Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Emma Leigh Elizabeth.

I sit here staring at en empty page, praying for the words of a story I never expected to write-the story of my little Emma Leigh. A story cut way too short, but a story of love, of risk, of healing, and of family.

I was on my way to hang out with friends when I got the call. There was a 10 day old baby, she was sick and had been left at the hospital. Must be HIV we thought. I immediately turned around, picked up my mom, called my friends to cancel, and went to go see the new baby. Little did I know that she would become my baby, or that she would change my life in such an incredible way.

We were soon told that is wasn't HIV, it was hydrocephalus. Knowing the surgery and special care this would require, I decided to take her home with me, so that she could receive one-on-one attention. As soon as I meet baby Elizabeth (nicknamed Lizzie) and I held her in my arms for the first time, I knew that she was something special, and the whole world started to see it too.

The following days were filled with trips to the city and doctors appointments, and the following nights were filled with cuddles and lullabies. It didn't take long for Lizzie to steal my heart. She quickly had me wrapped around her tiny finger as I argued with surgeons in order to get her the surgery she needed. I refused to allow her to be treated as less because she was a 'orphan', so I was nicknamed Lizzie's fierce mama by the nursing staff.

At 13 days old, Lizzie received shunt surgery.  Four days I spent in the hospital, each day falling more in love with Lizzie. Those four days turned into countless return trips to restitch a head that wasn't healing. The spinal fluid continued to leak out of her head instead of into the shunt. Doctors sat down with me, explaining that the prognosis wasn't good.


The words meant nothing to me as my head swam with terminology way over my head of diagnosis, and quality of life, and treatment, and feeding tubes.

One year, definitely not more, but probably way less.

I began to feel the weight of the words as the significance of them dawned on me.

All of over Facebook, people were following Lizzie's story, and praying for a miracle.

I was on my knees every night, praying and trusting in the only One that held the answers. This was not just the story of a girl in a foreign country. This was not just a diagnosis, this was not just a statistic. This was the little girl I held in my arms. This was the little girl that had stolen my heart long before I began to realize the risk of it. This was my reality.

April 14th, Lizzie had a court hearing. I became her voice when no one else showed up to speak for her. The judges, phycologists, and social workers listened and watched with wide eyes as the white girl with the Guatemalan accent told them that it didn't matter that the baby she held in her arms had special needs, or that she hardly had a brain, that despite the doctors saying that her life wasn't worth anything, this baby girl meant the world to her, and that she was so loved. That the value of a life did not depend on what you achieve. Because Lizzie didn't have a birth certificate, they asked me if I wanted to name her. I told them the name that God had long before put on my heart.

Emma Leigh.

Emma meaning "whole and complete" and "by the tree"

Leigh meaning "healer"

Whole and complete was what I prayed for her brain to be. I didn't understand what "by the tree" would mean until later.

Leigh was my mom's middle name that she gave to me as her firstborn daughter, and it was something I knew that I wanted my first daughter to have as well.

The next day Emma turned one month old. We had such a wonderful day with her as we took her to buy cute little dresses and soft blankets. She finally got the staples in her stomach out so she we gave her her first bath. That night we dressed her in purple with a big flower bow and took her to worship with some friends. And the night wound down the last song we sang was "Set a Fire"

The song goes: 
Set a fire down in my soul 
That I can't contain 
That I can't control. 
I want more of you God. 
I want more of you God. 

No placeI'd rather be. 
No place I'd rather be.
Than here in your love,
Here in your love. 

Getting the words wrong I held Emma close to me and sang, "No place I'd rather be than here in your arms." I guess she took my words seriously.

That night as we both feel asleep with her in my arms, she went to be in Jesus' arms.

The next day was a nightmare for me. Filled with a funeral I never wanted to happen. Filled with saying good-bye to my first daughter.

At her funeral, two passages were spoken over her:

"And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with the, and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!"
"Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for healing of the nations."

My little Emma was now by the tree of life. 
This last months has been filled will a lot of tears and a lot of heartache. I'm not sure how people are supposed to continue on with their lives after the loss of a child, because I still feel like I'm just barely going through the motions.
But through it all, I'd do it again any day. Emma changed my life. And she was worth every second. 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

One Day-One Lunch-One Less

It sounds funny saying that God used a bowl of soup to change my life, but He did.

Looking back, that was the turning point. 

That was what God used to get ahold of me- a bowl of soup. 

When I was 14 years old, I was blessed to go to Ethiopia with my mom to bring home my adopted baby sister, Havyn. While we were there, a missionary couple took us to visit a preschool they worked with. They explained  how they were hoping to start a feeding program, because the kids were so hungry that they couldn’t even concentrate in school. 

