There are many people who believe there should be no such
thing as a children’s home.Academics
have studied the issue and concluded that children in a group home don’t bond
as well as those in a family. (Blinding insight!) I have been lectured, criticized, and patronized
about the disadvantages of children’s homes. “Children ought to be in a family.” “You ought
to enable the families to care for their children instead of housing them”“You ought not to be a part of perpetuating
The root causes that lead to a child being placed in a home
began many generations ago and are not just country specific or even regional.The root causes are global in nature and
deeply embedded in cultures, politics, and laws. At LAMB, we cannot fix a country and we
certainly can’t fix the world. We
absolutely agree that children ought to be in safe, loving families.We know that children in homes have a harder
time bonding. But, in this world of “ought,”
what ought we do when social services brings us a newborn who was found stuffed
in a latrine? What ought we do when they bring us a 5 year old boy and baby
sister whose mother sent him out to sell the baby?What ought we do when an 11 year old girl and
her 3 younger siblings are delivered to us because she was the primary (sole)
caretaker of them? What ought we do when an impoverished mother begs us to take
her children so they can be fed, clothed, and educated?
We live in the world of “is…” When these children come to us,
we say, “yes.” We open our hearts and arms to them.We provide for them, love them, educate them,
ride very stormy times with them. All the while, we hope and pray for families
for them, either their biological families or adoptive families. For the
sibling groups, we encourage them to bond with each other. For all our children we welcome them into our
LAMB family.Just like a biological
family, we reassure them “once a lamb, always a lamb.” They know this is true
because they have seen older lambs who went astray welcomed back into the fold.
We do everything we can to strengthen the bonds with the biological families, through
visits, zoom calls, and phone calls. Our lawyer and technical staff work
tirelessly to facilitate other adoptions, despite the onerous and mysterious process
in Honduras.We hire loving staff but if
they are not we fire them.
Today we celebrated with Isaac, age 4, who has been with us his
entire life, having been abandoned at birth. Tomorrow, he joins his adoptive family in Spain. Hopes realized, prayers answered.One final hope and prayer we all have.We long for the day every children’s home is
closed permanently…because every single child in the world has a safe and
loving family who can and will care for them. Until that day, we will continue
to say yes.
These are pictures of Isaac then and now and from today’s celebration during which we all hugged Isaac, told him we love him, prayed for him and his new family, and then celebrated with a huge cake!
For many years (10+) people would ask me, “How long will you be the Volunteer Coordinator for LAMB?” My answer was always, “Til He tells me to stop.” Knowing God’s will is something we all struggle with. Rarely do you get a text message, email, or phone call saying, “Hi, God here. Do this.” Instead, we enter in that vague, mysterious process called, “discernment.” Any explanation of what that is or how to do it is equally vague and mysterious! I have learned that God uses a sense of peace, or lack thereof, to nudge me towards the direction He has in mind. That seems so simple and clear, yet every time I have to figure it out all over again.
Starting sometime late last year, I started feeling like I didn’t quite have my skin on exactly right. Sort of like if your leggings are twisted a bit. Nothing major just squirmy. I figured it was pandemic fatigue and worry that I had forgotten how to be a volunteer coordinator! (Note to self: Pick the team up at the airport. Check.) I didn’t have my normal excitement about returning to Honduras. I posited to some friends that I just needed to get back in the saddle and everything would fall into place. I absolutely loved my job, welcoming teams, making friends, experiencing God’s work and miracles with the teams, and everything else that went along with the job. Everything would be fine…if I could just get my skin on right.
Then the email arrived. When Suzy founded LAMB, it was always with the intent to turn the leadership entirely over to Hondurans. This is something I have always admired and endorsed. After our Cuban missionaries, Richard, former Director of the Children’s Home, and Lariza, former coordinator of education, moved to Spain, there was one non- Honduran left in leadership: Me! (Suzy is a naturalized Honduran.) The leadership team decided it was the right time to make it 100% Honduran. So, the email, with love, respect, and gratitude for my service, announced they were going to replace me with a Honduran. My reaction? Anger, upset, disappointment? Nope. I was flooded with peace. I realized that the Lord had been preparing me for something else. He had been telling me it was time to stop being Volunteer Coordinator and get ready for the next thing. Within a week, I became the 5th and 6th grade teacher for Joy Academy, our bilingual school at the Children’s Home. Immediately, I couldn’t wait to get back to Honduras! I remain filled with peace and joy as I prepare for week 2 of school. I have been working until 10 pm every night but with happiness and energy.
