Journey to Discover

Hey there! This is a blog about my experiences and adventures that take place as I work at Hogar de Ninos in Honduras.

Feeling Like A Mom For One Day

One thing that I love about my job, is that it gives me a taste into the life of my own mom. 

My mom never raised seven little kids; she didn’t have children who had experienced traumatic situations before they were 5; and she never raised children who had never experienced stability. Even though she wasn’t working with the same kids that I live with, she still was a mother to someone. There are so many experiences that I have had here, that make me either want to apologize to my mom for my behavior as a child, or thank her for the many sacrifices she made for me. Waking up in the middle of the night  to take care of sick children can be very tiring, and I won’t lie and say that I never reached a moment when I wanted to quit. 

There are so many moments when I feel like I am my mom; and the one moment when I felt it the most was when I sent my children off for their first day of school. I had  felt something that I had never felt before. Seeing those kids in their uniform made me want to cry and hug each one of them. I couldn’t believe that it was finally time for my little ones to move onto that step of their life. I probably would have been more emotional, if I wasn’t working in their classroom as the teacher’s assistant; but still the situation itself reminded me of my mom and my first day of school. The whole day made me wonder if my mom felt the same way when she had me get dressed. I wanted to know if she felt like crying after saying goodbye to me as I walked over to my class. 

In several of the negative situations of my being here, I remember my mom and how she had to deal with something similar with me or my sister, and I don’t really think about the happier moments that she probably experienced with both of us. My kids first day of school made me so happy not just because I got to live this great moment with them, but also because it helped me imagine a happier picture of my mom  and in just being a mom.

New Year, New Beginnings!

As it is a new year, it would be expected that I would come up with some resolution for my mission work in 2014.The problem is that I am not the type to come up with a New Year resolution, or some type of goal that I hope to achieve sometime throughout the year; rather, I am the type to make a goal for each day of my life. If I start off each day with a goal, for that particular day, I’m more likely to remember it and achieve it. 

Now the question is, how will my goals apply to the work that I’m doing now? Over the past four months of my being here, I have had to deal with several struggles and frustrations that I believe held me back from doing what’s important, and that’s showing these kids love. So I’m hoping that within the next five months I can start off each day with a smile to help show these kids that I do love them - even if they do drive me up the wall. I hope to give more hugs; take more time out of my day to listen to what’s on their minds; have a conversation with a teenager that isn’t over superficial topics, but something deeper that helps get them thinking about what’s important in their lives. 

Even though I ended the year sick, with a throat infection, I was able to make one goal come to life. There’s a little four year old girl, in my group of kids, who tends to play more by herself. Both my roommate and I knew she was a little special with the funny faces she would make, and the silly ways she would walk and laugh; but then, we both started to realize that a lot of her behavior wasn’t actually average for a girl of her age. During the first few weeks of me being here, I would notice that she was a more reserved child, but quickly she grew out of that and began to speak more with the other children. However, I started to notice that her speech was quite delayed, and having her repeat basic words like "por favor" or "gracias" would come out sounding quite different; as well, she believed - and sometimes still does - that she is instead two years old. Both my roommate and I knew that she needed a little extra help to get her at the level that she needed to be; so in the last week of the year I began to do one-on-one lessons with her to learn her alphabets, as a starter to learning. It shocked me to realize how much better her speech has gotten within just one week of practice, and her capability to remember things, like her age. I can’t say that she’s now speaking like any other four year old, but she is doing better than before, and that’s what counts more than ever. 

In the type of environment that these children are growing up in, it’s so difficult for each individual to get the type of attention and care that they need, only because there are so many of them and so few of us helpers. However, I believe with all my heart that if I, and others, make goals for each day to make a slight difference in just one individual’s life, then maybe, by some point every child will the type of attention they desperately need. 

A Message to Live By

"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.

And  though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.”

