Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Part of Mission Work I Hate

James and Ellie Carr
Fundaniños Guatemala- home to 40-60 orphaned, abused, and neglected children.
I want to start this off by saying that there is one part of mission work that I hate.  I can't stand it.  Those who follow our family may recognize that we avoid the topic as much as we can.  I'm not sure if it's because of how I was raised, but conversations about it just make me uneasy.  Maybe it's my stubborn nature and my innate desire to be self-sufficient and not rely on the help of others.  For many people this type of uneasiness is found in the discussion of politics or even in the duty to share their faith.  For me, it's in the conversation of asking for your help.

I love sharing my faith where we live and serve in Guatemala.  I love questions about it.  They fuel me.  James and I are completely convinced that we have the best job that the mission field has to offer as Subdirectors here at Fundaniños Guatemala.  It is soul-scrubbing, sanctifying, sometimes heartbreaking, but fulfilling to serve the kids and caregivers living at Fundaniños.  We live among them.  We think we are teaching them, but learn so much in the process (see my last Thanksgiving post).  The orphans here have become part of our family.  Just yesterday morning, I walked into our cabin from the directors meeting to find one of the girls here snuggled with Riley on the couch watching cartoons, and another washing our dishes without any prompting.  They are like daughters to us.  It is a privilege to work with them day in and day out.

"I want to give thanks for the people who donate so that
we have everything and don't lack anything."
- "S" 11-year-old girl at Fundaniños
That being said, those of you back at home who support us, have no less of an impact on the kids here.  Without you sending us, we would be unable to work with these orphans in Guatemala.  Without you, we would be unable to love on them day after day.  Without you, we would be unable to give the directors of Fundaniños time to visit their family in the States this Christmas- something they haven't been able to do in years.  Without you, we would be unable to share our lives, our faith, and our training with the direct caregivers in the homes at Fundaniños and encourage them to continue working as the backbone of Fundaniños.  Through your support, you help so much more than just our family; you allow us to reach out to the kids, caregivers, and directors surrounding us in Guatemala.

Thank you.  I know it sounds cliché, but we could not do it without you.  Let that sink in.  Without you, we would not be here.


James serving Thanksgiving dinner
with Director, Barb Freed
This Giving Tuesday, I want to be really honest with you.  Our family needs about $2,000 per month to live off of and effectively do ministry here in Guatemala.  Yes, the cost of living is cheaper in some aspects here in Guatemala, but in other areas it is much more expensive.  As citizens of the U.S. we are still bound by many U.S. regulations as well.  We must have health insurance.  We must pay taxes on your donations (the catch is that Riley doesn't count as a dependent down here- go figure that!)  Although we don't drive much, gas is more expensive here.  I would be happy to share a copy of our monthly budget with those who are curious, but for the sake of those who aren't "numbers people," just know that $2,000 is the magic number this year for our family of three (soon-to-be four).

Can I get even more honest for a minute?  We only hit our mark of $2,000 about 50% of the time.  We are not salaried by any organization that we work for, but rather have been sent by friends, families, and believers in the States.  We moved to Guatemala with the faith that God would provide and the wisdom and planning from other missionaries, sending agencies, and churches.  We need your help in 2017.  We want to continue ministry here for years to come, but we cannot do it without you.  Would you pray about or consider partnering with us monthly in 2017 to work in Fundaniños children's home here in Guatemala?  The amount you decide to give is between you and God, but no amount is insignificant to us.  Would you consider this Giving Tuesday as a day to pledge to make a difference in the lives of the orphans and other children here by allowing us to continue serving them?  We cannot tell you how grateful we would be.

So there it is.  The tough conversation of 2016 for me.  I apologize to those who are as uncomfortable as I am talking about giving money.  I thank those who are considering supporting our family, or who have already given so that we can be here.  I understand those who are not in a position to give right now or who are supporting another missionary or organization- praise God that there are so many great ways to give!  Thank you for taking the time to read and for your consideration.  We love you all.  To God be the glory always, and may we continue working to serve Him and make His great name known.

