Our Journey Home

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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.

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What Makes Hijos de Dios Unique

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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.

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We Were Like Those Who Dreamed

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Reflections from Jeremiah 31
I received a word from a dear friend that I am like Mary who pondered all these things in her heart. She saw with her own eyes the resurrection of her Son and also the redemption of the whole world. 
During worship I heard the spirit say to me, "You are like Rachel weeping for her children refusing to be comforted."
I have desired the great work of redemption for myself, my family, for peoples and nations. Yet I have been slow to receive and know the comfort of God. Often times I more easily relate to anxiety and fear than His great comfort. My God is good and His mercy endures forever.  
As The Lord said to Rachel so He says to us, "Refrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears; for your work shall be rewarded, says the Lord. And they shall return from the land of the enemy." (verse 16)
What is my work? My work is believing in the One God sent. When I stray from the path my heart becomes weak, despondent and hopeless. 
In verse 17 of Jeremiah 31 The Lord declares, "And there is hope in your end, says the Lord, and your children will come again to your border."
The Lord is saying to Rachel, "Don't worry. Your children will come to themselves. They will journey home and find their identity in God."
What good news! We have watched the generations grope around in the dark, many times without a compass; searching for their purpose and identity.  The promise of God is they will come home and possess the land. The hidden power of the cross is that Jesus can make us His possession if we will yield our rights to rule ourselves and our lives. His Spirit lives in us, may He rule and reign in us and have dominion over our lives. The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead is in us.  Through us and in us He will raise the dead, open blind eyes, make the lame walk and open prison doors to all who are captive!
Many of us bear the reproach of our youth. We, through fear and rebellion, would not yield to the easy and light yoke of Jesus. We tried to remove our shoulder from the burden of Christ; believing His burden would enslave us. We misunderstood that His burden was meant to empower us. 
"You have chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock (steer) not unaccustomed to the yoke; turn me and I shall be turned, for you are the Lord my God." (verse 18)
After we return to the Lord and repent he fashions a yoke for us to carry His Life to others. We can now receive His instructions. We can now be impregnated with His word. God is removing the shame and  reproach of our youth.
He is saying to our hearts,"You are, you were and you will be my pleasant child." The Lord says in verse 20, "Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he a pleasant child? For since I spoke against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him,"says the Lord.   
God is calling us back to Himself. Come to yourself! Set your gaze on Him. Return to the highway of holiness. Enjoy your pilgrimage. We must set our hearts towards God, to leap and bound like a free dancer, with our heart destined to align with His. There is a captivity. Do not be foolish.When we live our lives for ourselves we miscarry the justice of God. The Lord is our portion and He will protect us from all harm. 
"He will satisfy the weary soul and replenish every sorrowful heart." (Verse 25)
 
We must embrace the new covenant. It is by the mercy of God we understand. 
"But everyone shall die for his own iniquity. Every man that eats sour grapes his teeth will be set on edge. Behold the days come, says the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in that day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they break, although I was a husband unto them, says the Lord.
This is the new covenant that God will put the law in our inward parts, and write it on our hearts. I will be their God and they shall be my people. We will no longer need to teach every man and all our neighbours, "Know The Lord. For they shall all know me from the least to the greatest. Because I will forgive their sin and remember their iniquity no more." (verse 34)
We are free from captivity because of the forgiveness of our sins.  Even if God changes our circumstances (the land of Egypt) our hearts are still strangers to his rule and reign. We believe God is like Egypt. Although He delivered them with His mighty hand they did not know His heart. We are captive in our hearts and in our thoughts. He tried to know us like a groom knows his bride. But we have not opened to our groom. Egypt lives in our hearts. We cry for deliverance from our circumstances, from our enemies. We do not realize the enemy is a heart that does not know God. We continue to place the blame on God, others and ourselves. We do not realize who we are. When we come to ourselves it is like waking up from a dream and realizing who we are and who we will be.
We are guilty but He has redeemed us. Through repentance we will be freed from the shame and reproach of our youth. We will be clothed as a son of righteousness, a true son of God. Like the prodigal returning home we will realize we have a home and we have an identity. Serving ourselves enslaves us. Serving Him releases the captivity in our hearts and restores our identity.
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Generation Lost

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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.

