In Which I Bond

Hermano Manuel is part of the leadership of a small church plant about a half hour outside of the city. Every Sunday, both morning and evening, he drives out to the little church, usually taking two Casa Hogar children along with him. Today was the anniversary of the church, and I joined the large group that Hermano Manuel drove out to the church. This anniversary was not unlike the last church anniversary I attended, although more people were in attendance.

During the service, Kenia, Ana, a young college girl named Angeles, and I were in charge of the childrens´ class. More than 40 children, ranging in age from not yet two to 12 joined us for games, lessons, and songs.

Not too far into the class, the tiniest little one in the group started crying. She had been perched on her brother´s lap, but the little guy- barely bigger than his little sister- handed her over gratefully when I reached out to pick her up.

Probably about 18 months old, the little one was short and rather round. She had six front teeth on top and bottom, and short hair which someone had managed to corral into a pony tail that stuck straight up about three inches off her head.

I held the the now very calm child in my arms for a couple minutes before she started to appear rather sleepy. I eased her down to a lying position, as one would hold a newborn, and minutes later she was snoring slightly, her pudgy hand flung up over her little nose.

40 minutes later, the service ended and the kids poured out of the tiny classroom into the bright sun. It was 4pm and time for lunch. And still the baby slept.

Fairly certain that when the baby´s mother wanted her, she would know where to find her, I took a seat at one of the long white tables and ate the cup of bean soup that was handed to me. I chatted with the little ones seated around me, and brushed the baby´s short hair to one side with the hand that was not supporting her weight on my lap.

The little one had been asleep more than an hour when I finshed my beans and Fanta. I glanced around, wondering idly to which woman the little one belonged to, when her little hands jerked up to her face and she rubbed her eyes open sleepily.

I righted her on my lap and looked around me, wondering if now that she was awake, the child´s mother, or aunt, or father, or sister, would claim her. Seeing no one coming forth, I leaned forward and asked the young girl across the table if the knew who the baby´s mother was.

The girl, probably about 15 years old, looked at my quizically, “No…” she paused, then she said, “I thought you were her mother·”

Not quite.

Minutes later, I had returned the little girl to her real mother (whom I had located quite easily), and was in the kitchen helping dish out cake. But even as I passed out napkin-fulls of rich chocolate cake, I kind of missed the little baby girl.

– Natalia

p.s. We are having some internet issues, which will hopefully be resolved by next weekend. So If I am posting less frequently than normal, don´t worry!

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They’re Back!

As much as Hermano Manuel and his family would like to live on site, the closest they are able to live to the Casa Hogar right now is about two blocks away. Two women, Lulu and Deisi, live with the children, one in the girls’ bedroom and one in the boys’ room.

Both of the women have been on vacation for the past little bit, but they returned together yesterday afternoon and everyone was very happy to be reunited. The women arrived just as the children were sitting down to lunch, and they barely managed to stay obediently in their seats until Hermana Tere gave them permission to stand up and greet the women.

It was fun to see the two women, one of whom is no taller than many of the children she cares for, surrounded by 25 eager children, all wanting to kiss and hug the women they have missed over the past month(s).

In their absence, Hermano Manuel and Hermana Tere slept at the Casa Hogar, but now that Lulu and Deisi have returned, they are back here at the house. Communication between the house and Casa Hogar continues to be plentiful; so far three children have swung by the house to say hello and bring messages/gifts/ask questions.

I’m off to Casa Hogar to help Kenia, Karen, Ana, Rubi, and whoever else make signs for tomorrow’s adventure!

~Natalia

Evening Phone Call

Ana, Manuel, and I were at home when the phone rang yesterday evening. Manuel was in the patio filling a bucket with water and bleach so that I could mop, and Ana was standing at the kitchen sink, elbow-deep in suds and soapy dishes. At the second ring, I left the orange broom I had been using to attack the white tile, and grabbed the phone off the table.

I clicked the phone on and held it up to Ana’s ear. She shrugged her shoulder up to hold the black device in place, and used the other hand to flip off the water. In the silence that followed I could hear a voice at the other end of the phone asking for Ana Teresa. Ana affirmed that she was one and the same, and then paused to listen.

