Our plan today was to spend the morning with the team then separate for another reunion with friends. The message to the left is the same one that we bring each day to the children we visit and hopefully leave with the locals in Guatemala whether it be at a Family Hope Center (FHC) or a local church.
Jesus loves you. ¡Jesús te ama! Each pair of donated shoes is packed with love by a volunteer in Texas and carries a special hand written message. I found this in my bag this morning, which renewed my spirit for the day ahead. As we’ve washed feet and put a new pair of shoes on each child, we read the special messages. We get to meet a tangible need, but above all bring the hope of the simple gospel message of God’s love that is for all people.
Our first stop of the day was at Buckner’s FHC in San José Pinula. When we arrived, families were lined up outside the main gate to the facility. This location provides enough space outside for activities, but also a large building for offices and training for families in the surround communities.
As we began preparing to present the lessons for the children, there was time to greet and interact with them. Smiley face sticker sheets with a glittery finish drew in pairs of kids to those from our team who were handing them out including Juan Pablo.
The team presented the Bible lesson followed by hygiene to 1 large group rather than what we did the previous day taking 4 different groups in a rotation. The children were well behaved and attentive to the same message shared at the other FHC yesterday. Emily and Karen again taught the lesson while introducing characters from the story (David the Shepherd boy – Sam, David the King – John, the Angel that appeared to shepherds on the first Christmas – Juan Pablo, and a host of volunteer shepherds).
After the message, we gathered in a large circle and prayed the Lord’s prayer together.
After the lessons, we moved on to backpack and shoe distribution. Some of the team lined the hallway inside the building, while others were stationed outside. The weather was beautiful much like the position and privilege we had at the feet of God’s children who were in need of a simple pair of new socks and shoes. Some of the families walked miles just to arrive to the FHC in the morning and I can’t imagine how achy some of the kids feet were evidenced by their exhausted and worn shoes seen on some while others had no socks. This was the third time on the trip we have given shoes and each time I’ve been right next to my wife and boys. I’ve seen both Juan Pablo and Sam become more comfortable in the exchanges and make even more effort to ensure the experience brought joy and hope to the kids they served. JP recognizes he was once in their place receiving a new pair of shoes from Buckner and Sam realizes that these kids may only own 1 pair of shoes when he may have a pair to wear for each day of the week.
Again, it’s not the backpack, a new toothbrush, or even the shoes that will last, but the love of our heavenly Father who loves each of us the same. We don’t fully understand the seeds we are sowing into these young lives nor will we necessarily see the fruit, but God knows each story. He knew what would be best for Juan Pablo years ago. We’re thankful for team members who have invested in him over the years whether by planting seeds or watering. Because others have demonstrated God’s love to him, he is able to now sit before another child and offer the same living hope and be a part of their story while encouraging them to be open to God’s will for their lives..
We purchased a few soccer balls for the trip and Sam has been itching to play. He got that opportunity today. Though he can’t speak the language, boys would approach him since he had a ball and wanted to play. He is typically shy, but when put behind a soccer ball, he returned to his comfort zone where it didn’t matter that he was hundreds of miles away from home, in unfamiliar territory, and surrounded by strangers. He happily invited other kids to handle the ball, pass, and even shoot at him in a goal made up by 2 orange cones.
We split from the group around lunch time and headed on to visit some old friends. Below, it’s obvious that Sam worked hard as he passed out of Emily’s shoulder. He didn’t even wake up despite sudden moves made by our former Indy car van driver. I will admit, we were safe, but I almost lost a lunch I never had from the twists and turns. God is always protecting us 🙂
Jennifer worked with Juan Pablo at the Buckner baby home and always looked out for his best interest and well-being. During the adoption, Jenny would keep us updated about how JP was feeling and behaving. She not only loved Juan Pablo, but all of the children in Buckner’s care. There was another boy that captured her heart at that time and his name is Andrés. There was an opportunity for Jenny to adopt Andrés and both she and her husband José were obedient to God’s calling. Similar to us, adoption was the first step to building their young family and years later, they were able to have a biological son, their miracle, Javier.
During various trips to Guatemala, we grew closer to Jenny and
José. Whenever we visited them, Juan Pablo and
Andrés remained together. Here are some pics of the boys and us together through the years:
9 years after Juan Pablo’s arrival to the United States, we were finally able to spend time with our friends again. This time, the boys are both slightly larger than before and each of their younger brothers got to meet one another for the first time. We shared a wonderful meal in their home, caught up on life, shared some laughs, but it’s never enough time. We appreciate their love for the Lord and one another. Despite some age differences, all the kids played together either with toys, games, and even some more soccer. Fortunately, we’ll get to see Jenny again tomorrow, but certainly hope we can come back more regularly to visit their sweet family.