Today was the day most of the team who had been here before had been looking forward to with great anticipation. Today we were headed to Zacatacaluka. We stopped for an early lunch at Biggest. Biggest is like a hybrid Burger King/Charlie’s Chicken/ McDonald’s all rolled into one.
Today Michael was really sick. We were all praying very hard for him. We do not know what he had. However, it was very serious. It would take him nearly a week after returning home to fully recover.
Upon arriving at the orphanage we were allowed only to stay in the courtyard. The Nun’s said all the other kids were busy and that we would only be able to see the seven kids they sent out to us. Backing up to yesterday, the purpose for Mike and Mr. Duggar’s visit was to make sure things were still good with our planned arrival. In the past the nun’s had tried everything to block us from visiting and make it as hard as possible for us to be with the children. Even though we had in hand letters from the governor asking us to visit on her behalf we still ran into problems. Several of the children have come to know the Lord through SOS’s work in the orphanage. Therefore, the nun’s hated our visits because it did so much to reverse their brainwashing. In the week leading up to our visit Mike and Alex had been calling repeatedly trying to confirm our visit. Yesterday the head nun was not there but her assistant and the others there assured us everything was prepared for us to come and spend time with all the kids. While Mike and Josh talked things through with the Nun’s the rest of us enjoyed sharing Christ love with the few kids we were allowed to see. At one point in time they told us that the other kids were not here but you could hear them in the back of the compound.
You know when you have made an impact in others when they come flying out the door screaming in delight upon hearing that you have come back. This was the response the team received from the kids at the orphanage. As we waited for the nun’s to settle down Mike ran to the store for a few supplies we needed. We all played soccer, painted fingernails, played basketball, enjoyed the swings, or jumped rope. It was touching to be able to bring one day of delight to these kids. Some sat around reading the Bible with various team members or just talking and exploring some of the new gifts we brought for them.
During this time Spencer and I took over 200 pictures of the existing playground and yard area. His church in cooperation with the governor is going to redo the playground. We carefully documented the exposed bare wires on the light poles, open sewer manholes, swing chain repaired with tiny wire, and broken glass everywhere. I can’t wait to see that the play area looks like when they are finished with it this coming summer. I know that it will be much safer and useable for these under privileged kids.
About 4 o’clock the head nun finally said you have 10 minutes to see the rest of the kids. But they can’t come out here you have to go back there. As they led us through the compound you saw several rows of block buildings. Block buildings with small windows covered with metal bars. From inside you could hear children. She led us into one and through several metal gates. It gave you the impression you were at a prison rather than an orphanage for children who have been taken in off the streets. We came into a common courtyard type room. Here the nun went down the hall unlocking cells/bedrooms to allow the kids out to meet us. As soon as she would open a door the kids would pour out. We later found out the kids are only allowed out of their cells to go to school. We spent the few precious minutes handing out gifts and gospel of John’s. What treasures these simple gifts were to each child.
At exactly 9:32 after we were given ten minutes the head nun ordered us out. We made sure to thank her for the time she allowed and shared what blessing it had been.
About half of the kids in the orphanage are HIV positive. Two years ago when SOS had come they would not allow them to interact with the HIV children because they feared we would exploit them. This year it was some of the HIV kids that we were allowed to spend the most time with. What a change.
We handed out the rest of the gifts and began saying our goodbyes. It was amongst many tears that we loaded our bags and headed home. What a ride it was. We had rented two trucks for the day today. I think we must have set a record for fastest trip to and from the orphanage.
Upon arriving back we hastily cleaned up and prepared for the church’s 10th anniversary celebration that evening. The local leaders of SOS had planned this entire celebration on their own. It was a great testimony to me of the leader Mike was in raising each of them up and empowering them to be leaders. The celebration began around 5:30 with food and fellowship. Through some mis-communication some of us ate some local food that was not “safe” for us gringos. It was some of the most amazing marinated cucumber that I have ever had though. Needless to say we all survived. At 6:30 the formal service began. Throughout the time some of the pastors who had been in La Esperanza for the following three days at the pastors conference would share, then we would sing, pray, preach, and the cycle would begin all over again. At one point they called all of the American team up to “introduce us”. And then asked us to sing. Umm.. We had not heard a thing about this or been warned. J It was all good though. We sang one of the songs from sharing in the villages. And then Antonio and Alex asked us to sing a few more songs. We ended up singing 4 of the 5 songs we would sing in the various villages.
In all there were at least 400 people packed in for the celebration. It was a joy to sing passionately with these believers and watch the passion and zeal of the preaching and sharing. These people’s hearts are on fire for the Lord. The evening (morning) finally wrapped up at 12:20 being the final amen. About half of the team who were still recovering from sickness or just coming down with the sickness had crashed in mass on a few mattresses on the floor in one of the rooms.
It was nearly 1am before most people had left and we begun cleaning up the various rooms so we could pull out our mattress. It was nearly 2am when I turned off the lights in the guys room and flopped onto my bed.
Words fail to express the emotions of the day. The highs of seeing the kids smiles, worshiping at the celebration, and many other exciting moments. All these contrasted with the lows of running into walls with the nun’s and not being able to see the kids, or the hopeless expressions on so many people’s faces in town as they seek for peace and joy among the demons.