Friday, December 16, 2016

Silence

James and Ellie Carr
Within the past two weeks, James and I have had a life-changing experience we want to share with you.  It has changed our perspective on our work, on Guatemala, and on orphan care as a whole.

Here in Guatemala, there hundreds of orphanages or children's homes, most of which are private, including Fundaniños where we live and work.  A small handful, however, are owned and operated by the Guatemalan government.  One such is located about half a mile away from us.  Recently but on separate occasions, James and I both visited the home where we were both astounded by what we found.  I write to you regarding the occasion on which I visited, although James' visit was no different.  First, however, let me paint for you a picture of Fundaniños, the orphanage or children's home that we call home.
Fundaniños Children's Home
When you pull up the bumpy, winding dirt road to Fundaniños, you may notice the tall cement, walls surrounding the property (which are normal property barriers here in Guatemala), but chances are, the first thing to grab your attention is the large grassy hill leading up to a playground and several brightly colored buildings.  If you look long enough, you may note the onsite school at the bottom of the property or the small enclosure of farm animals that the children take pride in raising on the other side of the property.  It's nothing extravagant, but it more than meets the needs of the kids and staff who live here.
Whiffle ball tournament in the afternoon
As you pull up to enter the property, you see a tall black gate, more than likely unlocked, and easily slid open to access the property.  Entering, you will see a large grassy soccer field that was blocked from sight by the tall walls earlier.   There will probably be kids running and playing on the soccer field in the afternoon, but if not, just turn your gaze to the playground atop the hill, and there they will most definitely be.  As you enter the property you will here squeals, giggles, and shouts, not directed towards you, but noticeable nonetheless as the children play.  You may note the rhythmic thumping of bass if the girls are dancing along to Zumba videos in the dining hall, their current favorite work out.  You will see the bustling of several employees, as well as a few caretakers sitting on the lawn looking after the children who they oversee.
Girls making mud pies and brownies in their kitchen
What you will see is life.  You will hear joy.  You will feel happiness.  That's just how Fundaniños is.  Back to our recent visit to the "macro institution" for children down the road from us-

Last week, we received a donation of vegetables from a local farm- snow peas, brussel sprouts, and wax beans to be exact.  The donation was tremendous and more than the children and staff could (or were willing to) eat before it went bad.  James made the call to send our staff home with as many of the vegetables as their families could eat, feed our animals that night with some of the leftovers, and with what remained we would donate to the government-run children's home- a lavish improvement to the small portions of rice and beans rumored to be the day-to-day staples.

I accompanied that afternoon as we drove over to drop off the donation.  We took several teenage girls to witness what "the other" home was like.  We pulled up to their gate, and the driver, another missionary, got out of the van.  A guard with a gun on each hip came out to greet him.  He looked at van of children and vegetables suspiciously.  He agreed to allow the donation of vegetables into the home, but the adolescents would have to wait outside on the side of the road while the van made the drop off- presumably so they wouldn't get mixed in (or be left) to the enormous number of children already inhabiting the home.  The girls and a chaperone exited the van, and we entered the home.

Several gray block houses were immediately visible, bars covering what windows they had.  An armed guard in uniform with a rifle stood atop one of the homes.  I knew he wasn't there wasn't to prevent people from coming in.  The van was backed to the kitchen where a cook came out to receive our donation.  We got out of the van to unload and all looked around.  We were greeted by complete and utter silence.  It was eerie and death-like.  There were no laughs, squeals, or giggles.  In fact there was no trace of any children on the property.

As we waited for the cooks to empty the baskets of veggies and return them to us, we were accompanied by one of the staff.

"How many houses do you have onsite here?" we questioned the cook to break the silence while we waited.

"We have four homes, divided by gender and age," he said going on to explain how the kids were divided.

"How many kids do you have room for?" we asked.

"400," he replied smiling sheepishly.

"How many do you actually have?"

"Currently," he answered, "we have about 790."

As we chatted, a rat scurried up about three feet from us scavenging for food scraps we may have dropped.  Moments later, our baskets were returned, we were thanked, and escorted out of large gates.

This year nearly 50 children have "escaped" from the home.  In October alone, 31 went missing one night.  The majority were girls between the ages of fourteen and sixteen.  It is believed they were sold into trafficking.  James and I both left there with a feeling of hopelessness.  The contrast between the sterility of the government home and the care and life at Fundaniños was palpable.  The fact is that we can't help everyone.
I only write this to make you aware of the vast needs here in Guatemala in the orphan care industry.  Yes, Fundaniños is a wonderful home, but still nowhere near the childhood that we dream of for our own kids.  The needs here are great.  The help is little.  Guatemala is facing a crisis with the number of orphaned, abused, and neglected children in the system.  Our family can't rescue them all, but with your help, we can continue making a difference in the lives of those whom we work with.  We will continue our work here as long as God calls us to do so, and you can be a part.  We need your prayers and support to continue our work here.  If you can help, we would appreciate your donation no matter the amount.  We thank you again for allowing us to be a part of orphan care here in Guatemala.

Until next time,
James + Ellie

James and Ellie Carr / Author & Editor

James and Ellie Carr have been missionaries in Gautemala since 2014 and write to share their feelings and how they have experienced God's goodness and mercy on the mission field.

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