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Our last day at the Little House of Refuge…

What an incredible two days it has been. Yesterday we got to the orphanage and started right away on tasks. We got a lot accomplished. Two washers were successfully installed in the laundry room, something that will greatly help the care takers at the orphanage. We also had a team install fluorescent lights all over the campus, mainly in the classrooms. The teachers and caretakers were so excited to see their classrooms light up!
On top of that, we finally got to teach some girls how to bake. They were so happy to learn, but surprised by how “easy” baking cakes is. The bakery was a challenge for all of us involved because we had to learn to work in an environment that we were not used to; much higher elevation, no running water, only a large commercial oven with touchy settings, different types of sugar and butter, etc. But it was a challenge we took in stride. That has been a common theme for our projects throughout the week; we have learned that we have to make the best with what we have and be thankful for it, even if it isn’t what we expected. The caretakers at the Little House of Refuge do that with so much grace, it is something we can all learn from. In the end, the cakes turned out beautifully, and many of our projects that we once thought impossible were able to be completed.
Today was an emotional rollercoaster for a few of us. We focused on tying up loose ends earlier in the day. The hot water heater was completely installed and up and running (praise the Lord!), the lights worked almost everywhere, the older girls were taught how to decorate cakes, the caretakers were taught about the medicine we brought them (nutritional protein powder, anti-inflammatory meds, Band-Aids and the like…), the rooms up by the street were completely emptied, and a ton of large rocks that needed moving were put in their new home. The computer room was also close to being done! The team was able to completely plaster the entire room top to bottom, and electrical was put in so that the room is almost ready for new computers for the children. What a huge blessing that room will be for them!
In the evening, we threw a party. We wanted to celebrate the kids, say “Adios!” and surprise Gloria, our leader who essentially runs Orphan Outreach’s Guatemala division. She just announced this week that she will be moving to France very soon to get her master’s degree! While it is an amazing answer to prayer, it is also a bittersweet goodbye; the people here see her as family, and we have grown to love her. The children were sad to say goodbye to her, and so were we.
To kick off the party, though, the caretakers and children prepared a program for us! They had a slideshow of photos, sang the orphanage anthem, and even performed a theatrical song complete with kids dressed as trees and flowers. The care takers all had words of thanks for Gloria, and unexpected words of thankfulness for us, too. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
This week, I have learned so much from the kids and the caretakers, and I know that it’s a feeling shared by many people on our team. I have learned so much about unconditional love and thankfulness, about kindness and respect, about God and faith… so many things that I am so thankful I have learned about from these people. This trip has forever changed me. I know I’m not alone in that feeling, either. So to hear the caretakers say how thankful they are for us… it felt almost backwards. I am so happy that we were able to do so much for their facility, but I will be grateful for the rest of my life for the lessons the kids and the caretakers have taught me.
We had cake and hotdogs – treats for the kids – and also gave each child a present (hair accessories for the girls and baseballs and other trinkets for the boys). Their smiles were beautiful. Saying goodbye to them, though, was much harder than I anticipated. It was a lengthy goodbye for all of us, filled with many tears, lots of laughter, and heavy hearts. Over the course of the week, we have all attached to the kids. They are so loving and full of life, it is impossible to not feel uplifted by them. When they were hugging us farewell, they gave their best, “thank you,” “goodbye,” and “I love you” in English. You could tell they had been practicing all day.
Unlike every other day on our journey, our bus ride home was silent. I can only imagine that everyone was trying to process the day’s events. Or in my case, hold back tears. There have already been jokes of starting fundraising for our next trip on Monday… while those things are said with a smile, I know that deep down, we all want to come back. Not just to Guatemala, but the Little House of Refuge. One of our team members said he thinks it took part of his heart, and now he’ll have to go back to get it. I think that is true for me. I have to go back. I learned so much about myself there, I have to return.
We already miss the kids, and are sad that we don’t have more time to finish projects. But in time, they’ll be completed. Who knows, maybe even by us! Pray for our hearts, that they would not be broken from saying goodbye, but that they would be at peace. Pray for guidance as many of us already wish to return. Pray for the children at the Little House of Refuge, that they always know they are loved by the Lord and those around them, and that they stay safe and healthy. Pray for the caretakers, that they find continued strength to pour God’s love over those kids.
We’ll be back, Guatemala, we’ll be back.

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