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Archive for June, 2009

People who followed the old blog have been contacting me very concerned… “What happened to India?” First of all, I want to thank everyone for their concerns, prayers, happy thoughts, and support throughout this last year. It’s been completely insane at times, and very rewarding at other times.

Just for the record, I did not abandon my thoughts of going to India. India will always have a place in my heart. Maybe someday, I will be lead to go to that part of the world.

When I decided that I wanted to follow my dream of living and working in a third world country, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. I was in a very spiritual place when I made this decision, and have followed my heart in saying that I would go wherever I was lead to go. In the beginning, it was India. In the process of applications, interviews, and criminal background checks (no, they didn’t come back with anything!!), I got completely wrapped up in the process of going “somewhere”, rather than going and doing what I had originally planned… I wanted to work with children. I wanted to live with the team of people that I would be working with, to ensure and encourage team relationships. It all sounds simple. I have found an amazing organization who encourages these things, which warms my heart and encourages me to move forward with my plans. This whole thing wasn’t supposed to be about India, it was supposed to be about me fulfilling a dream, and being the person that I know I am.

India will always be there… I have not abandoned the idea of working with victims of human trafficking. But right now, I am being lead in a different direction. Your support and encouragement means the world to me.

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The Beauty of Grace

I met so many amazingly beautiful people, and heard some amazing stories of love and survival. One that touched me the most was the story of Grace. She was born in the La Limonada ghetto, and is only about 16 months old. After she was born, Grace’s mother was extremely depressed. Tita and team went to the mother to encourage her to take care of her newborn daughter. The child was pale and thin. One of the teachers of the schools went with Tita, to try to help this mother with her child. After some convincing, and a doctor’s visit, Tita and Monika were able to convince the mother to let them help with the newborn. At this point, the baby had not been named. Monika asked if they could name the child ‘Grace’.

Tita and Monika were able to convince the mother to let them take Grace home with them, to help her get healthy. It’s been about 14 months since Grace went home with Monika and Tita. Grace’s mother sees her everyday, to babysit her while Monika (her surrogate mgrace1other) teaches at the schools in La Limonada.

Monika’s fear is that someday she will go to pick Grace up from her mother, after school… and the mother will not want to give her back. The fear is that if Grace is left with her mother, that she will get swept into the poverty of the ghetto. Girls raised in the ghetto are prone to drop out of school early, and also early pregnancy.

I have had thoughts of this situation everyday, since I met Monika and Grace. Monika has become the mother that Grace was lacking. I know that Grace is in amazing hands, and God has truly given an amazing give to Monika. I truly believe that someday Grace will do amazing things for the schools and the people of La Limonada. I believe that God has given her a gift of an amazing family, with Monika and Tita.

 

Spend all your time waiting
For that second chance
For a break that would make it ok
There’s always one reason
To feel not good enough
And it’s hard at the end of the day

I need some distraction ooh beautiful release
Memory seeps from my veins
Let me be empty and weightless and maybe
I’ll find some peace tonight

(Chorus)
In the arms of an angel
Fly away from here
From this dark cold hotel room
And the endlessness that you feel
You are pulled from the wreckage
Of your silent reverie
You’re in the arms of the angel
May you find some comfort here

So tired of the straight line
And everywhere you turn
There are vultures and thieves at your back
And the storm keeps on twisting
You keep on building the lie
That you make up for all that you lack
It wont make no difference
Escaping one last time
It’s easier to believe in this sweet madness oh
This glorious sadness that brings me to my knees

(Chorus)
You’re in the arms of an angel
May you find some comfort here
Some comfort here
~Sarah McLachlan

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Can You Feel The Love?

I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul. ~Psalm 31:7

For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to work with people in a third world country, especially children. I have always had this in my heart. However, I kept listening to the negative voices, saying that I would never do this… distractions, negativity, and a lack of support have kept me from my dream.

During my time in La Limonada (which was admittedly short), I was exposed to things that I never thought I would see. I met a child who’s mother was so depressed, that she hadn’t named her 2 month old child. I met a woman who’s baby has an unknown birth defect. I encountered a family, where a 12 year old girl ‘married’ a 50-something year old man, and she had her first child at 12 (this woman is now in her mid-30’s and her husband is in his early 80’s). On my first day in the ghetto, we visited a bed-ridden man who had fallen, and then lost his wife. He depends on neighbors and friends to care for him. I met a family who is expecting their 9th child, while living in a 3 room dwelling.

