Monthly Archives: December 2013

A special Christmas.

This year was by far the strangest Christmas I’ve ever had.

For starters, it was 90+ degrees outside. I spent Christmas in shorts and a t-shirt, and even still I was continuously drenched in sweat. Such is daily life for me here!

I was far away from my family. There was no racing downstairs and prying Matthew out of bed to open our stockings. No snooping through my presents ahead of time. I didn’t sing Christmas carols with my family on Christmas Eve- although I did get to participate in putting baby Jesus in the manger via skype!

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Somewhere between last Christmas and this Christmas I became a “mom” to 16 beautiful kids. And that changes everything…especially at Christmas!

16 stockings to fill. 16 new outfits to pick out (who knew boys could be so picky about the size and color of their clothes?!). 16 gifts to wrap. 16 precious lives who have never had a real Christmas before.

So we read the Christmas story multiple times leading up to Christmas day. They are now little experts on Mary, Joseph, the wise men, and baby Jesus. You should see their drawings of the stable! We prepared and excited them as best as we could for the big day that was coming for them!

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On Christmas Eve at midnight we went out to Divisoria (the town center where the kids live, play, and sleep). The streets were completely empty except for our kids. Where normally there are hundreds of people every night, instead it was just us. We walked up to the square at exactly midnight to screams of “Merry Christmas Ate!” and some of the biggest hugs I’ve ever received from them. It was a moment I will never forget.

It was in those hugs that God reassured my heart- Leah, this is your family now. These are your kids- I’ve entrusted them to you. This is Christmas.

So we welcomed in Christmas Day at midnight with fireworks, laughing and dancing in the rain. It made me chuckle to think about all the kids tucked away in bed sound asleep waiting for Santa to come while we were dancing in the streets and lighting off fireworks.

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One day that will be our kids sound asleep waiting on Santa. Well..maybe they’ll be asleep. But they will have beds, a home, and a safe place to go to sleep on Christmas Eve instead of hiding on the street. One day. But for now, this is how our family celebrates. And we made the best of it!

Christmas Day was a day I will never forget. I knew it would be special from the moment we started planning. Each kid got a new outfit- a jersey and new shorts for the boys, and shirts and skirts for the girls. We filled their stockings with all their favorite snacks, headbands, combs, and a fruit drink for each of them.

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Our budget was small and it may not even sound like very much to you but it meant the WORLD to our kids! Their smiles were bigger than I’ve ever seen. The majority of these kids have never opened their own gift on Christmas day. They’ve never heard about the true reason for Christmas. They probably spent the past years alone. Or high on rugby. But not this year!

This Christmas was the strangest Christmas I’ve ever had, BUT it was also one of the best. I’m so thankful for God’s love for me and these kids. I’m so blessed by the new family He’s given to me.

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I pray you and your family will find way to be grateful for both the big and the small things this holiday season. Fancy new gifts are great, but every day these kids teach me that there is so much JOY to be found in the small things too. And that ultimately, there’s no greater gift than each other…

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Tough Love.

I thought I knew what it meant to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

I mean, I’ve heard it said all my life. We are the tangible expression of His love for His people. So go feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Care for the orphans and widows…

But I’ve realized lately- it’s more than that.

God has entrusted 16 precious children to me and I love them with a love I truly didn’t know existed in me. Every day I have the privilege of being the hands and feet of Jesus to them. We feed their hungry bellies a hefty meal twice a day. We provide clothes for them to replace their dirty torn ones and we wash the rest for them to wear. And for most of them we are the only arms that hug them all day long.

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By the grace of God and the support of people like you, we are blessed to be able to love and provide for them this way every single day.

But the deeper my relationships get with these kids and the longer we journey together, the more the outpouring of my love has changed.

In the beginning, all I could do was love these kids. I couldn’t speak the language well so there wasn’t a whole lot of talking between us. But if they were hungry, they got food. If they needed a pair of shorts because all they had was a pair of Heineken beer boxers covered in holes then we gave them new shorts. When they were thirsty we brought them water.

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No matter what they did or what their lives looked like, we wanted and needed them to learn that we are a safe place for them to come.

Now after many months, my relationship with these kids and my love for them looks very different than it did at first. For me, being Jesus’ hands and feet doesn’t just mean giving them food and clothes.  A lot of the times, especially because I work with street kids, it means having to give tough love.

It means refusing to give a kid food until he gives me his rugby. It means holding a kicking and screaming 6 year old in a body lock in the middle of town because he wants to throw a giant stone at one of his friends who made him mad. It means saying no to the boys who want to come to school high for the day. It means staring one of my favorite girls in the eyes and explaining to her in a stern voice that she is not allowed to pick on the younger girls anymore or she has to leave.

Tough love is so hard to give. It takes discipline, courage, and strength to stick to your guns. And there is always a risk involved.

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Recently, I’ve been the bad guy more times than I can count. I’ve been cussed out and then hugged by the same kid minutes later.  Sometimes I get kicked, threatened, and ignored. Then, in true child fashion, it’s all magically better later.

But through all of this, I have truly understood so much better the love of God. I’ve realized more than ever before that He disciplines me because of the depth of His love for me.

I know that sniffing rugby is destroying these kids. And I know that if JR throws the giant stone he could really hurt somebody. I know if those boys come into school high it will only bring the other kids down. And I know when one of my favorite girls picks on the other girls she is really hurting them.

And because I love them so much, I can’t just sit back and let them destroy their lives or anyone else’s. It literally hurts me inside when I find the kids fighting with each other or out on the street sniffing rugby.

Sometimes, it feels like the hardest thing in the world for me to discipline them when all I really want to do is hug them and never let go.

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“My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline, and don’t be upset when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those he loves, just as a father disciplines a child in whom he delights.”  -Proverbs 3:11-12

 But here’s the deal. God found me and chose me- my mess and all. His unconditional love pulled me in and showed me that He was safe and trustworthy. But now that I’m in…now that I’m here…its His tough love that continually shapes me to become more like Him.

He loves me way too much to just let me stay in my mess.

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And it’s the exact same way for me with these kids.
Sometimes being the hands and feet of Jesus is easy.
But sometimes, its really, really hard…

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