Monday, February 24, 2014

My Guatamala family

I've been asked, "Why do you return to Guatemala every year?"  The answer requires a story.

Eleven years ago I agreed, with much trepidation, to lead a band of about twenty five women to a children's home named Casa Aleluya, or affectionately known as Casa Para Ninos. As our bus pulled into the gates I saw an armed guard, barbed wire, tons of concrete and what seemed like a million children. The kiddos swarmed us. Some literally crawled up our bodies into our arms while others stood back observing our reactions. My thoughts: "What was I thinking when I agreed to this? Why did I think this was a good idea? I want to go home…now!"

It was a hard week - the most physical labor I have every done at Casa. Before embarking on this adventure, our team was asked to prepare to de-lice a dorm of little girls. Attempting to make this fun for all, our brave little team armed ourselves with what else - hair cutting and styling classes. We were determined to turn our assignment into a party!

For four days, every time the girls left for school, we attacked their rooms (and those bugs) with a vengeance. We stripped beds, washed linens, sprayed down the beloved stuffed animals and remade bunk beds as we prayed for these girls and the place they called home.

When our new friends returned from school, we would send them to the showers with "special" shampoo. They would return to us and allow us to comb through their thick hair for hours. Their reward - a new hair style. Reactions varied. Some girls returned for a second and third trim - mostly because they wanted the attention. There were a lot of "oohs" and "aahs" exclaimed over each girl. Others cried! It was evident that we were amateurs. But the joy we experienced was beyond belief. We could hug every little girl and tell her how beautiful she is. We could personally pray for each one of them. God's love grew and grew and grew til the bond was bigger than life.

Thursday night we attended worship service with the children. After, I sent everyone ahead to escort the girls back to their common living area. Once I accounted for our entire team, I followed with a full heart.

Upon arrival I found the entire room in tears. The girls were wailing. I questioned the first team member I found. "What happened?" She glared at me and said, "They found out that we leave tomorrow."

In shock, I immediately began questioning God. "How is this good for these babies? You asked us to come here and love them and we did. Now we turn around and leave them with broken hearts. How is this good?"

In the midst of my whining, I was interrupted. In my walk with the Lord, I've noticed that He interrupts my rantings - usually with Scripture. I was reminded that this was family. I recalled that children in my culture will often cry when a member of their extended family - an aunt or grandmother - leave after a sweet visit. But there is always the hope that they will return.

At that moment, I knew what God was asking - that I return to visit my Guatamala "family" the following year. I was to be the "aunt" that returned and showed my family how much they are valued. This is why I return year after year. I've seen many of these girls develop into the most beautiful women with huge, kind hearts. Some are now in college. Some are living on their own. And some are stepping into roles at Casa - teaching, administrative work, pastoring, etc.

One year I may not be able to return but I am trusting that the God who was big enough to give me this vision of family is big enough to tell me should that time come.

Today I am beginning to prayerfully prepare for my June trip to see my family. I'm praying for the team that God will put together.

I love my Guatemala family! I'm excited about seeing them and how much they've grown since last year. I am looking forward to hearing their stories and their dreams.

And somewhere along the way, I think I am seem as more of a grandmother than an aunt!

"Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." 1 John 3:18

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