Monday’s journey took us to 3 homes: Hope Home, Phoenix House and the Ruimveldt House.
In 2014, the Guyana team built a playground set at Hope Home and the 2015 team was excited that it was still in good shape, even the roof that was built by Tony and Miles. I don’t really know what this means but I heard a lot about Tony’s roof. Maybe Tim Reaves also had something to do with the construction.
While I was standing with the others looking at last year’s construction, I felt someone touch my back. I thought it might be another team member, maybe Will, but when I turned, I looked down to see a little girl who quickly wrapped her arm around me and held on. She kept squeezing me and laying her head on my torso. “Maria” just wanted to be hugged and would not let me go. My first encounter in the orphanage brought tears to my eyes.
After Maria let me go, Melissa and I followed the sound of children singing and found Pat and the children in the chapel having a music lesson with their teacher. Smiles, laughter and excitement filled the room. We were treated to several songs and a concert on their instruments – recorders and drum tubs. What joy on their faces!
As I listened and watched the children, I had one of those moments of clarity when I thought: these children live here. No one is coming at 2:30 to take them to their homes and their families. I knew in my head that they lived in an orphanage but, in that moment, it hit me in my heart.
From the Hope Home, we traveled to the Phoenix House, a recovery house for men and women in addiction. Several of the team gave a word of witness and then I had the honor of offering a blessing for each resident while also giving them a cross.
During our time together, I noticed a little boy in our gathering and asked the “house mother” if he was a resident’s son.
“No, he’s one of ours”, she said.
This little boy, who looked like he might be 8 or 9, was a heroin addict and had been brought to the house by Child Services. I learned that he was actually thirteen years old and had been given drugs by older teens and adults. He didn’t remember how long he’d been at the House (the result of being brought to the home in active addiction). As Derick and I talked to him, he started to cry saying “no one comes to see me”. I was speechless and about to break down myself but God, in his mercy, helped me to be strong in the moment. Phoenix House – so much sorrow and pain BUT also so much hope as men and women ARE living substance-free. Like a phoenix who rises out of the ashes, these residents are seeking to rising out of their addiction into recovery.
Our next stop was the Ruimveldt House – a home for children who are HIV-positive. We had a great time singing with the children; especially popular was – “I Just Want to Be A Sheep”, led by Tony. What joy and fun as we colored together and just got goofy with silly glasses!
A hard day emotionally but a great day!
I thought a lot about the starfish story on Monday. A man sees hundreds of starfish washed up on the shore and starts throwing them back in the water. Someone comes along and says, “you’re not making any difference. There are so many!” The man replied “it makes a difference to that one.”
I will not forget the face of “Maria” or the face of the young teenage addict. I can’t help all of the needy children that I saw today but maybe the hug for Maria and the listening ear for the addict made a difference for just that one moment.
May we all make a difference for someone!