|Christy and her family|
Tuesday was the day that the nannies and other workers gathered to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s with a fiesta and giving of gifts. They wait to do it when a team will be there to take care of the children so that all of the workers can enjoy the time without worrying about their charges. The nannies were excited as soon as we arrived. The party took place in the afternoon and the air of festivity built as the day progressed. I visited with Nanny Christy for a few minutes in the morning and helped her clean the room where the Squirrels (the older girls) sleep. A lot of children, finally healthy enough to go home, left the center before Christmas so that the number of children in care was down to only 52 from the usual amount of around 80. That meant there were only 6 squirrels. Christy admitted that she was still very sad about their departure particularly losing so many at one time. Though she knows that they are better off at home, seeing all those empty beds each day was depressing. We hurried through the chores knowing that a party was on the agenda. I hoped that it would help Christy feel better. Once the Squirrels got their lunch, I shooed her and the nanny for the Ducks off to change clothes. They were hesitant, but I convinced them that they could go ahead and leave. Each member of the staff brought their family so it was a large group that gathered under the pavilion at 1:30. Everyone was dressed in their finest. The women wore their traditional outfits with heels and fixed their hair in pretty styles. The afternoon started with a catered meal served by waiters in formal black suits. A string band with violinists, guitarists and cellists played traditional and Christmas music. I slipped away from the other team members who watched over sleeping children to go to the party and listen to the music for a while. Once there, I helped to move the food baskets that would be given to the workers as a gift. They were so heavy that it took two of us to pick up each one. Large plastic buckets like we use to give water or hay to horses at home were filled with all kinds of food items. Staples like rice and meal, sugar and beans as well as some delicacies, cake, wine, cereal and fruit. They were all wrapped up in plastic with a red, green or blue bow on top. I only had to help carry one basket before someone got smart and procured a truck to carry the rest. Then, it was time for me to go back and relieve some of the other team members so that they could go down and enjoy the fiesta as well. What a wonderful way to say thank you to such selfless, caring people as those who work so tirelessly at the center!
|Getting a haircut|
|Bili’a mom with baby on her back and at least
40 pounds on her head with his sister, Thelma Suzanne
|Sandra and her family|
|M.’s girl, Sandra|
Tuesday night, a stomach bug hit me hard. I had not been feeling well all afternoon, but after dinner, my stomach took a flip and left me throwing up in the bushes outside the hotel restaurant. I was afraid to take any anti-nausea medicine for fear it would react with my MS medicine. All night long, as my stomach rolled and churned, I prayed that I would be well enough to travel to the center the next day. With the week’s scheduling, food baskets on Monday, staff Fiesta on Tuesday and New Year’s Celebration on Thursday, I knew that if Bili were going to visit, it would likely be on Wednesday and I did not want to miss it. Thankfully, the worst seemed to be over by the time I had to board the bus and with a churning stomach I travelled with the rest of the group. I prayed not only that Bili would come, but that Daughter in Law, M’s sponsored child, Sandra, would come as well. M. fell in love with Sandra on our trip last March. The reason we were here in December was because it broke M.’s heart to leave Sandra behind. I promised M. we would come back to see Sandra but when M. found out in June that Sandra had gone home, she feared she would never see her girl again. Though youngest son and his wife have barely “a pot to pee in” right now, they make the sacrifice each month to pay the $35 it takes to make sure Sandra and her family are fed. Since M. sponsored Sandra, I hoped that there was a chance that Sandra would visit while we were there. Honestly, I wanted Sandra to come more than I did Bili. It was important for M. to see Sandra with her family and get some closure like I was able to do with Bili last spring. As the bus pulled into its parking spot at the entrance to the Center, a group of people greeted us and M. shouted, “Its Sandra!” She and her mother, grandmother and older brother made the one hour trip to the Center just to see M.! Though Sandra was shy, Miranda got to visit with her family and learn a little bit about them. It was a wonderful answer to prayer. But, Bili was not there. Disappointed, I went about my regular tasks until Olivia came to get me saying that M. needed me. But, when I exited the Center, much to my delight instead of M. waiting on me, it was my boy, Bili! My stomach still churned, my head hurt, but all was right with the world. We played. He got a haircut. I laughed with his mother and older sister, Thelma Suzanna. I admired his baby sister, Kimberly Michelle. I gave his family some gifts. The time flew by, but I ignored my physical discomfort and soaked in the sweetness of the morning. Then, it was time to part. Thelma promised to look out for BIli in school. Bili’s mama wrapped Kimberly up on her back and loaded the duffle bag full of gifts on her head. The three of them walked down the hill and out of sight. At least until I can get down there again, my boy will be a memory to me, but thanks to Orphans Heart, he will continue to live and thrive there in his community. Who knows what he will be when he grows up? God does.
I had not planned on spending New Year’s Eve in bed. I heard about the extravagant displays of fireworks in Antigua on New Year’s Eve and since I find even the most rudimentary fireworks awe inspiring, I wanted to see them. But, the stomach bug compelled me to go to bed on New Year’s Eve at 6:30 and I slept straight through until 6:30 the next morning when I drug myself up for some tea and toast and hoped I could make it through the rest of the day at the Center. I heard some of the rumbling and bangs in the midst of my sleep, but could not bring myself to go to the window. M. told me that the fireworks were “almost as good as Disney World,” so I know I would have enjoyed them. But, I just couldn’t do it. I need not have feared I’d missed it all. Despite the rising sun and light shining on the country of Guatemala, the people continued to celebrate throughout New Year’s Day. “Fiesta bombs” exploded all over Antigua and then, San Juan. At noon, there was enough noise that it sounded like midnight though there were no bright colors in the sky to accompany the sound. Despite the merrymaking, the last day at the Center was a solemn one. First thing, I shared with Christy that I likely would not be back for at least a year. She understood when I explained my reasoning. 2015 is going to be a year of frugality for us as we pay off some debt in anticipation of retirement. We enjoyed some time together cleaning and mopping. There was more work to do as she was in charge of both the Ducks and the Squirrels. Due to the holiday, half the nannies had the day off. Once the work was done, I spent the rest of the day sitting quietly, watching the children play, intervening when I needed to, but silently praying for them, for their futures and for those who would impact their lives. Rosario, a little girls who had given me a hard time all week, chose that morning to try and make it up to me by snuggling in my lap. Earlier in the week, she was being naughty at nap time and I threatened to move her name to the bottom of the behavior chart but I didn’t know her name. When I asked her, she gave me the name of one of the other girls! Smart little thing. The day sped by. Before we knew it, lunchtime was over, naps were finished and afternoon snack distributed and it was time for us to get on the bus and say good-bye. The children were still eating, but they marched out anyway to line up along the drive and wave, calling ‘Adios!” That moment is always so poignant and makes team members weep with sorrow. Though I wish I had not gotten sick, I am still glad I went to Guatemala. As always, I get more out of the mission trip than I think those who I go to bless do and it is a reminder that God has plans for good, is in control and even when I cannot see it, He continues to work.