Saturday, May 2, 2015

The Story Behind the Story

I just arrived in Canada after an amazing time in Nashville at the Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO) Summit. The four day conference was focused on the different aspects of orphan care: adoption, foster care and residential care. It was interesting to find out that CAFO has now included a fourth pillar in the spectrum of orphan care which is family reunification; exactly what we began doing at Casa Bernabe in January of this year. I am heading up the newly founded department of family reunification and my psychologist and administrative assistant/nutritionist were also able to attend the conference. 

Aside from all we received from the speakers and panels, the most incredible part of the conference was to be surrounded by thousands of people that have passionately dedicated their lives to taking care of orphans all over the world.
Before leaving Guatemala, I was able to visit one of the mothers that we are working with to see if she can possibly be reunited with her children. Knowing her story very well and the ways in which her kids have suffered having lived in 4 different orphanages, I arrived with a little bit of anger and disillusionment with what we were about to do. As we sat on her makeshift bed in a tiny rented room which housed everything she owned, we began to listen to her story. She had never known her father and was abused by her mother and stepdad. Being the youngest in her family, her older siblings learned to take advantage of her and saw her more of a slave than as part of the family. When she finally got the guts to run away and found herself pregnant shortly after, she had no option but to return to her abusive family, only now with a child on the way. The abuse continued and so did the cycle of mother running away only to come back some months later expecting another baby. When her children were very young she finally made a plan, saved some money and ran away once again with the father of her children. This father was addicted to inhaling paint thinner and finally became so numb to reality that he lived in a constant state of delusion. They lasted a few months, but her sister, discontent with her absence in the house, called Social Services and her 3 children were stripped from her. As this story unraveled, I was uncomfortably confronted with my supposedly justified feelings of anger I had felt only moments before. I was angry with a person who is a victim of so much abuse, sexual exploitation, neglect and brokenness. It made me realize that there are stories behind the stories that I am so familiar with. Through nearly a decade of hopping from different orphanages, these 3 kids are truly thriving at Casa Bernabe and I have come to love them very much. The boy in this family is honestly one of the most important people in my life and I consider him family. It seemed so natural and justified to feel angry and resentful towards a mother that didn’t take care of her child. How could she be so irresponsible? But, she has a story of her own. 

Although we are unsure if these kids will be able to live with mom again, we are now reaching out to her. I am coming to understand that anger is maybe not the most helpful response that I can have towards the families of our kids at Casa Bernabe and that God equally loves them, cares for them and has a purpose for their lives. A purpose amidst the brokenness. While I tell our kids this all the time, I don’t even think I believed it was true for their families. I heard someone say to me recently that we cannot love or truly accept our kids if we don’t accept their families and I am beginning to believe it. I feel like I can reach out to this boy in a much more honest, mature and appropriate way now that I have his mom in mind and I have come to love her too. 

With Andrea, we appreciate your prayers for the ministry at Casa Bernabe and all that is going on there. I am continually blown away by this amazing orphanage in the heart of Guatemala that I have called home for the past 12 years. I am excited to see how God continues to broaden our perspectives, challenges and grow us and always take us deeper in understanding of his love.
People have unashamedly told me that they only read my blog to see baby pictures and I think I am okay with that. They are pretty amazing little children of God whose lives are truly marked by grace.

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