1 Corinthians 13: 1-3

Honduran Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is known as one of the few holidays that brings families and friends together to share a moment of joy, communion, and love. Sadly for me, I haven’t spent Thanksgiving with my family since I was 18 years old (I’m currently 23). So spending a year in another country celebrating without them wasn’t something new for me - actually it was the second time I had spent it in another country. However, what was different this time is that this year was the first time that I took part in a Thanksgiving meal that was prepared by other college students, and the first time my attitude for the meal wasn’t as enthusiastic as it has been in past years. One main reason is that the job of a missionary requires a lot of time working, and not enough time to be in just peace, relaxing. I know that I shouldn’t have expected any less, and I didn’t; however, it get’s hard dealing with all of the stress that slowly weighs down on your shoulders. It’s not easy having to go through so many draining schedules each day for several months, pretending to be a parent, trying to be a spiritual outlet for the youth, and sometimes through all the hussle and bussle of it all, I forget my purpose of why I’m here, and what I’m trying to help teach these kids. That’s why when Thanksgiving finally came, all I could think of doing was sleeping in early, trying to forget about the day, rather than eating a heavy meal in the late evening. Thankfully, I still decided to make my appearance to the dinner. I was annoyed, angry, and didn’t want to be there, but once we started to eat and talk, something helped change my mood. Around the table, each one of us missionaries mentioned what we were thankful for, and it was at the moment that it started to come back to me; I’m out here to do God’s work of helping these kids out, while at the same time learning important things by being around them. Yes, it’s not easy being here, but the work I’m doing isn’t in vain. Somedays it feels like I’m doing nothing to help these kids, but then there are those few special moments that help remind me that I did come out here for a purpose. It’s not always easy to see what it is, but I can still be thankful that God is doing something by using me to do his work. So if it requires me losing some sleep, then I’m down for it. 

All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.  Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. - 2 Co 4: 15-16

Probably the most well-behaved child in the whole home!

Probably the most well-behaved child in the whole home!

Missionary vs. Volunteer

What’s the difference between being a missionary and being a volunteer? Personally, I thought it was the same thing, until about three weeks into being here. On dictionary.com a volunteer is described as “a person who voluntarily offers himself or herself for a service of undertaking.” After reading that, I thought to myself; yeah, that sounds just like a missionary! Then I decided to look up the definition for a missionary, which said “a person sent by a church into an area to carry on evangelism or other activities, as educational or hospital work.” Personally, I feel like I can add a lot more to that definition, but that’s beside the point; reading those two definitions and comparing them made me realize something really important, am I a volunteer or a missionary?

This comes off as a random topic, but it’s not. The thing is that here in Honduras, we are all referred to as volunteers, and that’s how we describe ourselves. My issue isn’t that I’m being called a volunteer, but it’s with my character. Am I just taking time out of my life to spend some time with a bunch of kids, just because I think it’s a good thing to do? Or am I here because I want to spend time with these kids so that they can experience a Christ-like love that they aren’t getting from their biological parents? Which type of character am I showing to these kids, someone who genuinely cares for them and wants the best for them, or just doing the job till the time is up? 

Thinking about this takes me back to the school year when our school chaplain, Pastor Sam, spoke to us about knowing our “why.” I remember him telling us that during the moments when we want to give up and head back home, we should reflect on what our “why” is because that is what will keep us motivated to keep going. I feel like knowing my “why” goes hand-in-hand with what I title myself. If I decided to go to Honduras to show kids God and His everlasting love, than isn’t that the same as being a missionary?

Sometimes these kids can drive me up the wall, but at the end of the day I always love being around each one of them.

Okay God…What Next?

It’s getting closer to two months of me being here, and it’s been a series of surprising changes!  At first, we had a set schedule for each day of the week. My schedule consisted of waking up to at 5:30 am to bathing two to five year-olds, to taking care of them till after lunch, and then spending a few hours in the afternoon helping some kids with their homework. It was a decent routine that I liked, but at the same time it didn’t feel like I was doing much of mission work. Then God decided to challenge that opinion of mine by throwing a huge curveball of change.

Within around the third week of me being here, our supervisor received some news about her family, which led her to immediately leave for Spain. It was the biggest shock that came from out of blue! Soon after her departure, we were told that she would be returning around four weeks later; however, about a week later we were told not to even expect her coming back anytime soon. This completely changed our jobs from having a regular routine of being on the clock at certain points of the day, to always being on the clock.

First and foremost, I should give some background information on our supervisor Txus. She has been working here at the Hogar for roughly 12 years. “Working” doesn’t even describe what she was doing here; she was practically the mother to each child that’s been living here. She woke up and slept with these kids just outside here room.  She practically never left except for some vacations, just to visit family; besides that this was her home. Her absence meant that chaos was about to break out! That was one of my biggest fears, trying to figure out how 50-something girls were going to listen to 7 American volunteers? The experience went from helping this lady out, to us being in charge.

