Hi my name is Zacarias and I am four years old. I live with my mom and dad in a tin shack by a very busy highway. I love to hear the transport trucks zoom by. My older brother Rolando (7 years old) and I play a game and try to guess which vehicle went by just by the sound it makes. My mom and dad are very sad because they do not have enough food to give to my older brother, sister and me. We go to the river everyday to get water to drink and try to catch fish. Sometimes my parents leave us at home as they search for work and the neighbors watch us.
My older brother Rolando is different. He is bigger than me but cannot communicate and some times he gets so mad he throws things and screams. I love him but I can’t help him and this makes me feel sad. I am so hungry and weak I find it hard to walk and talk. Our sister Ana (6 years old) takes good care of us. She understands Rolando’s way of talking and she can calm him down with her caring voice.
Our parents have been away a lot lately and I can’t remember when we ate last. It gets cold at night and I am scared when we are alone until very late. I try to stay awake but I cannot. I cannot even lift myself up to walk any more. I hear my parents whispering when they come in and I try to understand what they are saying. My eyes are too heavy and my stomach is so sore, I finally fall asleep.
The next morning a man in a blue vest comes to our door and tells our parents that we have to go with him. They cry and tell him that he cannot take us. They say they will find work soon and everything will be okay. He says that he is here to help and we must go with him. We see the policemen as well and they take us by the hand and put us in the truck. We have heard the sound of the police truck before driving down the highway behind our home. I look back and see the tears run down my mother’s face and then we leave.
We are bought to a big blue house full of loud, laughing children playing in the yard. The ladies look like the women who live near our home and they give us a hug. My body hurts to be touched but I am too weak to say so. They bring us to a quiet room away from the sound of the other children.
Ana asks, “Donde estamos?” (Where are we?)
The stranger explains that we are in a children’s home and that we are safe. She says we will stay here until we get better and that the Tias (aunties/caregivers) will take care of us. They give us brand new clothes after we have a much needed bath. I can’t remember the last time we bathed in the river. Then we have some food. It hurts my tummy to eat but I am too afraid to say anything. I feel to weak to talk. All I remember after this is falling asleep at the table.
We wake up in a strange room. I feel happy that I am with Ana and Rolando. The noise of the children is all I hear. I just want to hear the cars zoom down the highway and the roosters crowing. I want my mom. I wish I had a voice and could tell them I want to go home.
Zacarias, Age 4
This is the story of Zacarias and his two siblings. They arrived our Children’s home in Guatemala in August. Zacarias was one of the most malnourished cases we had seen. He weighed 22 pounds at age four. He was despondent and could not walk or talk beyond a whisper. He had trouble holding up his head. His older siblings were stronger although very malnourished. Rolando was taken to the neurologist and although he was seven years old they said he had the mental age of a three years old. They immediately received all the medical and nutritional help they desperately needed. They slowly adjusted to life in a busy home and made friends with the caregivers and children. Our social worker Rosita worked tirelessly taking Rolando to his specialist appointments in the city two hours away. They got up at 3:00 am to be there for 7:00 am. Rosita completed a full family investigation within two months and found they had an uncle who worked at a military hospital in the city. If they moved in with his wife, mother and their two kids Rolando would be near to the specialist and continue to get the help he needed. These three children have been adopted by their uncle and auntie and are doing well. Zacarias gained four pounds in his three months in the Children’s home. This the desire of Hijos de Dios Children’s Home. We want to see children helped and healed and restored to their families.
Our dream is to build a children’s home that children would come to recover but not stay in permanently. After working with children in children’s homes since 2009 we have come to realize that the deep rooted dream of children is to have a family. They want to go home. Our desire is to make this dream come true.
Put yourself in their shoes and imagine what it would be like to be taken away from your family and brought to live in a place you have never seen before, with people you do not know. It is a very scary process and the children feel overwhelmed, afraid, and uncertain. Even though it was in their best interest to be brought to the home the majority of children hope and pray that their family would “get better” so they can go home.