As I looked around I saw poverty like I had never seen it before. I will forever have that image of those children, skinny and malnourished, dressed in tattered clothes, with their little bare feet dirty and scabbed, harboring a distant look in their eyes. It seemed that suddenly the things that used to be important to me no longer were. The thought of all the name brand clothes in my closet that I was so adamant about buying now disgusted me. I didn’t care anymore about having the latest technology. Being popular no longer mattered to me. All my ‘first world problems’ now seemed almost embarrassing. 

I didn’t want my life to go back to the way it was before. I couldn’t forget what I had seen and I had to do something about it.

Proverbs 24:12 “Once our eyes are opened we can’t pretend we don’t know what to do, God who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls knows what we know and hold us responsible to act.”

At age fourteen, in the worlds eyes, I didn’t have a lot to give. I didn’t have a job or much money.  I really wasn't qualified in anything. I was just a kid.  But as I prayed, God showed me that I did have something to offer. 

Just before my freshman year of high school, I approached my mom and asked her if instead of buying the school lunch every day for $2.50, I could instead make a small bowl of soup, much like the kind that was served at the feeding program we had visited while in Africa, The soup cost about 78 cents to make and I could then donate the remainder of what I would have spent to the preschool in Africa. She agreed.

So while everyone else in the 9th grade was trying to be cool, I was getting made fun of for the soup I brought every day and for the way it smelled. I guess it was a good thing I had already decided that being popular didn’t matter. :)

 After months of eating soup, a couple of friends decided to join me.  This got me to thinking that if  a group of us would join together and give up our lunch money, even for one day- what a huge difference it could make. So I began to pray. On the 100th straight day of my eating soup for lunch,  I asked everyone I knew, posting on facebook and blogs, to join me for just for ONE DAY. For just ONE LUNCH.

And so, the One Day-One Lunch program began. 

God used the little I had, and He multiplied it.

On Feb. 3rd, 2011 over $6,000 was raised by people all over the world giving up their lunch to give hope to those in need. And at the age of 14, God showed me that He can use anyone if only they are willing.

Just like the little boy with the 5 loaves of bread and two fish, God showed me that when you give what you have, even if it doesn’t look like much, he can use it, and it will multiply. 

Everyone has something to give-even if it’s just your lunch. 

This February 3rd will be the 5th annual one day-one lunch program. Five years ago, God used a bowl of soup to change my life. This year, will you let him use your life/your lunch- to change another? 

Will you join us in giving up your lunch for just one day and instead donating the money you would have used on your lunch that day to help prevent one more child from becoming an orphan?  The money raised this year when you give up your ‘lunch money’ will go towards Village of Hope’s Pure Hope program which aims to keep families together by teaching mothers to care for and provide for their children. 

Grab a group of friends and (don't) do lunch. Instead, let Him use you to do big things in the life of another. 

To donate your lunch money this year visit:

Friday, December 26, 2014

Looking back...

2014 has been a year of growth.
The spiritual warfare has been intense, but we keep fighting the good fight.
Its been trying, and God had taught me so much.
Looking back and counting my blessings I see all the ways God has manifested in my life and in Village of Hope.
Village of Hope has grown so much and now has 4 homes and 36 children. 
Our kids blow me away with how much they have grown and learned, and I am so blessed to be a part of that.
Our Pure Hope program is developing and we are seeing success as the mothers learn to care for their children. 
I have started raising funds through Commission to every nation and will soon be moving into an apartment.
32 Guatemalans have been trained on how to protect our kids and prevent sexual abuse.
12 kids at Village of Hope accepted Jesus as their personal savior, as well as many in our outreach program.
Guatemalans are learning about adoption and that family is what is best for every child. 
We now have 10 families that we deliver food to and minister to each week. 
Shoes, bunk beds, water filters, food and homes have been given in the surrounding villages.
Every single one of the kids at Village of Hope is now undetectable for HIV.

Its not too late to partner with us!
*Year end giving? All donations made through CTEN are tax-deductible. Contributions mailed to CTEN must be postmarked no later than December 31st.  Online credit card donations must be posted through the CTEN website no later than December 31st.
*Please specify if the gift is for Village of Hope or for the Block Family

Thursday, December 11, 2014

"The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away."
William Shakespeare

Monday, November 17, 2014

Why Family?

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

So what does family mean to you?

Friday, October 24, 2014

What Hope brings...

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 away.

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 forgiveness.

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. 

To make a donation go to:

Friday, October 17, 2014

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 include them. 

They identify the desperate and give them hope. 


They notice the poor and they share what they have. 


They recognize the hurting and show them love. 

That’s who they are, and I couldn’t be more proud.