In all of these cases, there was a common bond… all of these people are loved. I saw friends hugging and shaking hands in the streets. Children running, playing, and laughing. Neighbors helping to build new dwellings. In the ghetto, there is love.
He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. ~Deuteronommy 10:8
I love the house where you live, O LORD, the place where your glory dwells. ~Psalm 26:8
Since I became a Believer, the desire to serve in these conditions has grown stronger. I feel love oozing out of me when I am in these situations. I feel very connected to God when I am with people in need. I learn so much from their experiences and stories. At the end of the day, I always learn something about myself.

“All you need is love.” ~John Lennon

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You always hear the stories… “this country lives in poverty” or “the gangs rule this area of the city”. This weekend, I was exposed to these things first-hand.

I don’t think that I have ever seen anything more beautiful than what I saw while flying into Guatemala. The mountains are so defined, and the leaves on the trees are so green. The temperature stayed between 60 and 85, the whole time I was there… which automatically defines this place as my Heaven. I was met at the airport by Tita and April, a young woman from Texas who is staying with Tita for over a month. April held a colorful sign with my name on it, which I found to be a relief, as I was not entirely sure of who was going to be picking me up.

Tita immediately drove us to the ghetto (right from the airport), in Guatemala City. I will never forget arriving at the ghetto. Tita pulled up to an iron gate, and showed me the new playground that was built for the children. My eyes immediately started to wander to the immense sight of tin roofs, concrete buildings and colorful walls of La Limonada. This is a sight that I will never forget.

La Limonada is one of the poorest places in the world. It is also (approximately) the fourth most violent location on the planet. The streets are covered with litter. The river that divides the ghetto is filled with trash. The sights and smells were overwhelming. I smelled everything from human feces to people cooking homemade tortillas. The colors and people were so beautiful, that I my eyes just darted from one thing to another. All I could say was “wow”.

More stories to come, but for now… here are some of the photos taken in La Limonada.

My first glimpse of La Limonada

My first glimpse of La Limonada

Entering the ghetto

Entering the ghetto

La Limonada Ghetto

La Limonada Ghetto

Tita leading the way throught La Limonada

Tita leading the way throught La Limonada

A beautiful nightmare

A beautiful nightmare

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Packing Logically

For this initial trip down to meet Tita and the rest of the gang, I have decided to only bring a backpack. Yeah, one backpack for an international travel weekend… should be a great challenge.

Logically, I will only be there for 3 1/2 days… so in my head, it’s completely okay to bring as little as possible. Of course, while making my list of stuff to bring, I just kept adding and adding things. I know that I need 2 pair of jeans and a pair of shorts, 3 shirts, some kind of light weight hoodie, underwear, toiletries, knitting supplies (never leave home without them),  a couple pair of flip-flops, meds, and my Spanish for Dummiesbook. I keep trying to not add, some kind of extravagant gift for Tita and my hosts (Tita’s brother and sister-in-law), gifts for the kids (there are hundreds of them, this can get out of hand), donations to bring to the orphans, etc.

My initial challenge to myself in all of this packing was to make everything that I need for a 3 day international trip fit into this really fancy backpack that my parents bought me several years back for Christmas. The bag has been neglected, and is perfect for travel… and therefore I must get some good use out of it. I have managed to keep it, even through all of the purging of my belongings last year.

Good news… my mom has finally gotten on board with this whole “I’m going to live in a third world country” thing. She has admitted to being proud of me, and has been very supportive with upcoming needs. (Thanks, mom!!)

My trip to meet the gang in Guatemala City is from June 18th-21st. Any prayers, happy thoughts, and general good vibes would be appreciated.

More to come…

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Anticipation

Tonight I met with Cherie (Mrs. Lemonade International). It was really great to sit with her and hear all about her experiences in La Limonada. She told me about Tita and the others who are involved with the schools.

Tita’s team of teachers, assistants, missionaries, volunteers are from all over the world. There are approximately 26 people from different backgrounds. One woman is from North Carolina, was once a professional photographer, and decided to go down to La Limonada for a year. Another volunteer is from Belgium. Another volunteer attends N.C. State University, was in Guatemala for another reason, and decided to show up at Tita’s school and offer to help for a few days. I was also happy to learn that members of the local community (specifically the ghetto) also volunteer at the schools.

I’m truly inspired by the stories that I am hearing about the folks on Tita’s team. The weekdays are split between the two active schools in La Limonada. The morning half is spent at one school, and after a two hour break, afternoon classes are held a the other school. When classes are not in session, Tita visits members of the La Limonada community.

Waiting, waiting, waiting…

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