"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this; to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."
~James 1:27

Thursday, August 30, 2012

My Beautiful Butterfly

I received a beautiful new photo of almost 9 year old Mariela in the Dominican Republic today. She is growing up so fast, and she is absolutely gorgeous. I don't hear from my Mariela as often as I do many of my other children, but she just has a sweetness about her, that I just love. I have a letter from her on its way here, which I am so thrilled about because I haven't heard from her in almost 6 months.

Here is Mariela in 2008:

Love that Smile!

Here is Mariela in 2010:

Love her Braid and Pretty Eyes

And...(drum roll please)...here is Mariela just this month:

She has got the Most Beautiful Thick Hair!

Look at my girl, growing up so fast! She'll be 9 next month, practically a lady :) Love this sweetheart!

Monday, August 27, 2012

To Asia With Love

I have really been slacking on blogging! I definitely need to work on being more consistent with my blogging. I guess, I have been busy, so I will use that as my excuse :)

But there is no excuse for the fact that I did not do a birthday post for my newest correspondence child, Babu. I don't think I even introduced you guys to Babu! About a month ago, Compassion was in a great need for correspondence sponsors. So even though I already had more than the 3 kids limit, I decided to see if maybe I could possibly sneak another one in there. And sure enough, the next day, I saw an adorable new face on my account. My sweet Babu from India.


 Last Friday, Babu turned 9 years old! Isn't he such a handsome little guy? I think he looks a lot like Asha, my 12 year old girl in India. They both have that beautiful dark skin, and black hair. So Happy 9th Birthday, to my Babu! I love you to India and back!!!

And today, my Gil Jr turns 7 years old! I cannot believe that he is 7 years old already. I just love that little guy so much! He has such a special place in my heart, and he's the cutest little thing!



 
So Happy 7th Birthday, Gil Jr! I love you to the Philippines and back!!!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Life is Full of Goodbyes


Thursday dawned with a tinge of sadness. This was our last full day in Haiti. We would be leaving for home early the next morning. We had to make the most of today because our time was coming to a close. I was so excited to be going back to Pastor Murah’s orphanage that day. I had missed them on our day away. I had missed my Michkaina and Magdalia.  And today was going to be a fun day! It was party time. We were ending our time with the children by having a Children of the King party. What a perfect way to end our time together- by letting them know that they are the beloved children of our God and King. 

When we arrived at Pastor Murah’s, Magdalia and Michkaina immediately found me. I was so happy to be with my girls again. They made me feel so loved and special. They didn’t even know me, but all they wanted to do was sit on my lap and hold my hand and give me big hugs. They showed me what unconditional love feels like. And all I can pray is that for the 3 days I spent with them, that they felt my unconditional love too. Because I love them with all of my heart! I can feel the tears coming even as I write type this.


Fighting over who gets to sit on my lap. It's a good thing I have 2 legs :)


We started off our party by passing out paper crowns to all of the children. No Prince or Princess is complete without a crown. Some Bible verses about how they are children of the King were read showing God’s ultimate love for his children. I hope and pray that these children are able to realize that God loves them and that He is with them always. We played pin the tail on the donkey and we even had a piñata! The piñata was a big hit, though it was slightly dangerous with blind folded kids swinging a stick that was taller than them around. Luckily no one got hurt. We made sure that everyone got a turn. Every time the piñata fell, we hung it back up until it was completely destroyed and kids were scrambling for candy. What a treat for them! It was so special to just sit back and watch kids be kids. Kids who have been through unimaginable things, things no child should ever have to go through. And here they were just laughing and smiling and playing with pure abandon. It was heartbreaking knowing that I would be leaving soon. What if I never see my Haitian babies again?

