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!
It’s hard for me to choose the right adjectives to describe my first full day in Guyana – amazing, overwhelming, sad, happy, humbling . . . and the list could go on.
Here are some highlights of this most amazing, overwhelming, humbling, sad, happy day:
- Breakfast at Victoria Methodist Church, lovingly prepared by the wonderful servants of the church
- Worship with wonderful singing, great preaching, celebration of two baptisms, holy communion, wonderful hospitality and did I write – wonderful singing. Only voices, a tambourine and congas . . .
Note: After the 2 children (infant and older boy) from 2 different families were baptized, Rev. Kofia Nials said: “Church, you see these families? They’ve taken a vow to raise their children in the church. So if you see the children NOT in church, you know who you need to talk to!”
- Visit to the homeless shelter where we handed out t-shirts, flip-flops, candy, granola bars and crosses. I had the privilege of placing a cross around the neck of each person and blessing them. Very humbling experience for me.
- Feeding the homeless on the street (250 people or so) – Process: 2 large pots of “cook-up” – rice, beans and chicken with a boiled egg on the side – dished into containers, 2 vans driving around town, looking for folks, stopping and then asking them if they want food. First van with the food, second van with the drink. Sad to see so many hurting people but thankful that at least for a short time, they were not hungry
- The honor of praying with a homeless man who had no shoes and seeing one of our team take off his own shoes to give to the man
- Closing our day with a delicious home-cooked meal with Guyanese friends who graciously welcomed us into their home
Thank you, Lord, that I saw You in the faces of many today – in the church, in the cardboard box, in the shelter, in the home of friends . . . may I hold those faces in my head and heart always.
How are these words for the beginning of a mission trip?
“LET ME HELP YOU through this day. The challenges you face are far too great for you to handle alone. You are keenly aware of your helplessness in the scheme of events you face. . . . So, consider it all joy whenever you are enveloped in various trials. These are gifts from Me, reminding you to rely on Me alone.” Jesus Calling by Sarah Young
I must be honest and say that when I read this devotion this morning on our first flight, I thought “Please, Lord, don’t let this be a sign of what’s to come today”!
Just a little trial – one that teams have encountered before – checking all of those containers! I lost count of how many we checked but somewhere in the neighborhood of 24 footlockers and clear plastic tubs, filled with clothes and medicines for the children in the orphanages, t-shirts and flipflops for the homeless and much more.
The personal trial was shifting our clothes around so that our carry-on luggage was within the weight limit. There’s nothing like moving your “unmentionables” around in the airport lobby for all the world to see, trying to lose some weight in the suitcase. But never fear! The solution: empty plastic tubs to throw more stuff in and then duct taping them shut. Duct tape always works!
And everything worked out! The ticket agent who weighed all of our suitcases, backpacks, tubs, and foot lockers showed grace when we were close enough to the right weight. His stern demeanor softened as he worked with us and in our final moments at the Miami airport, he was still smiling as he scanned our boarding passes for our final flight.
Grace point: when we show grace to others, they are more easily moved to show grace to us.
A shout-out to our great leaders: Already I’ve seen the tremendous gifts of organization and planning from Jeff and Melissa Butler who put this trip together. I knew that they were hard workers but let me just say: they work HARD!
Thank you, Jeff and Melissa, for leading us!
Another thank you for the day: Thank you to Bill Upchurch who arranged 2 vans that picked us up in Fort Lauderdale (with all of our stuff) and took us to the Miami airport. This shuttle helped to keep the cost of the airline tickets down. Thank you to Bill, Dave, Scott and Darryl, Scott’s young son, who loaded and drove us. Darryl has the Guyana t-shirt to prove it!
Can’t wait for tomorrow!
Lord, give us your eyes. May we see You in everyone we meet. May people see You in us!
One more thing – a “God-wink” (as my friend calls it)today:
Closing scripture from Jesus Calling today – I found it particularly fitting for a day of flying!
Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. Your right hand upholds me. PSALM 63 : 7 – 8