I remember the first time I really focused on doing God’s will. It was many years ago, before I had been to Honduras the first time. I suddenly had an overwhelming desire to do God’s will but had no idea what that was. I prayed fervently for weeks, “Lord, just tell me what your will is and I will do it!” Silence. More prayer, more silence. One night, I had a dream. In my dream the Lord said, “You want to know my will? What’s to know? Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul. Love your neighbor as yourself. THAT is my will.” Yes, I have had some thunderbolt moments from God (how I got to Honduras in the first place, for example) but really they are so rare. The truth is God’s will for each of us is right there in front of us. Love Him and love whoever He places in your path. The rest, big stuff and small stuff, will take care of itself.
This was on my mind during the most recent quinceañera that we had to celebrate the lives of 6 of our girls at the Children’s Home. I have been to many over the years and I still am moved beyond words by each one. A quinceañera is an important rite of passage for girls when they turn 15. For us, it is, first and foremost, a religious ceremony in which we give thanks for their lives and remind them they are precious daughters of the Risen Lord. They receive a rose and a beautiful ring symbolizing purity, beauty, and the eternal nature of God’s love for them. And then we party!
Occasionally, a girl will have a parent or other relative present. Sometimes, there are siblings who are still in the Children’s Home or who have grown up. More often than not, however, we are the family there to celebrate and love the girls. Some girls have been with us all their lives and grow up expecting and looking forward to their big day. Other girls came to us later and never in their wildest dreams thought they would have a quinceañera. All the girls get the dress of their dreams, impossibly high heels, and “princess jewelry.” They spend the day of getting their hair and make up done and generally being pampered all day long.
We have had girls who, just a couple weeks before, had been in a living hell, being trafficked or had sole responsibility for several young siblings. Not only did they not dream of having a quinceañera, the idea of being loved unconditionally, being valued for who they are, being recognized as a beautiful child of God was beyond comprehension. And yet, hope is that thing with feathers, that perches in the soul…
The poem goes on:
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.
Safety, nourishment of body and soul, education, opportunity, and love has replaced rejection, poverty, violence, and hopelessness. Seeing these girls reminds me of the constant promise of the Holy Spirit, of redemption and hope, of God’s presence, and of grace that is always there.
This is a picture of the sum total of a nine-year-old boy’s personal belongings (not including some stuffed animals on his bed. What do you see? Are you shocked at how little he has? This is what he sees: Order. Our kids come from chaos, often violence, unpredictability (will I be able to eat today?) and lack of care. He happily and expertly folds his clothes and carefully puts them away in his own space. His own space! Abundance. He has more than one shirt, pair of pants, socks, shoes, etc. They are all clean and they fit. When he outgrows his clothes or when the season changes, he gets more clothes and shoes. There are several loving people who make sure he is clothed and fed. The kids are young when they arrive and don’t realize they will begin to do something they have never done before and, likely, have been told is beyond their reach: They will begin to dream about a future.
During the pandemic we welcomed 13 new children. New children always arrive malnourished, bewildered, often in shock. M. has serious health issues, some children were extremely neglected, some abandoned, some came from loving homes but so impoverished the parents couldn’t care for them. Suddenly Social Services whisked them away from where they were and delivered them to us. New kids have no idea what to expect. We, including the all the “already-here” children, know exactly what to expect. We expect to love them and include them as members of our family. The children patiently guide the new ones through the schedules and routines. They remind them not to use bad words. They share all their things with them. Recently, our newest boy, exclaimed when yet another meal was put in front of him. “Food again!” It doesn’t take long for the new children to figure out they are in a good place, free from violence, full of love, with plenty of food. They learn a new meaning for “family.” As A., who has been with us since he was 14 months old said,
“I am thankful to God because here we have a large family. [A. is an orphan.] We have grandparents, aunts (caretakers) and the supervisors. The grandparents love us, the aunts are like mothers and the supervisors are like fathers. It doesn’t matter that they aren’t parents by blood, they are our parents through the Holy Spirit.”
Most important of all, this is where they meet Jesus. The truth is, it takes awhile for them to know Jesus. That’s ok. We do our devotionals, attend church, sing praise songs, pray together, and wait for the Holy Spirit to do His work.
