Before starting Village of Hope, God gave us a vision- His vision. He showed us His perfect design to care for children.
To give them a family.
"God sets the lonely in families" Psalm 68:6
Because of the family setting at Village at Hope, kids are truly being healed, instead of just receiving a band-aid. Boys are growing up to be men of God with a father to show them how, and girls are bring taught how to love themselves and to care for a family. Our kids are taught how a family acts, because that is something they have never seen before. They are taught how to treat each other, and how they deserve to be treated.
I could go on and on about why the family as God created it is the perfect design, and how amazing our kids are and everything they are learning because of it, but instead I decided to ask them. I asked several of them what it means to them to have a family, and their answers left me standing in awe.
"The family is so important because they take care of us, they educate us, they correct us... even when we have some type of worry, they are there for us... They even teach us to love ourselves and they teach us good and bad. Also how to have a good attitude and they give us love, care, and they give us their time. " - Yesenia age 14
"Before, I didn't have a family that appreciated me. They didn't visit me when I was in the hospital. Now I am so happy here at Village of Hope because I have a good family." - Moises age 12
"The family is so important because they can take care of us and teach us to do good things and how to behave. They teach us good habits like how to respect others, just as they respect us. But what's most important is that they talk about that someone loves us and they teach us about the love of God and his promises." - David age 14
"In Village of Hope the best that could have happened is to have a family. And mom and a dad that care about us. To have a family and a house is so good because a lot of us in the home didn't have good families before and now we are so happy to have a family. In a lot of other homes there are no families, but here there is." - Jessica age 16
"I feel so good in my family because I know that they love me a lot."- Kimberly age 14
"I have a daughter named Rubi and she is two years and three months old. For her and for me it is very important to have a family. I know that our parents are responsible and loving and that we will grow up happy and with faith in God... I have been in other homes where they don't take care of kids. Thanks to God I now live in this home."- Jessica age 16
"What does is mean to have this family? It means that they help me and I don't feel alone with my daughter." - Michel age 14
"I was living in another children's home and I didn't like it because they didn't treat me good and the other kids hit me. Where I live now in Village of Hope I like it because they help me and support me and give me what I need. There are parents here who teach me good things. I wouldn't want to go back to where I was. I like it here a lot." - Gustavo age 13
"The truth is that before I couldn't have a family like I have now. I thank God because I am at Village of Hope. They gave me a family like I had dreamed of. I have a dad who I can ask for help. I have a mom who listens to me." - Elizabeth age 14
She climbed into the van with her baby boy clutched to her
chest. Her eyes wide open, wondering if she could trust these people she had
only met yesterday, and worried about the answers she was about to receive. She
knew her son was sick, she just didn’t know how sick.
That was a year ago on October 23.
Stefany was the first teenager we received at Village of
Hope, and I have to be honest- we were scared. Everyone had warned us- telling
us to stick with little kids because they were easier. The second day she was
there, we woke up really early to go with Stefany and her son Angel to the
hospital. I sat with her for 12 hours that day outside of the intensive care
unit, and we talked. She was just like any other 16 year old. She liked
listening to One Direction and watching TV. She wanted to be an attorney when
she grows up, and she loves eating pizza with her friends.
The more we talked and she shared her story, the more I saw
her scars and just how deep they were. She told me about her childhood and the
abuse that had become normal. Expected. Taught. She shared with me how she felt
unwanted, and that she looked everywhere- anywhere- for love. Those same
abusive qualities that she had grown up with- she found in a boy. She didn’t
know what love meant anymore. She told me about finding out that her baby
growing inside of her had trisomy13, and how everyone told her that she should
have an abortion, but she chose life.
On November 19, 2013, at just 5 months old, Angel passed
I hugged her as she received the news. I will never forget
the sound of her sobbing. We walked side by side into the morgue, where she
hugged her baby boy for the last time. Her strength amazed me. I held her as
her son was laid to rest- something no mom should ever have to go through.
For several months after that, Stefany struggled, feeling
like she had no purpose. There were times when she would cut herself out of
desperation, or she would run off and hide, saying she wanted to escape.
Sometimes I wondered if things would ever change, and I worried if we really
could make a difference, knowing that time was the limit.
But, sometimes, in order to heal, you just need someone who will
pick you up when you’ve hit rock bottom and be there to point you to the Rock.
So I would find her, and we would talk. I told her that God
had a plan for her life. I told her about the opportunity God had given her,
but it was up to her to take advantage of it- to use the gifts He had given
her. We talked about boys and finding the right one. One who treats you like a
princess. We talked about love. We talked about second chances. We talked about
In February 2014, Stefany gave her life to Christ and was
later baptized. She now has hope and purpose. She has learned how to put others
before herself, and her joy is unexplainable. She loves using her talents of singing and dancing for the Lord, and she tells
everyone of what He did in her. Stefany
radiates His love.
Stefany will soon be 18, which means she will be given the
freedom to decide what happens and where she goes. Last week we talked about
her thoughts and her decisions. We had both been praying hard about it. She
cried as she told me how she had come to Village of Hope with Angel and was now
facing leaving without him. We assured
her that she was always welcome here, that no matter what she has a family and
that we love her. She told me that she will never forget the lessons she
learned, and the relationships she made, that if she leaves the first things
she will do are to find a church and enroll in school, and she promised me that
she wouldn’t settle for less than what she deserves in any relationship. I knew
she was torn. She shared how much she would miss Village of Hope if she leaves,
but that she misses her mom while she’s here. We prayed the same thing we had
since the beginning- that God’s will be done. I stand confident knowing that
Stefany had been given all the tools she needs. She knows what is safe, she
knows what is right, and she has people that will love her and support her no
matter what. I know that God is using her for great things.