Our desire is to have a small children’s home of 20 children aged 2 to 7 years old. We want to create a healing environment for them to recuperate from whatever storms they may have faced. With well trained and compassionate staff we are confident that we can nurture and help these kids recover.
That is just one side of the story. The other side is the family. What led these families to lose their children? And with support can they return home? Our trained social worker will do the much needed family investigations to decipher if the biological family or extended family can be a resource for their children. The majority of children’s homes cannot do complete family investigations because they have too many children to investigate each family completely; so they rely on the court social worker’s assessment. These assessments are very general due to the shear number of children that are placed through the court system each year. This is where our unique style of children’s home bridges the gap that the government and larger children’s homes cannot. We are committed to doing an extensive investigation for every family we receive. Exhausting all avenues until we find family members who can take the children.
Once we have found family members who fit the criteria for receiving the children the process of reunification begins. The parents will receive parenting classes and counselling from our psychologist and social worker. They will receive hands on tools they can use to learn how to care for and raise healthy children. We have found that families that have lost contact with their children and are not used to the day to day responsibilities have a much more difficult time assuming responsibility of their children. We believe that even the poorest families have something to give and as they use their abilities to help support their children they regain confidence and self esteem in other areas of their lives.
We realize that not all children will be able to be restored to their families. This is the reason we are choosing to work with younger children that can be placed in adoptive families. Every child deserves a family and we desire to make many dreams come true.
I woke up this morning (Sunday April 9, 2017) at 5 am thinking about the year 1973 and I felt that I had to write some words down. 1973 was the year I was born, but also the year that defined my generation. There was a decision made that caused 1/3 of my peers to never exist; to never see the light of day. Fellow friends, classmates, athletes, artists, dancers, singers, movie makers, journalists, fathers, mothers, world changers, were never able to be seen, heard, smile, weep..., run, laugh, jump, play, love or be loved. They never had a chance to feel the dew on the grass as they ran barefoot, smell the lilacs in the spring, taste sweet lemonade on a hot day, hear the words of love from family, or see the myriad of colors in a sunset. They never had the chance. I am extremely thankful to say that I have.
I think about my life and wonder if I had not been so blessed to be born and experience the joy and pain of life. Life is not always roses and sweet candy. We have pain and grief to go along with the laughter and fun. Failure is as much part of our existence as success. We experience all of it in life, but at least all of us who are born into this world get to experience it. I miss the 1/3 of the generation that were not born. Oh, what beautiful love, sights and sounds they could have brought to this earth. Oh, I wish that I had met them.
I am so glad that I believe in redemption; that gives me hope that one day I get to hear them sing and watch them run.
One of the 2/3rds that made it.
I find myself sitting under a blanket of stars on a Guatemalan tropical cool night, a girl six years old finally finds rest in my arms. My heart is beating more slowly now and I am beginning to relax again. Minutes before this sweet child, so beautiful and serene was out of control. Hitting anyone around her, screaming and completely inconsolable. Before she was able to hurt herself or one of the other children in the children’s home I gathered her writhing body in my arms and calmly said,
“I will not hurt you, I will protect you. Let’s go outside for some fresh air.”
She continued screaming, “¡Quiero estar sola! Déjame ir!”
(I want to be alone! Let me go!) She hid behind her hair and put her tiny hands over her face to protect herself. I knew if I put her down in this state of rage she would hurt herself. I prayed a silent prayer to God, the true source of peace and strength and calmly yet boldly walked outside.
The cool night welcomed us. The moon shone bright over head and I sat down, with her limp resigned body heavy in my arms. I tried to calm my tense body through breathing deeply and she pressed her face against my chest to find another place to hide. I let her connect with me. Heart to heart. Our breathing synchronized like a mother and her nursing child. My silent prayers reached toward heaven and I felt love wash over us. As I rocked this child in my arms, my mind drifted to all the pain she had experienced in her young life. Domestic violence, poverty, neglect. Each scene played through my mind like a nightmare. I pressed pause, and prayed that the nightmare would end.