I have been teaching some of the older kids English. I asked two of the girls to write 15 sentences while I made a quick trip to the US. To my surprise, they both wrote about their dreams. Naturally, the first sentence for each of them was, “When I am an adult, I will be a trillionaire!” M. wrote, “When I am an adult, I will have the best restaurant in the world.” C. wants to be a missionary and to be a role model for others. She wrote, “The best moment of my life was finding Jesus,” and “I thank God for giving meaning to my life.”
What we do here isn’t easy. Some days I wonder how the staff puts one foot in front of the other. Sometimes the kids have melt downs or go through very difficult phases. We all hang in there and hang on to Jesus as one day we celebrate a university graduation, or another day a mute child beginning to speak, or when a troubled child is smiling and opening her arms for a hug.
Our first university graduate
There is such joy in being a part of these transformations. It often feels like a miracle. Would you like to be a part of that? There are so many ways. One way is by prayer: we believe strongly in the power of prayer. Another way is through sponsorship: many people enjoy special relationships with a child they sponsor and giving financially keeps food on our tables. Finally, and most fun for the kids, another way to help is visiting! The staff received their first vaccination (thanks be to God) and will be fully vaccinated by early fall. We are delighted to begin receiving teams in September. We long to share LAMB joy and hope with you!
have been living at the Children’s Home for over 2 months now.It is almost always a joy, at times
hilarious, at times heartbreaking, at times breathtakingly beautiful and,
occasionally, baffling. I will start with bedtime which is a favorite time of
the day. The boys come roaring back into
the cabin from, usually, the cancha where they have been playing a variety of
games. They brush their teeth and put their pajamas on. (If that sounds quick
and orderly…it is not…) The Tia (caretaker) dabs Noxema on their faces
(forehead, nose, chin, cheeks.) Several of the boys then come to me, presenting
their faces so I can rub it in for them. Once they are marginally in bed (I
sometimes think the beds have the opposite charge than they do, sort of like
magnets, because the instant they jump in bed, they pop out again…) I remind
them that everyone needs to have teeth brushed, jammies on, and be in bed for my
part of the bedtime routine. We have two bedrooms of 4 boys each.I begin with the youngest boys and the boys
who are in bilingual school, Edgar, age 10, Angel, age 8, Jackson, age 7, Alex,
age 8.The other bedroom has Wilson, age
12, Ishmael, 12, Darwin, 11, Jorge, 8.I
come in and give each boy and hug and, for most of them, tuck a blanket around
them saying, “snug as a bug in a rug.” (It is hot now so they immediately throw
the blanket off again.) Next up is either lullabies or a story.I sing the same lullabies I used to sing with
my boys when they were little.In the youngest
room, they will sing along with me.In
the other room, where there is much less English, they will sing the umm-hmm in
Froggie Went a Courtin’ with me. What they really prefer is a bedtime
story.As I did with my boys, I make one
up as I go along with the bedroom inhabitants as the stars of the story.The younger boys are the Hero Team and the
other boys are the Brave Team.They have
encounters with Metzel, a teeny tiny man, Bubba the bear, Dalrymple Max the
dragon, and one of their favorites, Davy the Rainbow Dolphin.Recently, Sebastian the Stegosaurus made an
appearance but it is not clear whether he will be a recurring character. When
the story, or episode, is over I leave saying, “Good night, sleep tight, don’t
let the bedbugs bite!”I walk out to a
chorus of the same from the boys. I put
myself into bed chuckling with a heart filled with joy.It amazes me because even the oldest boys
want the hug, the snug as a bug routine. I often also have to tuck in their stuffed animals too.
I put myself to bed and begin my battle against the ronrones (flying beetle type bugs) that are like kamikaze pilots diving for my head, the pomerias which are termite like flying bugs that suddenly swarm out of nowhere, and the gecko who randomly makes a loud EH-EH-EH and occasionally drops a nicely formed pellet of poop on my head.
At around 5 am, a heard of wildebeests thunder through and around the cabin, shouting, whistling ear piercing, tuneless…(what? Noise) I hide in my room until they go down to the communal kitchen for breakfast. Then I shower and eat breakfast. Alone. If I try to eat breakfast when the boys are there I get peppered with the same questions 8 times: Are you eating cereal? (as I put a spoon of cereal in my mouth) Why are you eating cereal? Do you like cereal?
