Current Child Count

  • HOGAR DE AMOR I: 11 babies
  • HOGAR DE AMOR II: 6 boys
  • HOGAR DE AMOR III: 8 girls

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Praise the Lord for ornery chickens!

This morning we started the social investigation for our youngest (but not newest) baby, Victoria Salome, who is today 1 month old. Here's part of HDA's June update for the story:

"At the end of the month, we couldn’t resist helping with a baby who was found in a bag on a riverbank. We (and the Alseths at CDA III) said yes without knowing if it was a boy, girl, or even the age, and it turned out to be a tiny 5 ½ pound newborn! When she was found, crying in a plastic bag with the placenta and umbilical cord still attached, doctors estimated she was 4 hours old. It’s a miracle that she survived! The name she was given in the hospital before she came to us seems fitting: Victoria SalomĂ©. It’s heartbreaking to see the bruises, cuts, and the swelled bruise on half her little head, but now she’s in gentle hands and we look forward to watching her grow. May she be as the Salome of the Bible, sister of Mary (mother of Jesus) and mother of two disciples, herself a devoted follower of Christ (see Mark 15:40, 16:1). "

When the hematoma (fancy word for bruise?) on her head started growing, and another popped up, we took an xray and discovered a 8 cm crack in her skull. Sounds awful, but we at least feel better seeing that Victoria usually only cries when she's hungry. Then the doctors started to worry about the strange curvature in her legs, down to her feet. On Tuesday I took her to an orthopedic tramatologist who ordered two more xrays of her lower body. He suspected hip fractures.

Back to the chickens and today... Maria (HDA's social work assistent) and I interviewed staff at Child Defense Sacaba to see what more we could find out about Victoria's rough beginnings. It turns out that the riverbed where she was found is a little remote. "Neighbors" plural did not hear her--just one guy out looking for his lost chickens! He saw a bag moving oddly and got up the courage to take a peek. Seeing a baby there scared him and he just ran home. He called the child/family police to come deal with it but they never came. Finally he got up the courage to return and he carried the bag home, wrapping the baby in a blanket and taking her to the main hospital in town (just a clinic looking place, really) where he recounted the story of his discovery. I don't know if he found the lost chickens that day, and I hope they're not constantly escaping, but praise the Lord for their mischieviousness on June 25, 2008, before it was too late for Victoria!

Note: As an odd twist that have to think of as part of our work here, what if Victoria's "rescuer" was actually the father or someone else involved in the whole terrible situation? We tried to track him down today, with just his name and not much else, but no success yet.

What a Trip, What a Life

I had a MOST wonderful time in Texas! Any concerns about it being too strange to not go back to our former home (such a peaceful one in the country on “Farms Road”) were unfounded. It was both interesting and relaxing to follow Heather around, get to know her new life, see where Sarah lives, visit relatives I rarely see now, etc.

A lot of it was just gratefulness at getting to be back for the first time in 15 months, and my first Fourth of July there since moving to Bolivia. I usually can’t get away this time of year due to the stream of visitors/volunteers, but this time I could leave my parents in charge and take a quick escape! At my shortest trip back ever (2 weeks including several travel days), I made a conscious effort to savor every moment there. I needed the break in a bad way, since it's very difficult to get much peace and quiet while here, or to feel "away" from the work/staff/volunteers/kids. This time I was also in three different parts of Texas so got to see lots of different things and almost all of my relatives while there. The days were packed, but somehow relaxing too. Thank you so much to all who hosted me, and me and my sister, so that I could accomplish the most possible while there. We really appreciated it and had a wonderful time together!

Some highlights of the trip were being out on the lake, eating all the Tex-Mex I could hold, and…going shopping with my Grandma. Invariably, when I would get (supposedly) out of ear shot, she would begin telling anyone who would listen where her granddaughter lives and what she does. With her version, I come out like some sort of saint! The comments were interesting. One well-meaning woman in a shoe store gushed, "You must have the BEST JOB in the whole world!!" She was dead serious.

I'm reading a book written by the daughter of deaf parents ("A Loss for Words"). She said that growing up, her friends and other people tended to think her life was either much better or much worse than it really was. I get the same sense sometimes. The comments and looks say it all: my life is either romantic and exciting, or at best I'm really strange for doing what I do--and loving it.

As for the first, I always say thank the Lord that our life here isn't constant child rescues! Last year made that clearer than ever. A year ago this time, we were still dealing with the fall out from bringing in baby Juan Gabriel (7 1/2 months), very sick and cranky as a result of living on the street his entire life. It was a very exciting, rewarding thing to do--for a few hours. Then everyone from me to the staff to the youngest baby got whatever he had, in spite of putting him into strict isolation. After two days in the home, he was admitted to the hospital for two solid weeks (still an HDA record), but the harm was already done. I don't think I've ever been sick that bad and that long, with a terrible cough that made me develop a very painful muscle strain in my side that took months to heal and still isn't the same. Yes, very romantic life. The same baby's mother's boyfriend showed up at the Baby Home shortly after, high on glue, and created a huge scene by trying to escape with the baby while cussing us out, kicking a hole in our gate, only giving up when police arrived. (Okay, so my life may not be romantic, but it CAN be dramatic. ;-) )

As to the latter, the people who ask if we have running water or if we feel safe going outside or if we have food to eat...our quality of life just might be better than theirs! If they only knew how good we have it! We've lost track of how many volunteers have stayed on after serving at the homes. Generally speaking, the only ones who actually return to their home countries are those who have school or a fiancé waiting. And all the tragedy and sorrow surrounding our kids' lives is made more bearable simply by the fact that we are here and in the incredible position of being able to do something about it. As to being around at least a dozen kids at all times, and living and officing out of the Baby Home, it's not a bother to me. You can get used to just about anything, and nothing matters if you love it!

All that to say, this life IS pretty unique, with a ridiculous range of highs and lows which made the quieter time in Texas a huge joy! But I am so glad to be back with all the kids and staff now, and of course my family, and the current 4 volunteers. It was great to hit the ground running, as usual, and to be in the thick of everything within hours of getting here. Having stepped out and now back in, I have new eyes for observing, which is always refreshing. In particular I’ve noticed my Dad's interaction with the kids. I don’t know if his affection has grown or I wasn’t noticing before, but he definitely loves them and of course they adore him back. The highlight of their week is getting to go anywhere with him in his “big car” or even to be held by him a moment. It's great to see, and we appreciate having men in the kids' lives.

A couple of pictures from the trip:

We had a wonderful afternoon lunching with the Samsels, a lovely family with 5 children that is interested in moving to Bolivia to minister to children.

Heather and I enjoyed being with Amber again, long time Casa de Amor volunteer (here we are outside Lighthouse Christian Fellowship, in Prosper, TX).

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Joining the blog world

Well, here we are! I decided to take up the suggestion of a friend to freshen up the website of Casa de Amor ("Hogar de Amor" in Bolivia) with a blog. No matter how much pressure I receive to join one of the social networking sites, I can’t see myself spending time in that way but blogging looks fun--and useful. Each day here brings new news and adventures, and although if I posted that much it would be to the neglect of the ministry and my family, I plan to add some news and stories that I never have room for in the usual updates and newsletters. Welcome!