Throughout this time of her being gone, it’s been a frightening experience, but at the same time interesting since I’ve seen a bit of God’s sense of humor. I say this because after speaking to the head of this Hogar, I learned that God really does have a crazy plan for everything, even when we don’t understand what it is. For example, coming here we started off with 7 volunteers, which is much more than what they are used to having; now, as the summer vacation is about to start and some of the volunteers will be leaving, we were getting worried as to how everything was going to work out with only four us being around till May. Then God decided to let us know that He’s got in under control by sending two new girls who will be working here for that same length of time. It was an unexpected surprise and blessing. Things have really shifted from me freaking out about how we were going to deal with the 24/7 work schedule, and the lack of help, to finally realizing that God’s got it under control. Now I’m wondering, what other interesting surprises does God have in store for us and this Hogar?

Trying Something New

It’s officially been over a month since I’ve been here, which sort-of surprises me because it feels like I haven’t been here for that long. It’s been pretty tiring to wake up every day at 5:30 and get 9 kids bathed and dressed for breakfast, and then continue the day by taking care of them. I love these kids, but working with them sometimes makes me want to pull my hair out! Thankfully when the Sabbath comes we get our break to relax a bit and sometimes even to go on our own adventures. One particular adventure that I’ve had while being here is getting the opportunity to go to the caves. Previous to going I had never gone caving, so getting this opportunity to go was pretty exciting, especially since we were going in the rain. It started with walking in three-inch deep mud mixed with cow manure, and running through a jungle, then cross a few fast moving streams which led to the most difficult hiking trail that I had ever experienced. This trail involved us having to go up a mountain using both our hands and feet to get up there. I kept slipping and falling that I seriously believed I would never make it up there. If it wasn’t for the help of the two high school students that we took along with us, I would have never made it up there on my own. By the time we reached the cave, it was much later and I was completely covered in mud and scratches from the several thorns that I fell into.

The journey continued with going into the cave. The interesting thing was there were nine of us who had gone, but we only had three tiny flashlights. It was difficult to see anything, but I still had the chance to see the cool rocks and shapes of the cave. I thought it was so awesome, until bats started popping up. One bat I can do, a couple even isn’t a problem, but over a hundred is another story. The further in we went the more bats there were, and the more bat poop we were walking in. At one point the rocks caved in to a small whole that require us to crawl through with water and bat pooped all mixed up together. It was the grossest thing I had ever done! We finally reached a point that had so many bites flying around that it made the cave feel like it had A/C. By that time I was freaking out and so ready to get out. I never knew I had a fear of bats until I went into that cave. Although the experience was gross and frightening I still had a lot of fun, especially coming down the mountain. It was one big slide! I was going so fast that I eventually ran into a bush full of thorns, but I didn’t care because that was the coolest thing! The next fun part was cleaning ourselves off in the freezing cold stream. By the end of that day I felt like I had accomplished something; and what I mean by that getting up was extremely difficult. There were plenty of times when I wanted to give up and just let everyone else go on without me, but I still kept going. Even within the cave, I wanted to stop moving the moment bats were flying past my head, but I still kept going. It’s like this mission trip, there are times where I’m going to want to give up and turn back, but I just have to hold on and keep going.

Keeping Spirits Up

One of the harder things for me to, since I’ve been here, is figuring out how to comfort a child after there parent comes to visit. It sounds simple, but it really isn’t. It’s happened about two times since I’ve been here, and after each time the parents leave there’s always a child crying, and probably secretly wishing that their parent would take them along with them back home. The first time I experienced this was when a set of parents came for a group of siblings. I though this was great, until I noticed that the parents brought along their youngest daughter„ which they’ve kept. It was clear that one sibling was trying to get the parents attention off of the younger sister and more on himself, while another sibling clung to her father till the last second of his visit, and the eldest simply enjoyed the short moment she had with her family. Watching the whole thing had me a bit emotional, mostly because I knew that the majority of the children that lived at the Hogar aren’t orphans, but rather living there because their parents couldn’t afford to take care of them, or simply didn’t want them. I didn’t fully realize the seriousness of their lives until these parents came by to visit. It was the reality of their lives, and how sad each one of their stories are. The longer I’m here, the more I find out about each person’s past; such as how practically every child at the Hogar has a sibling living there with them, and some of those sets have more siblings at their home. If I was in their position I would probably think that my parents didn’t love me because they kept my siblings, but not me. How do you comfort someone whose gone through that? Also, how do you comfort someone who once saw their parent commit suicide, or someone who pretty much lived on the street and probably ate trash, or someone who was malnourished to a large extreme? When I stop to think about where each one of these kids came from, it begins to break my heart. Right now, all I can think to do is pray to God to help me figure out the answer on how to keep not only my spirits up, but also those of the kids.