The feminine voice on the other end said something else and Ana rushed into the bedroom, dropping a sudsy spoon on the floor and drying her hands on a rag as she ran. As her black curls disappeared around the corner into our bedroom, I had a feeling I knew who she was talking to.

When she emerged from the bedroom some minutes later, Ana confirmed my suspicions: a Christian college in the states that both she and Manuel are interested in attending had called to let them know that they are interested in them, and are willing to help them apply and hopefully get accepted.

After the mostly- unexpected phone call, Ana could only be described as giddy. She teetered on the broken computer chair, pink-cheeked and grinning. She jumped up to make herself a nutella sandwich (someone bought nutella over the weekend and we are loving it). She sat back down. She jumped up again. She talked. She giggled.

The idea that the college not only knew about her, but was seeking to help her apply and hopefully be accepted was so exciting that Ana could barely contain herself. Her excitement was contagious, and striking. Contagious because I was soon grinning happily as well, sloppily flinging bleach water across the floor. And striking because her response was so utterly different from my response last Saturday.

Last Saturday when I found out I was accepted to Moody Bible Institute.

I was not what you call “thrilled”. In fact, upon opening the official file and quickly scanning the enthusiastic letter, I was rather upset. In the 14 months since I first applied to Moody, actually getting accepted has vacillated between seeming very exciting and very dull. And being here in Mexico, surrounded by friends whom I adore, doing something that I would love to do for the rest of my life, it is sometimes hard to imagine that Moody can really be that great.

But I trust God to take me where He wants me to go, and it looks like He wants me to go to Moody. And, thanks in no small part to the enthusiasm of just about everyone that I tell, I’m starting to feel okay about that.

~Natalia

A Good Reason to Pray

Dinner at Casa Hogar tonight ended with several minutes of silent prayer. This does not happen every night, but Hermano Manuel made the right choice when he asked the children to kneel beside their chairs and bow their heads. Dinner was a rather solemn ordeal as Heremana Tere and Hermano Manuel trained, disciplined, corrected, and forgave issues that had arisen in their large family.

Before we knelt to pray, Hermano Manuel reminded us all that there is a constant battle going on for our very souls. The movies we watch, things we hear and say, how much we pay attention in church and how much we apply that to our lives all affect whether God or the Devil hold sway over our hearts.

I was already aware of this battle, which I believe is called, “spiritual warfare”, but Hermano Manuel’s words were just the kind of push God knew I needed. It has become increasingly apparent to me that my prayer life is not what it should be. But praying more often than when I got up and went to sleep seemed like a lot of work, and I could not think of any tangible benefits I would receive from such work. If I prayed that God would get the glory for something, then He would and I wouldn’t get anything. If I prayed that God would help suchandsuch with thisorthat then He would and I would probably never even know the difference. The only time I could think of that I consistently see prayer working in my life is when God gives me fluency, clarity, and understanding in speaking Spanish, which He does frequently and which I do not take for granted.

A couple days ago, I passively set this throughout-the-day-even-the-little-things-prayer aside; I suppose waiting to see if God would do anything about my laziness. And tonight, He did. Twenty-six hearts, some of them my closest friends, and all of them precious to God, live at the Casa Hogar. There is an actual battle between God and Satan going on all the time for their minds, the hearts, and their lives. And this battle is not limited to the children living in the U-shaped building on a dusty road in Mexico, it’s going on everywhere, for all of us.

That’s quasi-terrifying, to say the least. And it also provides the perfect reason for me to pray, although I shouldn’t have demanded a reason in the first place. Prayers that I pray, and prayer that you pray, for the lives and hearts of the little ones here and the ones around you can affect their lives and your life in serious ways; eternal ways.

So… let’s pray?

~Natalia

And They Never Saw Double Again

Lorena, Rubi, Kenia, and Alicia all got new glasses this week. It was a long, rather arduous process for each one find the right style, color, and size of frame, not to mention the part where they had to go to the eye doctor multiple times to get the right lenses.

