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.firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
This is the day every Christian hopes for, waits for, expects to happen. It is what gets us through Holy Week, especially Good Friday. All through the Bible, a promise is made:
Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” Deut. 31:8
No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Joshua 1:5
But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Matt. 28:5
And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. Matt. 28:20
But will the promise come through? Most of our kids have suffered abuse, rejection, abandonment, disappointment, and promises forgotten. Walking through Holy Week, especially the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday is, for me, sobering and heart breaking. How much more so is it for our kids who have experienced some of those stations themselves? Every year, we anxiously and eagerly await Easter morning to proclaim with relief and joy, “Alleluia! Christ is Risen!” Will it come this year? Can we trust in the promise when we have been betrayed in this world so many times?
At the Children’s Home, we not only celebrate that but also baptism when we welcome children who have so chosen into the body of Christ. One of the newly baptized gave a testimony on Palm Sunday recounting an experience with their baby brother. The older sibling, at 11 years of age, was responsible for the younger siblings and the household. The 15 day old baby fell out of a hammock and stopped breathing. The sibling ran and picked him up. The family did not go to church nor read the Bible. This 11 year old, who knew nothing about God’s promise, prayed for the life of the baby. The baby is now in our preschool and very bright and as cute as any child could be. The sibling ended the testimony by saying, “I realized God was with us.” The child knew nothing about God except He was there. Is there. Will always be there.
That is the promise. No matter what, God is with us. Jesus suffered death by crucifixion and rose again to be with us to the end of the age. “‘For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. ‘ Romans 8:38-39. Not even ignorance of Jesus nor disbelief will separate us from the love of God.
It is with great joy I share evidence of the Risen Lord in the pictures from today.
I am filled with joy to report I am back in Honduras! I
have had several reunions, eaten way too much Honduran food, and discovered to
my relief that my Spanish is about what it was when I left. Attending
church at the Children’s Home for the first time was wonderful. It had
been a year since I last attended church in person, a year since I had taken
communion. The little kids have gotten bigger, we have several new
children, and some of the older children have moved to the transition program and
are living in houses around Tegucigalpa. Other than that, it was just the
same. I really felt like I had been to church the week before. It
felt like home. As I felt the breeze and watched the trees sway outside the
window, I thought about the Holy Spirit. A feeling came over me that this
church experience was just like God, who is, was, and ever shall be. We
change, we come and go, we move closer or away but He is always steadfast,
always faithful, always the same. Thanks be to God.
After a couple days at Casa LAMB, I moved to the Children’s Home.
I am living with the medium boys! Being the mother of two boys, this is a
perfect fit for me. I have begun helping at our bilingual school, Joy Christian
Academy (JCA.).All the schools are
closed in Honduras.In the infinite wisdom
of the local officials, we are not allowed to use the beautiful, large,
well-appointed school just down the road from the Children’s Home.We explained it is just our children but to
no avail.Instead, we have changed the
house at the gate, where Angel was living, into JCA.It’s like a sequel to the movie, this one
called, “Honey, I shrunk the school!” Two
teachers are living at the big school and coming in each day.The others are teaching via internet.It isn’t optimal but it is working.We also have had to shorten the school day
due to fewer teachers.Jen is on her
honeymoon with Jacob and Lariza is in charge of all the other kids’ schooling
via computer. She is working a very long day. Every time I walk into her school room, I see tons of kids hard at work
at the computers. Lester Alexander blurted out last night, “Amanda, I like
school!” I nearly fell of the stands at the cancha.Obviously, Lariza is doing a great job!
are all hoping the schools will open soon but there is no word from the
officials. We have a new Director of Joy Academy. She is going to approach the officials again. I work from 8-2:30 with ages 3-12, grades pre-K – 5th. In the morning it is “A” says ah, ah, ah. In the afternoon, it is “The scientific method is the way…” Sheesh!
The kids, as always are adorable, funny, and BIG!We have several new children, Lucas and
Valentina are babies, Enma, Mabel, Melissa, and Monse are in the little girl
Angels cabin, and Suyapa is in the medium girls cabin.All are adorable and seem to have adapted
well.Monse who is 4, doesn’t
speak.Melissa has serious kidney
problems and is being treated for her condition. Mabel and Enma are in JCA and are
holding their own learning English while doing their work.