~ The Carr Family
Ellie, Riley, and James Carr, October 2016
If you would like to make a one-time donation towards the work that we do in Guatemala, or are considering a monthly partnership with our ministry, click here.

James 1: 22, 27
"But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.  Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world."

Friday, November 25, 2016

Thankful

James and Ellie Carr
November 2016, especially Thanksgiving, has taught me so much.

On November 3, James, Riley, and I touched back down in Guatemala City after a time of furlough in  the States in October.  I think this has been one of our hardest departures from the States yet.  With all the comforts of "home," sights and smells of fall, the warmth of family constantly surrounding us, and no return trip to the States in sight, coming back was just hard.  The contrast of life in the States and life in Guatemala was exaggerated.  One thing was certain, however, our work was not done yet in Guatemala.
James leading a game of whiffle ball over Christmas break

Our first week and a half was spent getting over an outbreak of hand, foot, & mouth disease that struck all of the toddlers and most of the kids under 10 here at Fundaniños.  Up until last week, there were still kids complaining of symptoms.  Riley was a trooper though, and didn't let the open sores on all of her extremities and in her mouth slow her down at all.  I, on the other hand, thought it was the worst disease know to man, and wondered why I couldn't spend the week in bed.Apparently it is rare for adults to get the disease, but I drew the short stick and was the only one here at Funda to get it.  It was miserable, but we managed to survive.


A week and a half after arriving, was Orphan Sunday- a day promoted by Christians to raise awareness of issues such as adoption, foster care, and the needs of orphanages and orphans worldwide.  I had heard of Orphan Sunday in the past.  I applauded the short films shown in church in previous years and looked up to those who made decisions to help orphans, but his year it meant more to me.  I was secretly in anticipation to see how the day would unfold here at Fundaniños, waiting for something magical to happen- a team of missionaries to come visit form the U.S., gifts to arrive for the kids, or better yet, a phone call that one of the kids here had a prospective family.  Nothing of that sort happened however.  It was a Sunday like any other here, without so much as a single visitor other than the regular staff onsite that day.  My heart sank a little.  Why did I get my hopes up?

The next weekend was marked by National Adoption Day.  I knew better than to get my hopes up on that day for anything out of the ordinary to happen.  Adoptions just don't seem to happen here in Guatemala.  They just don't.  But my mind still wandered.  What if all of the kids here who are "adoptable" found loving homes?  Why is that so out of the question?  They deserve it so badly, but in the end I was left with no more of a conclusion than this-

The childhood reality of the kids here is the reality of Orphan Sunday rather than the hope of National Adoption Day.

The majority of them will live their their childhood without parents, a nuclear family, and a home.  It may be a bleak outlook, but it is unrealistic to think that any of the eligible children here will be adopted into families before they age out of the system at eighteen years old.

Thanksgiving dinner at Fundaniños

Thanksgiving dinner at Fundaniños
Then Thanksgiving came.  In the week leading up to Thanksgiving, James was intentional about teaching the children about gratefulness.  He spent time before meals discussing with the kids why we thank God for our food each day, and even had some of the older girls create a chart where kids could share what they were truly thankful for.  I imagined it would take a good bit of prodding to get some of the chart filled in, but I was wrong.  Before Thanksgiving even arrived, the chart was completely full!  Each space was filled by the kids and staff, who from any outsider's perspective, have so little, but they were so grateful.  I was astounded and a bit convicted.

The completed chart of what the kids are thankful for
While I had seemed to lose hope of these kids having a future that I felt like they deserved, they were busy leaning to be thankful for what they did have.  My declining attitude had sank passing the improving attitudes of the kids on its way down.  How could those with so little have such better perspectives than me?  It was a sobering thought, one that I am still processing.  My attitude could use a change, not because of how much I have or to set a precedent for anyone else, but because I have been created to love God and am unconditionally loved by Him.  I was created to sing His praises, not lose hope and complain.  It is His will for me and life is always more fulfilling and worthwhile when we are in His will.
"Thank you [God] for my friends and the family
that I have at Fundaniños."
I thank Him for the chance to grow, change, and serve, and for the opportunity to learn each and everyday from the kids we work with.

~Ellie

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

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