by Julie Cramer Posted on Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Anita Spirek’s family of five sponsors seven children in Guatemala. The first child, José, inspired her resolve to never give up on even one. This is how their journey began.Thirty minutes north of Lexington, Kentucky, the Spireks make their home in Georgetown. When Anita’s daughter, Sarah, turned 13, Anita decided she was old enough to travel with her overseas. She researched many agencies and settled on Orphan Outreach because of its “emphasis on safety and organization.” Once school had let out for the summer, Anita and Sarah flew over the mountains that make landing in the capital city of Guatemala infamously treacherous. On the team itinerary were Guatemala City, Xela, Chimaltenango, and Antigua.“It was a shocker to see how privileged we really are,” Sarah said. “We were amazed by the poverty, and yet how much hope and happiness the children still have. I bonded with José at the Ravine School and picked him to sponsor.”“I think we were still in Guatemala while she was sponsoring a child and signing up for the next trip,” Anita said, laughing. “Sarah had a very special interaction with José. He was one of those children who drew you in.” They could never have prepared for what happened next.An innocent bystander, José was shot and killed outside his home during an attack that Anita believes was targeted toward his uncle. José was 7.Grieved, but determined to bring good from tragedy, mother and daughter returned to Guatemala for a second time with Orphan Outreach.“I was not looking forward to going to The Ravine School,” Sarah admitted. “But we went in there, everyone sang and cried and I got to meet Alexander, José’s brother. He looks just like him and is so sweet. It was a lot better than I expected.”“That was healing,” Anita said of meeting not only Alexander but also his mother. “Because of José having to go into unsafe situations—[children who attend the Ravine School live and work in Chimaltenango’s dump]—I feel an urgency to encourage the other children, to let them know that God loves them and that they are not forgotten. We do that by continuing to support the programs.”Anita and Sarah have involved not only their family in the sponsorship of the children and support of the school, but also their church.“It gets bigger and bigger as you share what you are doing,” Anita said. “There are two children we’ve sponsored for two years. Their health has improved and you can see that they have more hope—it’s because of their participation in the programs. They have more opportunity ahead of them because of the education they are able to receive. It’s about sharing what God is doing for us with other people to be a demonstration of Christ’s love for them.”In February, Anita and Sarah will travel to the Good Shepherd Academy in Guatemala.“As we spend more and more time with the children, we have built a relationship with them,” Sarah said. “We have a bunch of pictures on our fridge and on our wall of the children we sponsor. The pictures taken before we started sponsoring them showed them not smiling. Now they are grinning. They show them with eggs or candy because they have their basic needs met now.”“So many people have asked me about sponsorship, but there is some hesitancy to dive in and make that commitment,” Anita said. “I try to relay that this is not a hoax. It’s a real person who has needs and it’s a way to fulfill what Christ wants us to do by caring for the vulnerable. It deepens your faith and love for people. It just multiplies every time. That’s why we have seven sponsored children. God just multiplies the love in your heart. It’s so much more for us and our family than it is for them. It’s a tiny commitment to make a huge difference in another person’s life.”For Hannah Lowman, the huge difference happened in her own life.“I was going through a divorce. I’d never gone on an international mission trip. God put it on my heart to pull me out of a depression. Orphan Outreach totally fell in my lap. I studied sex trafficking in college and want to go to India one day, but the trip to Guatemala was the closest one. I ended up falling in love with it.”Originally from a small town in Burke County near Hickory, North Carolina, Hannah said the Guatemalan people taught her to seek joy and to come out of her shell.“I still feel like God used the children at the Ravine School to pull me out of the darkness that was surrounding me at the time. My word for 2014 was ‘to awake.’ I felt like that trip kick-started my mission to come awake in my identity in Christ. What comes to mind the most is walking in the market, in the heart of everything. Everything is bright. Everything is multicolored. They don’t let that brokenness keep them in their shell.”For children attending the Ravine School, a bus doesn’t take them home—a trash truck does. This mixture of joy and darkness still amazes Hannah. Determined not to turtle back into her shell when she returned, Hannah has been sharing her stories of Guatemala with her own community.“The trip broadened my horizons to think globally, and reminded me that we are told to take the gospel everywhere,” she said. “There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of the two girls I sponsor—Joseline, 16, and her daughter, Ana, 3. When I had been there, I held Ana when she was sleeping. My heart breaks for them and I am concerned for what they are doing. It’s like they are my actual daughters. It’s an attachment I’ve never experienced before.”Prior to traveling to Guatemala, Hannah worked as a probation officer. The trip sparked a desire to switch career paths. Today she works for Gaston County Department of Social Services as a foster care social worker. She tends to the welfare of 10 to 15 children, working toward reunification with their families or toward adoption into new ones. She also leads a team of volunteers that minister to women in adult entertainment clubs as a way to prevent sex trafficking.Her cubicle at work is “plastered” with photographs of Guatemala, and “because one week was not enough,” is preparing to return to the country this coming January with Orphan Outreach.“We become so cynical in America. I saw firsthand the impact sponsorship has. I remember the children in their white and orange uniforms with a cute cartoon picture of Jesus on it. I can’t be there 12 months out of the year, but I can help them stay where they are—safe, receiving care, learning academics and hearing the gospel. Sponsorship lets the children know that someone has chosen them. Jesus choses all of us. It’s a small example of what Jesus did for me. It’s my responsibility to choose others to show that he chooses us all. I feel like sponsorship says you are not unseen and you are not forgotten.”Experience more than a bank draft; click here to sponsor a child today.