Living with the medium boys is a hoot.They really are sweet and anxious to be of
help to me.I can’t carry anything, not
even my water bottle. I have been
reading them books at night, which they love. Right now, The Napping House by Don
and Audrey Wood is their favorite.If
you have a young child in your life, I highly recommend it. Last night we were
at the cancha playing volleyball and soccer. It was dark as we walked back and Alex was holding my snazzy little
flashlight.When we got back to the
cabin he said, “Amanda, when you die will you give me your flashlight?”“Sure,” I replied! Another Alex story: One day I was walking up to the cabin. Several boys came running up to tell me another one (who shall remain nameless) had thrown some rocks at my car. (I don’t think he was aiming at my car.) I spoke solemnly to the child and said it made me sad that he had thrown rocks at my car. Alex followed me into my room. “Amanda,” he said seriously, “it is just a car. It is not family. I would rather have a family than a car.” Amen.
My house mates!
Another challenge I have had is getting accustomed to schedule
here.The boys get up at 5!There is no question that they are up and on
the move!We eat dinner at 5 and bed is
at 8.I enjoy a couple of hours of alone
time.By 10 I can’t keep my eyes open!
There are many advantages to living at the Children’s Home. One is you get to experience things you wouldn’t otherwise. For example, one evening I walked into the baby house in time for their devotional! Dulce, our cook who is working there until teams return, was leading it.
The devotional begins
Showing pictures from Bible story
Camilla rocks out to the song
Victor in prayer
Evening activities are another benefit of life at the Children’s Home. One evening all the kids were at the cancha playing futbol (soccer,) volleyball, and just hanging out. I was on the stands surrounded by a bunch of the teen girls and some younger ones. No social distancing was going on, we were cheek to jowl! Suddenly, from behind me a tongue licked my face from my jaw to my cheekbone. I shrieked and turned around. All I could see was Nahomi! I said, “Nahomi!” in an accusing but joking way. She couldn’t speak she was laughing so hard but her little index finger was waggling furiously back and forth proclaiming her innocence. The kids were doubled over laughing. The real culprit, Negro the dog, had fled. The best part of that “traumatic” experience was hearing one of the teens who suffers from depression and rarely smiles or even interacts, absolutely belly laughing. I will offer my face to a dog licking any day to hear that beautiful sound. The Lord definitely works in mysterious ways and has quite a sense of humor!
I spend Friday nights and Saturday at Casa LAMB. After a year of solitude, I find I need some during the week. As much as I love the kids, when I am there it is a constant, “Amanda!” “Amanda!” “Amanda!” Last weekend, I was doing my laundry. My excuse is that I was fuzzy brained from fatigue. Anyway, I was in the kitchen while the washing machine was churning away. I reached for my phone. Not there. I assumed I had left it upstairs. “No problem,” I thought, “I’ll get it later.” When the wash was done, I was moving the clothes to the dryer and guess what I found… My cell phone had fallen into the washing machine when I put the clothes in. I WASHED MY CELL PHONE! Miracles of miracles, it works just fine. I have never been a fan of Apple products but I must say, I am impressed with the iphone. It is truly Amanda-proof. Maybe Apple should use me in a comercial!
Julio is living at Casa LAMB so I get to spend some time with him too. This morning he made me breakfast! Before heading back to the Children’s Home, I am going to search for some supplies to do science experiments with. I have never taught science so this is a bit of a challenge, not to mention finding the supplies. Wish me luck!
The question of the moment is when can teams come back?At this
point, we are comfortable with vaccinated people coming.We will have to discuss further whether teens,
without vaccinations, can come.Everyone
is dying for y’all to return.Hang in
there with us and pray! And get vaccinated as soon as you can!
There are rumors here that the vaccine from Russia may
arrive. Pray for that, or any vaccine. It is an election year so
maybe that will motivate candidates to get the vaccine into the arms of the
people. Everyone is vigilant here about COVID precautions. EVERYONE
wears a mask. To enter a store you have to walk over a mat soaked with
disinfectant, have your temperature taken, and get a squirt of hand
sanitizer. When you enter the Children’s Home, they disinfect the car
tires and your shoes!
Being back is wonderful. I am having a blast. I am surrounded by people I love and who love me back. The weather is great! The most wonderful part, by far, is returning to my call from God. In March of 2007, He called me to “Go to Honduras,” and I made my first mission trip. In spring of 2010, He said, “Move to Honduras,” and I did in January of 2011. Spending a year in limbo, away from my call was so hard. I am so thankful to be back here serving the Risen Lord. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, better than answering God’s call with a resounding YES! I highly recommend it, wherever, whenever, how ever He calls you.
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”Isaiah 6:8