I carefully swept her sweaty hair from her face and looked at her. She was perfect. Her coffee cream skin shone in the moonlight. Her cheeks full and sweet. Her fluttering eyelids so peaceful. My heart expanded and welcomed this child in. I thank God that even though her mother and father have left her because of their broken hearts and lives that He would never leave her. God wants to spend time with this wounded child and I was the instrument He used to hold her in his arms and calm her fears.
Well The GOOD Shot is completed.
Matt Blacklock, made 7000 free throws on July 22-23 to raise funds for our children’s home in Guatemala, Casa Esperanza. His goal was to make 8000 free throws, but his body was exhausted and very sore. We want to thank everyone who helped and gave. We have raised over $6200.00 at this point, but are believing for more.
To watch some of the madness of 24 hours of free throws, check out the video links below:
The GOOD Shoot: Part 1 (by Jared Seitz)
The GOOD Shot: Part 2 (by Jared Seitz)
The Final 100 shots (Granny Style)
Peace is the fruit of our relationship with God. Peace is not the absence of conflict. Peace is not a beautiful beach hidden away from the cares of the world. Nor is it the feeling we get after we have successfully executed a well devised plan. It does not come from something we can create apart from God. Peace is a fruit of who God is.
"For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in Himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this body to reconcile both of them to God in the cross, by which he put to death their hostility." Ephesians 2:14-16
Jesus destroyed the barrier of sin and death, he removed the dividing wall that kept us from seeing God face to face. He is Son of God and Son of Man. He wants us to be one new man and no longer be separated from the Father. He did this by dying for us when we were His enemy. We try to find a way to appease the ones we have conflict with. I have tried to appease those I have conflict with. I determine what side I am on. I see my side as right and the other person's side as wrong. I can choose to stay in this cycle and not have peace. As long as I try to convince the other to be like me and conform to my way of thinking the wall of separation divides us. This was my plan to make peace. I choose to allow those into my life who have the same values and similar ways of thinking. I have believed conformity is unity. The absence of different ideas does not bring balance and peace, on the contrary it is dangerous. It puts me in the position of control and not in the position of a Son of God.
Jesus is our example. He called us to " do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourself. Each of you should not look out only for your own interests but for the interests of others." Philippians 2:3-4
Jesus came to destroy the barrier of us and them. His heart's desire is to make us one with Him as He is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Jesus unclothed himself with his equality to God and came humbly and subjected himself to man. He lived in the womb of a sinner. He nursed at her breast. He did not think at himself too highly to grow up in a family and start from an embryotic state. He took the nature of a servant and did not fear that he would lose his identity by serving others. He first became obedient to death, then he humbled himself and died on the cross. He was naked, defenseless and had no self protection. He showed us how to put to death hostility and make the two one. To have peace we must die to how we desire to live and let the life of the Son of God and Son of Man be made new and complete in us.
I was out on a very rare run by myself in Antigua, Guatemala; enjoying the solitude and freedom of going where ever my feet led me. I decided to journey up to the cross that overlooks the city. As I was climbing the 250 stairs I began to think to myself about starting over. Coming to Guatemala 10 years ago meant starting over for our family. We did not know the culture, the language or where anything was. It made me think about Jesus who left His heavenly home and started over on earth. When you start over you cannot come as an expert, you have to come with a humble, curiousity that is willing to make mistakes and embrace the newness all around. I learned how to walk and talk here, how to act and how to love again.
I was out on a very rare run by myself in Antigua, Guatemala; enjoying the solitude and freedom of going where ever my feet led me. I decided to journey up to the cross that overlooks the city. As I was climbing the 250 stairs I began to think to myself about starting over. Coming to Guatemala 8 years ago meant starting over for our family. We did not know the culture, the language or where anything was. It made me think about Jesus who left His heavenly home and started over on earth. When you start over you cannot come as an expert, you have to come with a humble, curiousity that is willing to make mistakes and embrace the newness all around. I learned how to walk and talk here, how to act and how to love again.
Over 60 people (including Casa Esperanza) ran 646.4 km for the creation of a community soccer field in our 6th Annual The GOOD Run with Casa Esperanza. It was a great time. This year we moved the run to the big empty field next to the main Fe Viva base where plans are to develop a sport field.