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Our first few days in Xela....

Our first few days in Xela have been incredible. After arriving at our hotel, we grabbed lunch and headed to the Orphanage. We have been waiting months and months to meet these kids! When we first got to the Little House of Refuge we had a tour and got a chance to play with the kids a little and get to know them. They were all shy at first, but just minutes into attempting conversation, they had already opened up.
The kids were very confused by Matt’s tattoos and had many questions about them; is this your real skin? Does it wipe off? When do you take them off? Did it hurt? How did your skin get that way? A group of boys crowded around Matt, inspecting his tattoos and asking tons of questions. They were very curious. It certainly broke the ice!
There was one moment early on in the day, though, that I will remember forever. I watched Kristin meet the girl that she and her husband Doug sponsor. Kristin and I were standing with a group of girls asking them questions as best we could in Spanish – how old are you? What is your name? – and when one little girl said her name, Kristin drew her breath in quick and put her hand over her heart. She looked as if she would burst into tears at any moment. I asked her if she was alright, and she told me that the little girl is the one that she sponsors. Kristin had our amazing translator Alex tell the girl that her and her husband sponsor her, that her photo is right next to their family picture on their piano, and that a drawing she made hangs on their refrigerator. The little girl was overwhelmed. “Can you tell her that we pray for her every day?” Kristin asked. Our translator told the little girl, and she slowly looked toward the ground, overwhelmed with emotion.  Tears filled her eyes.  It was a beautiful moment. Kristin took the little girl to meet Doug, and the three played in the play room for quite some time. Watching the little girl draw the two of them a new picture was one of the highlights of my day. There was so much joy… it was contagious.
After a few hours of playing, we headed home. Anxious to get to sleep, and get back to the orphanage to work.
Today was immensely productive for us. We started right away on some projects that the orphanage had desperately been needing help with. The men tore down a wall in between two tiny rooms to make a room that will eventually be a computer lab for the children. We unpacked the many boxes of aid that we brought and organized it. We helped move almost 100 cinder blocks that are going to be used to make a wall, and cleared quite a bit of garbage out of some rooms that have gone unused. We also were able to send small teams to get even more supplies; more wheel barrows, a hot water heater (!!!!!), some tools, etc.
After the kids were done with school, it was play time. We sang a few songs with them and read them the story of Jesus’ birth. We had a great time dancing around and singing with the kids.  Afterwards, we were able to fit all of the kids with brand new shoes! We brought them each a pair of very sturdy boots that should last them a long time. When they were told they would each get new shoes, their faces lit up, and they looked around at each other, almost as if asking, “is this true!?” They were so happy to have their new shoes!
For the rest of the afternoon we played and talked. We brought quite a few play ground balls, side walk chalk, yo-yos, and other toys that the kids loved. A lot of us are picking up Spanish quickly, too! The kids and caretakers are very curious about our families, how tall we all are, what we do for a living, and if we have any pets. They love seeing photographs and the kids adore getting their picture taken. The language barrier made conversation interesting, but often times made it much more entertaining. We learned how to say, “smile!” in Spanish for taking photos, but after a while, I tried teaching a few “cheese!” instead.  Hearing a little crowd of kids say, “cheeeeeeese!” and see them all show all their teeth to the camera was adorable. They all laughed the word “cheese,” especially when I told them it meant “queso.”
It seemed like none of us wanted to go home, though we were all exhausted from the day’s activities. We took some time tonight to share what we have learned and see happen on the trip, and many people had great things to share. There seems to be an overwhelming feeling that we take a lot for granted in our own lives; the kids at the orphanage are among the most joyous kids we have ever seen, and yet, they have so little. I think we have a lot to learn from them this week, and it seems like they are already teaching us valuable lessons.
We are so excited to continue loving them this week! I know this trip will have a lasting impact on us all.

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