Sweet Naomie sat on my lap every chance he got

Pin the tail on the donkey

A very dangerous but fun time with the Pinata

Magdalia and I with a friend


When it was time to leave there was barely a dry eye around. I hugged my Michkaina and my Magdalia and held on tight. I don’t know if they knew what was going on or why I was crying. But they just hugged me tight and looked at me with sad expressions. I hugged my Dede and my Naomie.  Bedna, one of Pastor Murah’s daughters, who is close to my age, came and asked me if I was leaving tomorrow. When I told her yes, she just hugged me and we cried together. Isn’t amazing how you can grow so close to a person you can barely communicate with in just 3 days of being together. 

My Sweet Michkaina- I didn't want to let her go!

Saying goodbye to my new friend Bedna


These people became my family- the people in my group and the Haitian people. I went to Haiti to love on children, to be a blessing to these children who have nothing. But I should have know that I was me who would be blessed, me who would be loved on. They gave me everything they had to offer- their love, their hugs and kisses, their smiles and laughter, their joy. And I am the one who has been blessed. Blessed to be loved by the beautiful Haitian people. Blessed to know that you can still have joy when you have nothing. Blessed to have been a part of this trip. And that is why I have been changed. That is why I have to go back to Haiti as soon as possible. Because Haiti has touched my heart and I will never be the same.

Pastor Murah's entire family- they all live together with the orphans

Michkaina is one of Pastor Murah's grandaughters :)

Part of our amazing team! Getting ready to head back to the US.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

So Much More to See

Wednesday in Haiti started out beautifully! For one thing, Alaina and I had decided to spend the night on the balcony because sleeping inside the mission house without air conditioning was so darn hot! How awesome it was to wake up to the bright blue Haitian sky. And amazingly enough, I woke up at 5 in the morning- cold. (The people who live downstairs feel the need to sweep the courtyard at 5 every morning. Who does that?) I’ll take being cold over being overwhelmingly hot any day! But the morning couldn’t get any better when Sasha, the sweetest little girl with the most beautiful long braids, who was visiting her aunt downstairs, came up to tell us that she had asked Jesus into her heart! It was such a precious moment to see this little girl realize that Jesus Christ loves her and he died for her. She whispered into Rhonda’s ear that she could feel Him. I had tears in my eyes as I gave her a big hug. I don’t think there could have been a better way to start the day.

Sasha is the sweet girl in the white shirt and denim skirt

By afternoon we had all climbed in the back of the truck to go love on some more children. Today we would be visiting 2 different orphanages in the area. The need for orphanages this area of Haiti alone was overwhelming and heartbreaking. Some of these children lost their parents in the earthquake or for other reasons, but many of them have a parent/parents who just cannot afford to take care of them. I wondered if the children ever felt abandoned. Unwanted. Without hope. 

The first orphanage that we stopped at, was one that the team had worked at the year before, and they had really fallen in love with the children there. We weren’t able to work at this orphanage this year, but the team had put together gifts for the children there and wanted to drop them off and give some hugs. I had heard so much about these children, that I was super excited to meet these kids too.  This orphanage was in better shape than Pastor Murah’s orphanage, but it was still hard to imagine children living like this. They were excited about their new toys, because again, there were no toys to be seen. We were only at this orphanage for about a half hour.

Beautiful Belande

Fabula is hiding in the doorway because she couldn't find a shirt to wear :(

Examining their new trucks

The girls loved their dolls
 
Next we went to a much bigger orphanage that is well established and gets much support. Our Haitian driver for the week, Rosell, is the director of this orphanage. Maybe about 150 children live at this orphanage. There is a big building for the girls and one for the boys. There is a church on site, a playground, and a basketball court. You could tell that these children are well taken care of. When we drove up, children came running from the playground, the bedrooms, seemingly everywhere, ready to make a new friend for the day. The minute I climbed down from the truck, I had 2 beautiful girls at my side. The sweet 8 year old Lovely was clad all in pink, and my other friend (whose name I couldn’t begin to pronounce or spell) looked beautiful in pink and black, one of my favorite combinations. I just loved their fully braided heads of hair! Lovely immediately saw my camera and was ready to take some pictures! She took photos while my other friend taught me a hand clapping game. I caught on, but couldn’t keep up with her speed. It ended quickly with lots of laughter. Then we had a little photo shoot against the bright blue wall of one of the buildings. Everyone that was in the nearby vicinity took a turn with the camera, and then took a turn wearing my sunglasses. Soon the girls took me into their room and showed me where their beds were. I sat down and they quickly began pulling out my French braids before I could stop them. I soon had a group of little girls brushing and braiding my hair. One of the teenage girls wanted to do lots of tiny braids, but she only got about 5 done before it was time to leave.What a fun day spent with beautiful princesses of the King!

