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Three Hearts. One Hope.
by Ronne Rock
Posted on Tuesday, August 30, 2016
Tucked away from the cheers of the children at the Community Care Center in Chimaltenango, Guatemala, the Harpers sit together and laugh. They have become used to the afternoon rains that darken skies and fill the air with the fragrance of the fields. This is the fourth year for Connie and Joe to be part of the mission team hosted by KVNE, a Christian radio station in East Texas. With their daughter Hali by their side now, the threesome calls Guatemala their second home.

Connie remembers how it all began. “We were driving home from church, and a commercial played on the radio – it talked about going to Guatemala. I knew it was what I wanted to do. I just knew.”

Raising money for one person to travel can be challenging. Raising money for two can be “honestly scary,” according to Connie. “We did a lot of fasting and praying – but we stayed confident. And seriously, it was a miracle. We saw miracles. We ended up helping other people fundraise.”

The moment Connie and Joe stepped foot on Guatemalan soil, they knew their lives would be changed. Not once did they feel like strangers. Immediately, they began meeting children who would become extended family through child sponsorship.

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“The first time we visited Little House of Refuge, I looked up and I saw this face,” reflects Connie. Joe looks at her and smiles as her eyes well with tears.” Her name was Onelia. She stole my heart.” Photos were taken, and letters exchanged. “When she looks at the sun, she says she thinks of me.”

Daughter Hali joined Connie and Joe the second year they joined the KVNE team. Outgoing and enthusiastic, Hali is unafraid to pour herself out in the country that she says might be the place she lives someday. “That first year, though. It was so humbling. I felt like I needed to know everything to be able to serve, that I was going to fail because I wasn’t perfect. I realized that you don’t have to know a person’s language to give love to them. Now, I’m just here to serve. And serving in Guatemala has changed my thoughts about serving back home. You don’t have to leave your community to be a missionary.”

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Hali says every year it gets harder to say goodbye to the kids and the caregivers at Little House. And over time her family has gotten to know impoverished families in Chimaltenango. Hali says, “It’s a family thing now. We’re in this – three hearts all passionate about the same cause.”

Joe says it’s an honor to go on mission trips with his wife and daughter, and says it’s their comfort that helps him on the days when his father’s heart breaks. “It’s difficult to spend time with children you know have been abused and neglected. As a father, it makes my blood boil to think that someone could hurt a child. And in the United States, there are so many agencies and social services that can help with counseling and care. In other countries, it’s not that way.”

Connie listens to Joe, and reaches out to hold his hand as his voice shakes. “The Ravine – I think that’s become our least and most favorite place to go as a family now. How many of us would do what those parents do for our family? Who in the United States would dig through trash to find something – anything – to care for their kids?”

Joe nods. “I feel like I’m one of the richest people. The families in Guatemala have taught me that it’s not about making money – it’s about making life-altering changes that impact us and those we come in contact with. I have a strong desire to make sure my family is safe and secure. And I have friends here at the Ravine with that same desire.”

Joe is an anomaly, and his presence is welcomed by the children and by men in Guatemala. Overwhelmingly, short-term mission trip teams are female – and Joe was nervous at first about traveling. “I didn’t know what I could do that would be beneficial. But one thing I do love to do is cook. So, when I filled out the skills section of the form, I wrote, ‘I can grill.’”

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Joe is now called “Tio Joe” at Little House of Refuge. Not only does he cook for the kids and the staff, but he’s also purchased a grill so they can cook outside throughout the year. “Honestly, I’m just making memories – living my story now,” he shares. “Now I understand why families in Guatemala live together. They get what it means to be family. When I hear folks in the US complain about the people of Latin America, I want to say, ‘Please get to know them, walk a mile…

What would happen if opportunity was really given to these folks. We can walk with them and encourage them. Guatemalan kids need to see Godly women AND Godly men. Adults need to know they are greatly loved. We can do that.”

When asked what they pray for, Connie smiles. “We have so many prayers. We pray more kids are adopted. We pray every kid gets to go to school. We pray for more sponsors. We pray that, after we leave, the little seeds that have been planted will grow.

“Honestly, we pray for good, stable homes for the children – whatever that looks like. No little girl should ever have to be afraid in her bedroom at night, wondering, ‘Is he going to come in tonight?’

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“You hear the statistics. Stats are one thing. Lives are something else. People need to see lives. “

Joe leans in. “My dad always told me to love boldly, to be a good example. I am praying for the fathers here, that they will love their wives and love their children. I pray they will protect them, and that their children will learn good things that will be passed from generation to generation.”

Hali quietly listens to her parents, and then breaks into full smile. “This is why we serve. We serve because God really does have a plan. He really is over everything, and He really does use people to help people. When we serve, we are reminders that love is real. We love and we are loved. And together, we don’t lose hope. “

 


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