A lot can happen when someone is willing to walk with you
and show you truth. A lot can happen when someone believes in you and patiently
and lovingly lets you heal.
That’s where I fit in at Village of Hope. I’ve been provided
a unique experience that enables me to understand both the American and the
Guatemalan culture. The past three years that I have served in Guatemala I’ve
seen more pain than most people do in a lifetime, and I have been privileged to
walk alongside many on the road to healing. I have wept with those who weep and
I have mourned with those who mourn, but mostly, I have loved. And I have seen
tremendous healing come through love.
After graduating high school, I prayed a lot about what I
was supposed to do. Most of my friends were walking across their college campus
for the first time; I was walking across the mission field. I was already doing
what I wanted to do for the rest of my life- using my life to point others to
Christ.So I am staying in Guatemala to
continue serving and walking alongside the least, the lost, and the lonely. They
may be in a crisis, but I believe that crisis’s can refine life. In the midst
of the crisis you discover who you are and what you live for if only you have
someone to help you make it through.
So now it time to step out as an adult missionary. My role
will be as a crisis counselor-ministering to Guatemalan and American youth- to
show them the One who carries them through the storm.
As I continue on this journey, I would love for you to
partner with me.
There’s something really special about a kid who has come
full circle, a kid who was once the one being helped, but is now helping others.
I can’t help but feel that way when I am around these precious kiddos. Their
hearts amaze me. They had everything against them, every reason to hurt and to
hurt others. If anyone had an excuse it was them. But that’s not who they are.
They see others and they have compassion.
They look for the outcasts and they
They identify the desperate and give them hope.
They notice the
poor and they share what they have.
recognize the hurting and show them love.
That’s who they are, and I couldn’t
be more proud.
(Photo courtesy of her big sister who wants to be a photographer.)
Alisia and her 3 older siblings live in Chixolis where we deliver food each week. Whenever the see the 15 passenger vans drive through they run outside yelling my name. I yell back for them, and they latch onto my side proudly trailing the group throughout their village.
Alicia and her siblings are being raised by their widowed grandmother in a simple house with no electricity and one shared bed. They have been abandoned and are normally cared for by whatever neighbor is around because their grandmother is old and has bad vision.
But they are my friends now.
Every week we bring them extra cookies along with their weekly food basket and every week they take me around introducing me to new friends and teaching me about the plants they grow. I teach them new English words and encourage them to be whatever God wants them to be. They tell me about their favorites ice cream and warn me about how to avoid the dogs. We laugh together as we walk hand in hand and take funny pictures, pausing to pray for a neighbor or a friend.
Last week before we said good-bye they told me that I'm no longer a gringa- a foreigner. They told me that I may be lighter than them, but they accept me as one of them.
"I know it was wrong, but I just wanted someone to love me. My mom and dad never did."
I sat at a table across from her looking into her eyes. She was so young, but so tired and worn. I could see the pain wearing on her tiny body. How could anyone have tried to hurt her?
Some things don't make sense to me. I don't think I will ever understand why someone would abuse a child in this way, but its not my job to know. Its not my job to sit around asking questions. Its my job to act and to change things.
We can't make a difference in the life of everyone, but for one- her life was changed because she has found the Father who will always love her, more than she will ever know.
When Michel first came to Village of Hope she told me that her mom went to church, but that she didn't want to turn out like her mom did. She didn't want anything to do with Jesus.
Last week, Michel was baptized.
Love changes everything.
"We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty." - Mother Teresa
So many people want to settle into something that has already been established.
It the easy thing to do.
To just magically appear into the pre-cleared out promised land.
To move into the house that's already built and furnished.
To serve at the ministry that is already started and supported.
To marry the man that already has his careers and life plans figured out.
To preach to the congregation that is already there.
To work at the company that is already running.
None of those are bad things.
In fact, they're all really good.
But lately, God's been teaching me that some things are worth the effort, and sometimes the rewards are so much bigger if you wait, and work for them, and build with them.
So many times throughout the bible and especially in the old testament we can see examples of times when God promised something, yet for a long time, nothing seemed to be happening.
Its so easy to give up during those times, doubting ourselves and doubting God.
"Surely I must have make a mistake."
"Maybe God didn't really tell me that."
"God must have shut that door."
"Did He forget about me?"
Waiting is hard, especially for someone like me who doesn't have much patience.
God easily could have brought the Israelites from Egypt to the promised land in a matter of minutes, but 40 years of waiting and praying made it so much more valuable when the goal was finally reached.
Joseph was sold into slavery and imprisoned for 13 years. God easily could sent him to the King immediately, but those 13 years were used to prepare him and teach him. Because of the wait, his story is so much more amazing. The wait made it so much more valuable.
It could have been so much easier for my family to serve at a ministry that was already founded and funded, but being at Village of Hope since the very start and being a part and seeing it come together makes it so much more rewarding when we see lives changed. Because we know where we come from.
Some things might are easy to give up on, but if you stick through with it. It will be so much more valuable in the end.