December 2014, our family took our 1st mission trip. We worked for months at our church thrift store to earn our way. Sweet friends also came alongside to donate toward it. On a cold, wintery day, we departed our church parking lot caravan-ing with 12 of our friends to Casa de la Esperanza, translated House of Hope, where we would have our hearts stolen by 46 sweet children in Chiuhauahua, Mexico.
We spent 4 days traveling total and 8 days there. Days were filled with projects/chores, meal prep-consumption and clean up, craft projects, singing songs, devotional time, movies, lots of playground time. So much activity.
The home is immaculate, organized and spread out and with the appearance of a Mexican village. A very comfortable place for all to thrive. Our 1st day there, we met a baby, probably around 7 or 8 months old, we learn he has no name to be known. He was just brought to the home. He steals EVERY heart, every heart. Happy smiles abound with teeth busting thru top gums. After a few days, I ask Senor Gil, the “papa” of the facility if I may nickname him Feliz, spanish for Happy. He agrees, “that’s a good idea.” We’re told he was likely not held much for his lifetime, we do our best to make up for lost time. So many sweet little faces, so many hands to hold, hugs to give, tickles to dole out, it overwhelmed me the 1st day, it overwhelms me today. How can I/we possibly make a difference in the sea of need before us? I reflect and ponder this and recall the story of the man walking a beach with a multitude of washed up sea creatures. He begins to return these creatures to the sea one by one. A passerby comes along and says, “why are you doing this, can’t you see there is no way you can make a difference here?” He picks up another lost critter and says, “to this one, I’m making a difference” as he tosses it back to the sea. And then I have my marching orders for the week, and share them with my family thru tears.
My family speaks very little Spanish, I recall a good amount from my high school classes. We make our way thru each day yearning to share, to communicate with these sweet, smiling faces. The majority of our team doesn’t speak Spanish either, it matters not. We speak a language of love, smiles, snuggles, cuddles, holy hugs and kisses, we’re understood.
Most kids were just the happiest kids you could meet, a few still in the wounds of their past, you can see it on their faces, some on their bodies. We meet a new boy Isidro, he’s very guarded the 1st day he arrives, on our Day 2. By weeks end, he is freed to love, laugh, smile and hug. It’s a sweet, healing miracle. God is SOOOOO good.
I need a break from crying, so here is Trenton’s take on his week,
“Casa is pretty fun. You get to sleep on a bunk bed and I sleeped in a bunk with Harrison. It is a children’s home. The leader is named Gill. He gave us a tour. Casa’s purpose is to serve God. As you can see, I love Casa.”
It was a beautiful gift to see Trenton working alongside his dad and 3 teenage boys. They turned soil in the greenhouse and added manure from the animals living on the property (Casa is as self sustaining as it can be and has a working farm/ranch toward that end). They nicknamed themselves “The Feces Five”. They put insulation up in the currently being constructed schoolhouse that is prayerfully to open Fall of 2015. It will be a Christian school for the children of Casa and students in the community who wish an alternative to the public schools. They mixed and poured concrete to place new playground toys (a Christmas gift from previous Casa Missionaries) in the ground after they dug the deep holes to put the concrete in. They also poured a handicap ramp in the school. Tom had a good team of hard working young men and Trenton had a few brothers for a week, his boy heart made happy. My mama heart as well.
One day, he wanted to take a picture of his “best friend at Casa”, Oscar, so he could show the picture to his grandma. I teared up at that request. As you can imagine I cried A LOT. (wish I weren’t, but God made me a cry-er, someone once said when God squeezes the heart, the tears come out, I’m squeezed often it seems). Tears would overtake me at random, unexpected moments. So much love needed, so much love to give.
Kensey’s summary of the week,
“Casa is relay fun, you can do crafts with the kids, and play with the kids outside. You can sleep on a bunk bed. There is a big, big kitchen. The best thing is you get to serve God in a awesome way.”
Kensey is our most timid of our three children, she blossomed as the week went on. She would find the littlest kids, and become their playmate. Xochil (sounds like Sochi from Olympics) had a seemingly standard frown. Probably around 3 years old or so. One of my favorite 10 minutes of Casa was watching she and Kens play together on swings, such pure joy, laughs and the toothiest smiles I’ve ever seen were abounding from her little body. My heart was/is full. Kens’ heart was too because she knew the happiness of the moment, a common language one child to another.
Casa is not an orphanage. Casa is a children’s home. The real orphanage is the world that does not know Jesus. Even though the kids had rough times before Casa, they all smile all day everyday. All of the kids were joyful because they knew the truth of God. Honestly, Casa was awesome with great kids.
