Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I'm back!

She's all grown up!!! Here is Cristina, still can't believe she is 15 now! How did she age while I have stayed so young?
(Gloria this was taken to show you she loved the shirt you sent!)

Casa 2009 Team minus Pat who was sick in bed =(

How on earth will I ever sum up our trip to Guat in one blog post?? Impossible! We had such an awesome trip, even with coming home early. Best news of all is our team saw 7 of the girls in the Esperanza Arriba dorm pray to accept Jesus into their hearts and then 17 in the village! Isn't God amazing??? I am just thrilled beyond beleif, all of the planning and expense etc of the trip would have been worth it for just one but 24! woohoo! We had such an awesome team this year, I have no doubt in my mind that God knew exactly who those kids needed when he moved in the hearts of the 18 of us who were there. I was so proud of the youth who went! They had such great attitudes and were just so helpful and hard working. They went totally out of their comfort zones to minster to and reach the kids/teens in Guatemala. In fact, I heard that Shelby was just awesome out in the village and led several to Christ, wish I could have been there for that. We all just had so much fun together and I hope they will all consider returning. Only wish I could have had more time with them.

I can't describe just how wonderful it was to be back there. It really was like a homecoming of sorts to arrive back at Casa. Just to see the faces of all of those we love and hold in our hearts, to be able to actually hold them in our arms and tell them all the things we have wanted to say over the year is priceless. The time we spent with Cristina was just wondeful, literally a dream come true. She totally blew us away with how mature and grown up she is now. She really is wise for her years, I just could not be more proud of her. She was such a help to our team, just hated that I had to leave her early (*tears*). I hope she writes a book one day, we could all learn a lot from her.

I think the most valuable thing I learned in those first few days of our trip was the importance of our communication with the kids throughout the year. There are several kids plus our friends Alex & Sarah who are the dorm parents in Esperanza Arriba that we write to and email throughout the year. It made such a difference in the closeness we experienced with them and had truly helped to strengthen our relationships. It just felt like we were visiting some of our extended family. I loved it! It reafirmed for me that regardless of how little time I feel I may have I should always take the time to write them, it shows them that we genuinely care about them and they don't just dissapear from our thoughts and prayers after we leave.

Casa has gone through many changes with folks coming and going and all of the adoptions underway but one thing that I love and has remained true is how you can just see God working. He is such a part of everything there from having the specific wire needed for an electrical problem to multiplying items when just a few short. There are many other examples to give but in sum He does not tire of helping to meet the needs of each child who ends up at Casa. It is such a mixture of a place. Some kids had just arrived there, infact an abused 12 year old girl arrived the day we left, and others have lived there all their life. Although some have heard Mike & others preach countless times, they remain so resistent to the message they share and mostly to God's pull at their heart. Their hearts are so hardened and closed, rightfully so after all they have endured, and they just ignore those little tugs to turn to Him. We go so that we may hopefully in some small way find a way to reach them, maybe all we can do is to help chisel away at the walls they have built. Just being His hands and feet by loving them & spending time playing a game or chatting may be all we can do. For others we are able to take it a step farther and God uses us to speak to them through something we share in a devotion or conversation they decide to let go and just give thier lives to God. Thankfully there are many there who have already given their lives to Christ and are allowing Him to heal their hurt and these are such an inspiration to see. We go for them too, so that we can help them grow in their faith but these children end up teaching us so many lessons in return. It is quite difficult to remain complacent and hung up on little stuff when you have seen how they are just filled with joy and even love, YES LOVE, for those who abused and left them. They seek God wholeheartedly and yearn for Him daily and are so giving. They who have hardly anything of their own in the world, perhaps some money from a sponsor and a couple of drawers with clothes and personal items, give so freely to the other kids and US. Yes US. I was amazed at the several children who sent little tokens of their love home with me. I learned a great deal on this trip, most of which I haven't had the time/chance to even fully process. God used them to work on my heart just as much as he used me to work in theirs.