Learning a clapping game :)

My New Friends

Getting my hair done

Lovely taking pictures of herself. She told me that her whole family is dead.

I was so happy to see that these children are living in good conditions and are being well taken care of. This is a blessing for them. But then I realize that these children probably won’t leave these grounds until they are 18 years old. They live there, they play there, they go to school there, they go to church there. How are they going to survive outside of those walls? How are they going to find a job and know what to do with their life when they don’t have a family to turn to? I know these kids have it good compared to many of the children in Haiti, but it is still a hard situation. We have so much, we don’t even realize it! Remember to be thankful today for everything that God has given you.

Coconuts!


Sunday, August 5, 2012

A Day for Child Sponsorship


I am pretty sure that you all know about my slight obsession passion for child sponsorship! So I was really excited when I found out that one of the main goals of our trip was to work on setting up a child sponsorship program for the orphanage. How exciting! I was thrilled to play even a little part in making this happen for these beautiful Haitian children. Since the sponsorship plan is in the very beginning stages, we needed to accomplish getting a photo and information (like you would get from Compassion or World Vision) of each child at the orphanage along with explaining to the orphanage staff and children what it meant to have a sponsor. 

So Tuesday morning, we arrived at the orphanage ready to get all the sponsorship information we needed. I was so excited to see the children again! They ran to the truck to see us as we drove in. One thing I worried about was if I would recognize the kids I had been playing with the day before, in different outfits. I didn’t have to worry because when Michkaina saw me, she ran up to me and grabbed my hand and dragged me over to sit by her. She sat by me just holding my hand and smiling at me until I started tickling her. Boy did she giggle! And her giggle was just adorable. Not long after, I saw Magdalia and she ended up on my lap trying to steal my camera from me again. 

Learning about what it means to have a sponsor!

We soon got everything set up to get information and photos of all the children. We explained to the staff and children about sponsorship and having a sponsor. The staff was very excited, but the children really didn’t understand the significance of it. We had everything planned out for the children to be interviewed, photographed, and then when they were done they got to choose a prize from the prize bag. Silly us thought that this would be a quick process to interview and photograph over 40 kids, but when it leaked out that toys were involved, chaos set in. It was good chaos, but chaos none the less. Children were getting in line to be photographed when they hadn’t been interviewed, and everyone was surrounding the toy bag. Lori and I wondered if this is what it is like when Compassion registers new children. Lori tried so hard to get a smile from each child photographed because we love seeing smiles on our sponsored children’s faces, but some of them just would not smile for the camera. Don’t worry if you don’t see a smile on your sponsored child’s face, sometimes they just have a mind of their own.  We finally finished getting all of the children interviewed and photographed and they were soon running around with their new toys. Maybe the only toy that they can ever remember calling their own.  We played and sang songs with the children for a while, but too soon it was time to go for the day. 

Children being interviewed

Me looking slightly confused as to what child is next

Katia getting her photo taken

Wookencia getting photographed

Picking a toy from the prize bag!

Their sign says "Thank You Sponsors!"


We had met our goal for the day, and we are all excited to see where the child sponsorship plan goes from here, but we didn't want to leave our new friends even for a moment! Our time with the children never felt like enough. Never enough hugs. Never enough smiles. Never enough laughter. It was so hard to say goodbye even when you knew you would see them again soon. 