But now that they have them, it’s amusing to see how each girls’ character comes through in her style of glasses, and we all agree they look pretty good, too.

Happy Sunday!

~Natalia

Sunday Afternoon Quiet

It’s 4:47 on Sunday afternoon at the Casa Hogar. Sixteen girls ages 6 to 19 currently share a bedroom, and almost all of them are taking advantage of Sunday afternoon nap time. Actually, for all but the oldest few, Sunday afternoon nap time is mandatory.

I am lying in little Rosa’s bed, and after 45 minutes of tossing and turning, chattering and playing, she has finally drifted off and is breathing that deep, even pattern of someone deep in sleep. Rosa is known to fall asleep whenever and wherever she gets tired, and has been found on the floor in the TV room, at the dining room table, fork in hand, and even sitting obediently on the timeout chair in the office, sound asleep. Later, when Rubi wakes her up to put her dress back on for evening church, Rosa will sit quietly while Rubi does her hair, then fall right back asleep while the rest of the girls prepare themselves.

Lying quietly next to Rosa, my eyes are closed, but if I open them the slightest bit I can make out the sprawled forms of Viri and Joana on the bed by the door. One of Viri’s dark arms is flung over the side of the bed, and the other is tucked under her. Her mouth is open a bit, and her lips pucker to reveal the big-girl teeth that are still growing in.

From where I lie, Joana is a jumble of blankets with a head, crumpled next to Viri. The two got in bed shortly after little Rosa, and Rubi and I spent the next thirty minutes reminding them not to squish each other; give her the princess blanket, you know it’s hers; and please do not kick her!

On the other side of me, up on the top bunk, Lorena and Chayo are snuggled together, both of them sound asleep. Chayo is tucked in between the pillow and the wall, and her tiny thumb is planted firmly in her mouth, although the rythmic sucking motion stopped even before she entered dreamland.

Solecito, 11 years younger than me to the day, is tucked into the bed next to me, Alicia sleeping besides her. Lifting my head a little, I can make out Sol’s brown eyes and little flat nose on the other side of Alicia. Having effectively evaded sleep, Sol’s eyes flick back and forth around the room, meeting mine briefly on their way by.

Rubi is bustling around the room, doing some last-minute ironing and laying out the dresses the little ones wore to morning service, which we will help them in to when they wake up.

In a little bit, Lorena, Alicia, and Rubi will head to church for choir practice, and the rest will be awakened and clothed, hair will be re-styled and faces washed. In a little bit, Viri will be so displeased with being woken that she’ll sleepily try to take off the dress that I put on her. In a little bit, Chayo’s round head will pop up, thumb still in mouth, as Lorena slips her dress on. In a little bit, Alondra will wake to the alarm of the purple flower clock that used to be my mothers, and lie watching the action for a bit, before she climbs out of bed and sets the clock on her dresser. In an hour, we’ll all be heading out the door to go to church.

But now, it’s all quiet.

~Natalia

Me Da Flojera

I’ll just come right out and say it: I prefer to speak Spanish with my Mexican friends. Many of them understand English, and some speak it, but communication tends to be faster and more effective in their native language, so we generally stick to Spanish.

But it occurred to me today that this is exactly the kind of impatience that I talked about a couple days ago. The root of my slight resistance to speaking English is that it takes time. When we do speak English, I rarely understand what they are saying to me on the first try, and it is often necessary to go back and work through correct pronunciation and grammar. In the time that it takes to get through one great sentence, plus my response, we could have had an entire conversation in Spanish, and moved onto another topic.

And even if I am sitting in the TV room (right place), chatting slowly back and forth with Kenia (right thing), if I do it with a less-than-joyful attitude then I am not doing it properly. And besides, the people who I learned Spanish from in the first place were gracious and took their time to teach me to speak well.

So I guess this is a good way to continue working on correct attitudes; specifically patience. And teaching. And I’ll continue laughing and learning with the girls here, because it’s really not too hard to speak a little English every now and then.

~Natalia

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