One thing I told the girls during our first devotion time was that God has HUGE plans for Guatemala and he obviously isn't done yet b/c he put them on each of our hearts all the way in the US and helped us make it there. He put words in our hearts to share with them because he needs them to grow in their relationship with him and become strong young ladies of faith. He wants to use them to reach the many who are hurting and lost in Guatemala and really make a difference in their country. Their dorm includes girls from 8 to 15 years old, such a pivitol time in their lives. Those are tough years for all girls, regardless of the country or culture they grow up in and it is a time when they are making choices regarding who they want to be in life. I hope and pray each day that they will turn to Him to heal them and depend on. When all is said and done, especially for those girls who could be taken from Casa the next day or left there for years, Jesus is the never changing one they CAN depend on. Its always sad to return expecting to see certain kids and then to learn they were removed. We always hope they were placed in a good situation and will be well cared for but unfortunately that is not always the case. I know I will most likely never see them again, my window of time with them is gone but hopefully I will see them one day in heaven.

At the beginnng of our trip when I struggled with leaving Sammy I was reminded of a quote from Mike Clarke from our first trip there (thanks to Andrea S), he simply stated that his firm belief is that nobody walks through the doors of Casa by accident. This is true not only for the children and teens but for the missionaries and those of us who come on short term trips. My life is always changed by being there and I grow so much in my faith each visit. It is so great to be able to serve and focus completely on God without any of the distractions we have here. I often describe mission trips as being like we are on a vacation with God because He is just the center and focus of every single aspect of each day. It irks me to no end that I am not able to maintain that when here in the states and living out my plain ol' ordinary day to day life. I want to be the me I am in Guatemala when I am here. If I can be completely transparent, I am still pondering this. Part of me thinks well then just DO IT! The other part of me is not so naieve and aknowledges that spiritual warfare is alive and well and I am only human. Realism does play a role, but then is it really unrealistic to want that? Your thoughts on this?

Oh I have so much more I want to share but it is late and I am tired and so off to bed I go. One last tidbit of our trip is related to sweet little Miss Klyie America Anderson. We were able to be there for Kylie's dedication, it was such a sweet special time. I have written before how my friend Andrea & Dave have been trying to adopt her for 3years now. They have waited so long to bring Kylie home. Get this.. she comes home FRIDAY!!! That's right they get her visa tomorrow and they fly home Friday! YAY!!!!!!!!!!Mike (the founder of Casa) had a sweet message for Andrea & Sheila. Shelia's adoption of her daughter Lilly is also in final stages and how about Lilly & America are best friends at that??Just so sweet to see them being dedicated together. I hope their families will remain in contact all of their lives so they can grow up together in the states. Andrea was so sweet to let me hold Kylie during the praise and worship time. Kylie was just so precious it brought me to tears, literally! She had been staying off campus with Andrea prior to that and coming back to Casa for the service was obviously very hard and confusing to her. She was scared and it just broke my heart to see her so worried like that. We figured she was worried Andrea would leave her there and not take her back with her. I fully enjoyed holding her & dancing with her and whispering sweet things in her ear. She just clung so tight, oh I would have given anything to make the adoption final at that moment. I did get to see a different side of Kylie as they were getting ready to leave Casa and head back to the hotel. She was just so happy, running around and talking with Lilly. She loved the princess necklaces & hippo we brought her and she was all smiles. She sure loves her mama and I just can't wait to see a pic of her getting off the plane and arriving in the states. What a dream come true! Wish I could be there for her party that is already scheduled for Sat. =(

Since I left so unexpectedly my beloved team mates packed up all our belongings and my camera charger apparently just rebelled and decided to stay in Guat. I totally understand why, I mean I did fully intend to take way more pictures than I did but in the end this results in me not being able to access any of my pics until a new one arrives. BOO!!! In the mean time since I just can't post without a pic, here are a few of my friend Kelly's. =) The video is from their praise and worship and is my fav song they sing, I jump and pound my fist in the air right along with them, its great excersise, lol. Oh how I long to be there for this song just one more time!

Here is Chica, one of our prayer kids, isn't she beautiful. She too has grown up on us so fast. She is another I could not be more proud of. A beautiful girl with a beautiful story to tell.
boys waiting to make friendship bracelets, were shocked at how much they LOVED it!
We absolutely LOVED being there with Sarah, Sammy's babysitter. She was such a great addition to our team. My favorite quote had to be "please don't drop the mattress you will kill your babysitter!" still cracks me up. Anyways, the kids just adored her! She was so great with them. Why she didn't just tuck this cutie pie into her suitcase and bring her home is beyond me.

Below: The Chatfield Family (Shawn, Wendy, Shelby, & Riley) were a blast to be with, here they are with several new friends! Shawn coined mine and Sam's nicknames of "Wimpy & Gimpy" the night before we had to leave as I was so ill and Sam could barely walk given his knee injury while playing soccer there