In 2010, my husband Brian and I felt called to become foster parents. A year later we were blessed with the adoption of our son. A few years later we believed we were called again to become the adoptive resource for a little girl, but it quite painfully did not work out. Since then, we feel we are not able to foster or adopt again, although we are open to whatever God has planned.
Last year we were at Mercy Hill during Orphan Sunday and Pastor Tommy shared about Living Hope International and the orphans they serve in Puebla, Mexico. Immediately, my husband and I looked at each other and in that silent language we have, decided we were going to get involved. We began sponsoring a little girl and felt this was part of God's plan for us as a family.
When I heard Mercy Hill was considering a mission trip to visit the orphanage, I was so drawn to go but I didn't think it would really be possible for me. I knew we couldn't go as a family and I had a laundry list of fears but I wanted to go so badly. I couldn't imagine our Mija knowing a team from my church would be there, and I wasn’t. At the same time, I had to contend with the idea it might not be part of God's plan for me to go.
During the week leading up to the deadline to decide, we got our 1st handwritten letter from her. In the letter she said "God bless you and remember that you are really special to me. God has a special plan for you." Now this is a little girl who just turned 10, she'd only been at Living Hope for a few years, she'd been neglected and abused before coming and yet in the short time there she was developing a faith where she is sending us letters of encouragement. I didn't want to read into her letter though it felt like a record-scratch moment and deepened my desire to go.
From making the decision to join the team until we left there was doubt, anxiety, spiritual attack ... but always this strong desire to go, to meet her. I even dreamt about it, waking up with the smell of fresh grass. A week before the team was leaving we got another handwritten letter from her and she said "God loves you and takes care of you under His shining wings." Once again, like a bread-crumb trail from God, it was what I needed to hear.
I cannot stress enough how awesome it is to know Living Hope’s commitment to building a foundation and relationship for the kids with Christ. These children come from some of the darkest situations, abuse, neglect, rescued from the streets, from child trafficking ... it is beyond heart breaking to imagine let alone to convey the stories. To share in the work being done there and share the love of Christ with everyone at Living Hope is a gift I will truly treasure. To see for yourself, the smiles and hear the laughter. To get a hug, when one takes your hand or to be invited to sit with them for a meal ... to see the light of Christ beaming in their eyes, is beyond precious.
As a former foster parent you hear terms like trauma informed care, special needs, etc. Here in the U.S. a child can "age out" of the system. But at Living Hope they are planting seeds of faith, helping the kids grow into a plan for their future. And no one is ousted once they turn a certain age. The staff and dorm supervisors are not on payroll, they do not punch a clock and leave but rather the dorm supervisors live with their littles and often do double duty to help things run smoothly throughout. They have a missionary school there. At any given time you can round a corner and find someone praying. You wake up to hear songs of praise, as clear as a recording, from the La Viña students or the Nacione's worship band.
I felt like God's fingerprints were everywhere ... it was awesome, amazing, wonderful.
Mid-week I got to spend a little one on one time with my Mija and she asked if she could pray over me. As she was praying she said something about me having been scared about coming. I got goosebumps. After the prayer I hugged her, and over her shoulder mouthed to her supervisor "how did she know!?!" Because I had never told anyone at Living Hope especially her ... but God knew.
I told her later that I was never afraid to meet her but that it was my desire to meet her that motivated me to come and that God had helped me every step of the way. I also encouraged her to continue to stay close to Him. That her prayer was proof to me of His love.
I thought that would be the high point of the week, but it was just one of many. Later, we had a time with some of the teens girls living at Living Hope and they asked the team our testimonies. I froze. What do I say? Do I talk about being a foster/adoptive mom? That seemed insensitive since they will not have the opportunity to be adopted. Do I talk about myself being a spiritual orphan? No again seems insensitive. To be honest, I worried into the next day about how I'd handled it.
But, then on Thursday I was working in the field and God said to me "I didn't give you your testimony yet, I couldn't, wouldn't let you really tell them (the kids) how much I love them until you believe finally for yourself, how much I love you." God said "Do you remember when you were 15 and wanted to be a missionary? You may have forgotten but I didn't. My word says I will give you the desires of your heart and I am a faithful God." Then He took me through how he'd given me a 2nd chance at love/marriage, a beautiful child not of my own body and now I am here, at Living Hope. On the flight home He said what I thought was my testimony was all about me and I'd been "white knuckling" it for too long now. The testimony He gave me is all about Him and for His glory.
I can say 100% that my time there was like the Scripture about the fruit on the vine, it's not about works, not about me ... the Holy Spirit came and bloomed inside of me. It was a beautiful time there and I was sad to leave. You think you'll want to take the kids home with you but God is so present you kinda wanna pack up and move there.
But you don't have to share my story. You can be like the couple that snow birds there in the winter. Or someone interested in becoming a missionary who wants to go to the school or intern there. You can be like the cement workers who found out about the amazing work being done for the kids and go just to use your trade to help. Really though, you don't have to be any of those things. And you don’t have to be rich. You don't have to speak Spanish. I don't think you even have to be a "kid" person per say ... you just have to be willing, to answer the call. The call may come like a gong or a whisper. God knows where you're at.
You may want to start by finding out how you can help equip the K-12 school they're building onsite. You may want to become a sponsor...there are 2 campus', Puebla where we visited and Matamoros, which is in a rougher area so they don't mission there but there are kids and staff that can be sponsored. You may want to join the 2017 team and experience for yourself.
Last but certainly not least, you can pray. We all can pray. We can lift up Living Hope International/Esperanza Viva, the beautiful kids and amazing people serving there. We can thank God for such a place and pray for His kingdom to come so that we need not have a use for the word "orphan". Pray for a time when we will hear Jesus himself say "let the little children come to me" ... and we will all come running.
To learn more about sponsoring a child or Living Hope, visit: http://lovehopemercy.org/
To learn more about Mercy Hill’s 2017 trip to Living Hope visit: https://www.mercyhill.org/missionstrips/