It really does feel like going home. Not quite like going home to where I live now, but more like returning home to where you grew up — where there are deep emotions and special memories. After a week in Concepción, Chile, to see the Shutts who are very precious to us, we arrived late into Lima, Peru with Robert and Jenny Oglesby. We joined several busses of other folks from all over the U.S. and headed for the motel. By the time we had unpacked and everything was said and done, it was about 2:00 in the morning before we turned out the lights.
First timers and a number of veterans made the Sunday trip out to say hello to the children of The Community. Our arrival was a complete surprise to the kids there. I have to admit, I felt a lot like a kid on Christmas day. I was excited to see our girls from Casa Susanna!
When I stepped off the bus, the first person I say was Mario. Mario works with The Community as the spiritual counselor and Bible curriculum coordinator. One of the incredible things about The Community is that the 900 plus children have their own accredited school. Mario works with the curriculum and also counseling needs for all of these children. He has a wonderful heart and a deep love for Jesus! (I also love the new playground with artificial padded “grass” in the background.)
It wasn’t long before the children began to pour out of the places where they lived, called casas. They came to greet us with a kiss, a high five, or a hug. All with smiles.
I noticed, however, that our little ones weren’t coming. I decided to head on over to the casa and check on them.Some of the little girls recognized me immediately. Some by the sound of my voice. Others by my name. It wasn’t long before we were playing and laughing and having a great time.
For me, two special things stand out. First, they are healthy and not skinny little sticks like so many of them were two years ago. Second, other groups have jumped in to help this effort in the last 8 years — from barren bunks with only a thin fleece cover two years ago to beds with stuffed animals, pink comforters, and touches of personal care, all bearing witness to others who have helped and to suggestions that we have made that have been heard.
After about 15 minutes, Craig and Jodee joined us. The house girls (helpers who are a little older than the girls who live in the casas) had already asked about Craig and Jodee along with the rest of our team, calling most of us by name. They and the little girls remembered about Jodee’s pregnancy last year. With all the preparations for the trip, I had prayed for Craig and Jodee and the pain in their hearts from losing their little boy Cade within an hour of his being born. I knew going on this trip would awaken many precious and also challenging memories. I had not thought about them needing to tell all these little girls about what had happened to their baby. Fortunately, they had. They shared the story and some sweet pictures of Cade with some of the young women helpers and also the house mom. The house mom, Tia Susanna, will share this news in a way they can best understand. But my oh my, what sweet and precious people Craig and Jodee are and how thankful I am to have them on our team with these little girls. The last year has been a very hard journey for them and all of us who love them. But as Jodee reminded us, “While I want these little girls to have food and clean water and a warm place to sleep. I have all of those things and none of them helped me make it through this last year. Jesus helped me make it through and I want them to know Jesus.”
The house girls were in charge for the afternoon, and they were worried about taking the little girls to the reception line because of the heavy mist — not something at all uncommon and the little girls were outside playing, but this was an issue of their being responsible. Craig and Jodee and I helped them walk the little girls down for the greeting time and an opportunity to see the other folks who were new on our team. It was a treat.
The amazing thing about these little girls, ages 3-8, is that they remember. One didn’t want to let go of my hand. Another wouldn’t let go of her hand. Then when we posed for pictures, they dogged piled on top of me. This all started two years ago, and it didn’t take long before they were just stacking up on top of me and asking me to do the crazy laugh they like. Yes, it seemed like returning home. Such precious treasures. My heart literally bursts with hope that they can know they are loved, that we can be consistent in our care, and that we can see many of them through to maturity and to their own faith.
Return to Sagrada Familia. It will be a wonderfully exhausting week. May God use it for His purposes and for His glory.