Wilson learning virtually
At 8, I head to my school assignment. I am either in 4th/5th grade or in 1st grade. For reasons that defy logic, the local education authorities will not let us use our school which is large and well-appointed about ½ mile down the road. Nor will they let all the teachers be physically present at the same time. So, we always have 2 teachers who are virtual and 2 who stay in the school down the road for a month at a time. The other teachers arrive and leave each day. I am the assistant in whichever class has the virtual teacher. Virtual teaching is the pits. I have even more empathy and admiration for all the teachers worldwide who have been teaching this way. By 2:30, when school is over, I am exhausted. I rest for about an hour and then teach English to a varying number of teens who want to learn. It is really fun. Those of you who will be coming back, get ready to converse with the kids! On Thursday, we learned about all the ingredients that could go on a pizza, (they were grossed out by the pineapple!) the types of crusts, and phrases such as, “I am full,” “I’m stuffed,” “He is a bottomless pit,” “She eats like a bird,” “He eats like a horse!”
The rest of the kids go to the Honduran school, virtually, under the guidance of Lariza, Academic Director. The computer lab is full of kids all in their zoom class in a room that is like an oven. How they survive that is a mystery to me. Elias and Judith have their own program with a wonderful teacher and the other special needs kids go to another virtual school.
The rest of the time, I play with the kids. I have a selection of games and books that I share with the kids. I visit the other cabins and play and horse around. The boys in my cabin have learned to take care of the books and games. I am so happy to see them lounging around, each with a book they have picked out of the basket of books I leave outside my room. I also hang out at the cancha with the kids and generally have a good time.
Ester in 1st grade
Abram and his cat, Pokey
Fun times with Enma and Suyapa
Before school sing along with Angel
Not every minute is one of bliss, however. The children haven’t seen their families for over a year and some are orphans or were abandoned at birth and know nothing about their mothers. The staff organizes phone calls and video calls but, as we all know, that isn’t the same. Facebook was filled with pictures of joyous Mother’s Day celebrations butI experienced the other side of Mother’s Day. The kids all made Mother’s Day cards for their tias, Debbie, me, Lariza or other favorite staff member. I received a card with an exuberant turkey on it! Aside from the cards and phone calls to moms, we downplay the day. Nevertheless, the pain of being separated from their mothers is evident, often through their behavior. Mother’s Day evening, I put the boys to bed with a particularly good story (if I say so myself!) I was quietly reading in my room when I suddenly heard loud pounding. I went to investigate only to discover one of the best behaved boys had lost control. He was outside pounding on the door, laughing and shouting that he didn’t want to go to sleep. He had a defiant look on his face and refused to come inside. I leave these situations up to the tia – better to have only one person in charge. A few minutes later, I heard a quiet tap on my door. I opened it to find the child with a stricken look on his face. “What’s happening?” I asked. He burst into heaving sobs and cried, “I want to see my mom!” I gathered him into my arms and we sat on my bed. I held him and sang to him until he calmed down. My heart was breaking. The next evening I went into the older boys room to find the youngest with the blanket over his face. He was sobbing. Nothing had happened to cause him to cry. I can only assume that he, too, was missing his mom. I held him for quite a long time. I feel so helpless at times like this. I can’t fix this for them. I can only love them and pray for an end to this pandemic. Please join me in this prayer.
There are so many things that happen day in and day out. I wish I had a video team following me around so you could laugh with me, marvel with me, cry with me, praise God with me as I go from moment to moment.
A final story…I eat breakfast alone, for reasons outlined above, and dinner alone in the cabin. Our big meal is lunch and dinner is often bean focused. I have discovered that, as much as I like beans, I can only eat so many beans before my body revolts. I often eat yoghurt at night. One morning, I reached for my milk in the frig only to find the carton was empty. That evening, I discovered all my yoghurt was gone. During devotional I explained to the boys that my milk and yoghurt had gone missing. I had two problems with that. First, they were my things taken without permission. Second, and most important, they provide the calcium that women my age need to keep our bones strong so they don’t break if I fall. Sweet Wilson, with huge eyes, asked, “So you didn’t eat all day?” Edgar, during the closing prayer, prayed, “Dear Lord, please protect Amanda’s milk for her bones because she is old.”
These last two months have been some of the best in my life! I look forward to returning to my “real job” of volunteer coordinator and welcoming teams again. We REALLY REALLY miss y’all. If you feel so moved, please send an email or, better yet, a short video message to a child of your choice. There are kids with no sponsors or special relationships and I would be happy to give you a name of a child to write to. They are starving for relational connections. You can send them to my email, Amanda.email@example.com or to LAMB in Charleston.
The Lord bless you
and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”’ Numbers 6:24-26
Stay safe, get vaccinated, come back to see you. We love you and we miss you.