Hanging out with Queen Esther :)

Time to get my hair done!

My sweet Dede. Loved him!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Rodrigo!

I was going to write another post today about my time in Haiti, until I saw that Rodrigo's photo had updated. I just have to show him off to you all! Haiti can wait till tomorrow, today is all about my Rodrigo. Rodrigo was my first sponsored child, and we are coming up on our 2 year anniversary this month. He has grown so much in the time that I have had him, and even though Brazil isn't big on letter writing, Rodrigo writes the sweetest letters to me. Rodrigo is another one of my children that I didn't choose. But I know that God had to have chosen him for me, and I am blessed beyond words for having him in my life! Here is Rodrigo over the years:

Rodrigo 2008- age 7

Rodrigo 2010- age 9

Rodrigo 2012- age almost 11
I love seeing how he has grown, and that sweet little smile on his face. I'm so proud of my boy!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

My Homecoming


Ever since I can remember, since I was a little girl, I have wanted to start an orphanage. I wanted to take care of children who had no one. No one to say “I love you”, no one to pick them up when they fall down and scrape their knee, no one to kiss them goodnight and tuck them in bed. This was my dream. It still is. So when I heard that the team would be working at an orphanage in Haiti, I knew that I had to go. I had held this dream in my heart for so long, but I had never been to an orphanage or worked with orphans. This felt like it could be a first step towards fulfilling this long held dream. 

And as I stepped off that plane into Haiti for the first time, those beautiful orphans that I would soon meet where on my heart. I didn’t know their names, and I didn’t know their faces, but that didn’t matter. Because I knew they were beautiful and I knew that I loved them. Because God loves them.


Haiti is a truly beautiful country!

Monday was the moment I had been waiting for. It was the day we got to meet the children I had been praying for and excitedly waiting to love on. As we drove up to the orphanage for the first time and saw the children excitedly waiting outside, I felt like I was home. I felt like this was where I belonged. This was my homecoming.  The kids ran to us and were so excited to see us and hug us and they wanted nothing more than for you to hold them or to sit on your lap. I was so glad that I had brought Frisbees, a soccer ball, and football, because there were no toys to be seen. We got those out, and the boys were laughing and kicking the ball around with some of the guys on our team. Those smiles could just light up a room. It wasn’t too long before, I had two sweet girls with their arms around me. We were just happy to stand there arm in arm and smile at each other. That is until, I got my camera out. Suddenly I was the most popular person there. Everyone had to have a turn taking my picture. I came home with more unflattering pictures of myself than was necessary! 




With all the love, smiles, laughter, and games that were going around, I really hadn’t had time to take in the conditions these children were and are living in. The pastor in charge of the orphanage gave us a tour of the living facilities, and it was mind blowing. I really couldn’t see much of anything during this tour because it was so dark in the house. There is no electricity and no running water. I’m not sure where they get their water from, but I know that we couldn’t take our water bottles out around the children and some of the young adults or they would surround you begging for just a little drink. The bathroom is a hole in the ground out back. For the little ones, it is anywhere they are at the time they need to go. Even if they are sitting on your lap. The babies don’t have diapers. There are maybe 2 or 3 beds in the house. There are at least 15 adults and over 40 children that live there. And only 2 or 3 beds. Everyone else sleeps on cardboard. Can you imagine living like this? Can you imagine your child living like this? And this is their normal. This is what they call home.  I wanted to cry for these babies- these beautiful Haitian babies with so much love to give and so much potential. Will they ever reach their potential?

The orphanage

One of the few beds in the orphanage


I had only been there one day, but I was already falling in love with this country, with those children, with the beautiful Haitian people who so desperately need the hope of Jesus Christ.

Pastor Murah- the man in charge of the orphanage

Magdalia- my best friend for the week

Michkianda- my other best friend for the week. Poor thing had the chicken pox.

Come to find out my best friends are best friends :)