Sincerely,

One of the 2/3rds that made it.

#1973 #lostgeneration #ibelieveinredemption #neverhadachance #lovetheunborn

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Hope

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I awoke early one morning with the faces of many poor children imprinted on my mind, and I thought of their priceless value; yet many struggle for their basic needs. I began to think of things that could motivate me to be a better advocate for these beautiful lives.
I have learned that my own human compassion is a non-renewable resource, it has a beginning and an end. So you can see my dilemma when I see innocent lives marginalized and in pain, my knowledge that I have the potential to become desensitized and unmoved overwhelms me. Who has the compassion and love for every broken life? Where can I find this love that is not my own to give to the lonely and poor?
I have come to understand that if we are disconnected from the unending love of our Heavenly Father, the pure love of God cannot flow through us unhindered and uninhibited. Please understand we are the same as those we serve, orphans. The natural state of humanity has been an orphan spirit since sin entered the world through one man. How do we receive a new name and a new position?
Look to Jesus, the yielded, obedient Son of God, who gave His life joyfully so we could be a part of his family. He is our example of how to be a son. He was fully yielded to His loving Father, putting his life into his Fathers capable hands. He is the resurrection and the life. I have seen with my own eyes the greatest needs of the poor and they are not food or education, they are a deep need for identity and destiny….hope. Who am I? Does anyone care for me? What will I become?
Jesus showed us to be great you need to be a servant of all. To live you must die. To be a son you must obey and carry a cross. Can you hear the call of the cross to identify with Jesus and lay your life down? We need to die to our selfish ways to receive the resurrection and life that is our promise as children of God. His work is complete but ours is only beginning. Will we give Jesus the opportunities to shine through us as we identify with his death and suffering; going with joy to the cross so that eternal life may spring up and rivers of living water will transform orphans to sons.
“I once was lost, but now I am found, was blind but now I see.”
Remember there are many expressions in the Kingdom of God but only one door,
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Loving the Wounded Children

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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.

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The GOOD Shot: 24 Hours of Free Throws July 2016

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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)
5000 down
The Final 100 shots (Granny Style)

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No Longer Us and Them

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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.

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Starting Over

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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. 

This reminds me of our devotion to someone in words versus our utter, abandoned commitment and devotion expressed through actions. How willing was I initially to learn as a beginner and not an expert? Not much. What compelled me to start over each day and learn how to live in a new way?  My love for God and knowing He was willing to start over for me so that I could be with Him forever compelled me to journey on. This reminds me of the movie "Fifty First Dates", where Adam Sandler has to help his wife fall in love with him everyday because of her brain injury induced nemory loss. We are like the wife and God is our spouse convincing us everyday of His great love for us. He was so willing to show us this love that He sent His greatest love, Jesus to die in our place. Now everyday he paints a new sunrise and with it He cleans every slate and gives us a perfect day to start over. He gives us new mercies, He forgets our yesterday and allows us to start over. I am learning how to start over and am beginning to understand that love makes all things new. 

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. 

This reminds me of our devotion to someone in words versus our utter, abandoned commitment and devotion expressed through actions. How willing was I initially to learn as a beginner and not an expert? Not much. What compelled me to start over each day and learn how to live in a new way?  My love for God and knowing He was willing to start over for me so that I could be with Him forever compelled me to journey on. This reminds me of the movie "Fifty First Dates", where Adam Sandler has to help his wife fall in love with him everyday because of her brain injury induced nemory loss. We are like the wife and God is our spouse convincing us everyday of His great love for us. He was so willing to show us this love that He sent His greatest love, Jesus to die in our place. Now everyday he paints a new sunrise and with it He cleans every slate and gives us a perfect day to start over. He gives us new mercies, He forgets our yesterday and allows us to start over. I am learning how to start over and am beginning to understand that love makes all things new. 
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The GOOD Run: Running for the Community

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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.

 

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