescued us, and promised to not leave us alone as orphans. We were promised to be taken under His wing as a father, and to be lead through life. Our care for the fatherless should not be out of obligation, but rather out of a desire to bring God the glory He deserves. To love the child who has been left alone, just as we were once left alone.
May we all drop the trendy orphan crisis terminology, and be radically transformed by the overwhelming love of our Father. May we no longer remain silent, for through our silence our hearts speak. May we be forever changed by our Father's love.
I just spent the last hour hand-washing dishes while my wife and two daughters slept. I only got interrupted once to put our 2 year old back to sleep, and I am finally getting to have my time, the time I cherish so much, 11:30pm. Nothing but waves from the sound machine in the background. And a few stray crickets.
As I was washing forks and knives I stood there thinking, husband/fatherhood is hard. I mean, I was completely happy with staying up way too late having to report to nobody. Going to work on two hours sleep, but knowing that was ok because I was going to go home and take a nap until 7PM without being disturbed, at all! I lived in a two bedroom apartment by myself. I turned bedroom 1 into a tv room, and bedroom 2 into a dining room. The dining room became my bedroom, with my mattress, the one I picked up next the dumpster to replace my cot because it was free, laying on the floor. Why? Because I lived there alone and I could do whatever I wanted. My Saturday's were slumber days, and I could skip Sunday morning church if I felt like it.
Now, here I am. Wanting to watch a baseball game, but instead I am bouncing our 3 month old to sleep, which never comes. Wanting to go for a long drive just for the heck of it, but my wife wants me home because I've been gone all day. Wanting, for the life of me to take a nap, but our 2 year old is demanding that dad go pick flowers with her. Endless amounts of flowers! Hours of picking flowers!
I miss so badly being able to do what I want, when I want, with absolutely no one demanding my time. What happened?
After we got both girls to sleep tonight, I laid down in bed next to my wife as she was about to turn in also. We talked a little about life, shared a few laughs and encouraging words to one another, and I just stared. This entire blog post went through my head in that moment. From how I just want time to myself, to asking myself what happened. Before I could even dwell on the question, I looked at my wife, put my hands on my head and blurted out the answer “I can't imagine what in the world my life would be like without you”.
Time to me was fun, but it has nothing on dancing with the love of your life in the living room. Having your 2 year old climb on your back and whisper gently in your ear “I love you”. Getting to hold your 3 month baby that wants to do nothing more than smile at your ridiculous faces.
I traded a life that was for me, for a life that was for us. I've been married for 4 years, and have 2 kids. The truth is, I do miss the time I had to myself, but I would never, ever trade what I have now, for what I had then.