Kay was in her element, loving on kids. She was drawn to Feliz, caring for him as often as she could, all the while sharing him with the many others who wanted to love on him too. She also got the opportunity to work HARD alongside the other teenage girls who call Casa home with kitchen duties. Additionally, she had the blessing of walking alongside her leader at church, a unique opportunity to get to know her and be known more by her. Such a treasure this sweet Moira is.
And that brings me to my next point of beauty, the adults who were on this trip alongside us. There were 17 of us in total, 6 kids of ours, 5 unaccompanied minors and 6 total adults. It was a well oiled machine how we all worked together to come alongside one another throughout the week. Many of us took turns with illness, and like an amazing team, we all stood in the gap. We parented all the kids, it was a solid example of teamwork. There were challenges, and we met them, we prayed each other up, we backed each other up and we tag-teamed seamlessly, or I should say He did it through us. Thankfully. Because we were weary and needed Him to do that. Thank you Lord for using us.
Mr. Rodney was our team leader. He typically does this alongside his bride, Barbara. This year, Barbara's father became very ill and it was determined he was in his last days, so her place was by his side. I can't imagine how hard this was for them to do seperately, both of their tasks before them individually. So many details go into a 12 day trip like this, and he and Barb had done much of the work beforehand, which was helpful. Executing was a challenge. God was in the details.
There were difficulties too. Fatigue, adjustment to a new place, food, routines, attitudes, illness, and other assundries, and while I don’t want to focus energy there, I thought it important to mention the reality that was.
I had the opportunity to lead a team of painters. This facility is a sight to behold, and Gil told us he makes no apologies for this. It isn’t in excess, but it is with good stewardship of donations and resources an artful, well maintained home the children help to upkeep and can be proud to call their home. With so much stucco and curvy half walls, painting is a constant. Lest you be confused, the color is “Casa Peach”, not pink. Teal metal accented gates and flowers adorn the property. We were tasked with painting a wall, a high wall, picking up where another church team left off. We ran out of paint, we were sad. Materials are hard to come by in Mexico, so they have a “Home Depot” on site, a necessity to maintain the property. We finished 95% of our wall, we enjoyed looking at our achievement throughout the week. There is nothing like the satisfaction that hard work brings. Nothing.
On two days, we traveled to nearby towns to distribute food, clothing and toys. We were escorted by Casa kids Dennise, Ernesto, Oscar, Yoara & Jonas. As we walked rocky hills, dirt roads and approached home after home, we saw poverty. Chickens and dogs would often be in abundance throughout the area. Ernesto told me that his house was over there. Imagine it’s surreal for him, like a different lifetime ago in comparison to the place and time he now calls home. Word spread in the town quickly, some perhaps by cell phone, some by word of mouth. Crowds came to receive whatever help we could offer. Though the poverty was apparent, there were cell phones, satellite dishes and vehicles around. A lot to take in and understand. We’re told most families earn about $300 American dollar each month.
There are so many more stories I could tell. Time enjoyed on the many miles of road with our newest honorary Lindeman, Laura Prather Lindeman and Ms. Moira. Rich conversations and times of sharing, learning about one another. Audio stories and movies enjoyed. Yarn untangled and balled (how else would I have spent those 3 hours?), fleece pillows created, boys and video games, one lost shoe at the border crossing due to an overflowing van of people and all the accessories that come with them, sitting 4+ hours at the border crossing (never had I imagined I’d be so happy to be on American soil), sleeptalking silly-ness, “are we at the border, I have to find my passport?, walkie talkie conversations (Lego Van to Hot Rod Mobile), accidentally butting in line at the border due to miscommunications, team meetings and the sharing of nicknames, Mexican potato chips, our 1st American meal when we crossed the border (BEST burger EVER!), hotel swimming pools on late nights and ohhhh the sleep deprivation. Laura and I dub the experience, all of it, “Camp Casa”.
We’re driving home on hour 13 of 18 and even now, all these miles away my heart is overflowing with the love of Casa. We’ll keep praying for this amazing ministry and the labor of love that happens there every day as it has for the last 17 years. Many on our trip were there on a 2nd, 3rd, even a 5th time. We’ll pray if that’s God’s plan for us, He will let us know. I can sure see how it can be addictive.
Tom and I set out to have a meaningful adventure showing our children how to serve God in a foreign land. We wanted them to see how others live, we wanted them to KNOW their blessings, we wanted them to work hard alongside others beside ourselves, we wanted them to see God. We wanted to be used by Him, together, and make a memory in doing so. Thank you Lord for a mission accomplished.
For more information about Casa de la Esperanza, visit http://www.ahouseofhope.com/