Monday, December 27, 2010
Thursday, December 23, 2010
And don't forget the triplets, 10 months old!
Folks, that's a lot of babies!!
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
But first things first, we dove into the pool!!
Tia Savannah giving a little safety and rule pep talk first (well done!) while sister Allison snaps pictures
How 'bout that view?!
The snacks just kept coming, and coming, and coming....
As well as the special attention!
Our new friend this year, father of the godmother to the triplets and also owner of the bus station and several other businesses around town. The mother of the triplets also live with him and his family.
He has taken on concern for all our children, particularly new little J, even setting up an appointment with an excellent eye doctor.
Little Miss E with a birthday gift! (We had just drug her out of the bathroom here. Seeing as she didn't need to go - not sure what she was going to do in there!)
After a lovely play time in the spacious grassy area, it was CAKE TIME!!
and piñata time!
What a beautiful, memorable afternoon all together and outdoors!
Pray that the twins' papers continue progressing in the court system as they've been pre-assigned adoptive parents for several months now!
Friday, December 17, 2010
Assuming the link still works, here's the Advent Conspiracy video I posted a couple years back: Advent Conspiracy.
Friday, December 3, 2010
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
A beautiful card describing your gift choice will be sent to the gift recipient to let them know of your gift in their honor.
Click on the images below to see each page of the Holiday Giving Catalog:
PO Box 3201
McKinney, TX, 75070
For more information, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
*Many thanks to Elena for her incredible work on the catalog!
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
She screams with such fervor, even the other babies feel sorry for her!
This evening in particular, one of the triplets (Nataly?) was so concerned she was trying anything to get baby F to quiet down.
Triplets to the rescue!!
My car is practically a clinic on wheels by this point!
That's helpful when you have issues like a fight at 2am and no one wants to go to the hospital because they were just there the week before because of another fight... Sigh. And the endless other daily needs, both large and small, that they trust me to tend to now. I love learning more every day!
The week after writing the below, 4 friends were arrested. Along with the one who went in a few weeks ago, that makes 5 friends in as many weeks to FOUR different jails. [Note: since I wrote this yesterday, two MORE have been arrested!]
My “Codigo Penal” and newly purchased “Codigo de Procedimiento Penal” have become my new constant companions!
The first couple of weeks as I got everyone settled and untangled the mess of which lawyer was on each case (both sides) and what the next steps would be, I spent hours every single day in jails. In all but one place I have other friends (also from the street), so its non-stop conversation and questions about their friends on the “outside” the entire time I’m inside with them.
I also get constant calls now from all of the jails. I imagine that the women’s jail phone booth opens at 7am because I often get a call right at that time: “Senorita, are you coming today??” (Even though visiting hours don’t begin until 9am!)
When my best friend Amber left in October after another Bolivia visit, the verse she left on a card was more prophetic than I think either of us realized at the time:
“For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; …I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’” (Matthew 25:35-36, 40)
Apart from being quite the balancing act, it’s been emotionally exhausting. It’s rough to go from having daily contact with your friend to BAM! In jail! And having to wait for visiting hours, suffer through police pat-downs, present your ID, pay money, etc., just to try to talk in a seriously overcrowded warehouse of humanity… On the streets at night with the others, I still expect to see them around any corner. Almost any picture we look at of fun times together, at least one in the picture is currently in jail.
Pray that I know how to show tough love. After the hearing of two of the girls, as they begged me to “save them” from their fate, I looked them right in the eye and said "I love you two and you know it, but I hate what you do".
It’s been a month of constant shake ups at the bridge where I work, as well. At some point every month I record a simple list of who is currently at the bridge. From mid October to now in November, the number has dropped from 17 people to 8. The reason? Three have moved to different street communities, two are currently home with relatives, two are in jail, one has died, and last night the baby was taken away from her mother.
As hard as it all is, I LOVE "filling the gap" with the most down-and-out kids of the city, being their mother, lawyer, best friend, nurse, social worker, and whatever else the situation calls for. Thanks for your prayers!
Monday, November 8, 2010
But something had always been stirring in my heart for the street population, apart from taking in the children sent to us at Casa de Amor. The other night I came across an old journal, and on 8-8-08 I wrote “I still wish I had more reasons to go to the street, but that period last year was apparently just a phase.” And then: “I can’t be grateful enough though for having that opportunity.” Now I’m blessed to go every single day and be welcomed with open arms!
As I look back on the ten months, I quickly came up with ten points of what the kids and street life has taught me.
Don’t judge by the outside. It’s still ingrained in me more than I want to admit, but I am learning to look past the rough, unkempt, dirty exterior and meet the person on the inside. Each man, woman, and child I’ve met on the street has his/her own special sparkle if you just look for it. I love telling them they were created by God and are special, no matter what others may say!
Story #1: one morning I was running errands when I was called by a young friend and told that “S” had sliced his leg open (police were trying to take away his baby) and could I come help. When I got to the ER and saw him lying there in dirty clothes, with this horrific gash in his calf, I had a brief moment of thinking “Why me?! What am I doing here, picking up this guy?” I had seen him around but didn’t really know him. I so repented later for my terrible thoughts as I drove him and his friends back. What a sense of humor!! He had us rolling in the floor laughing. Don’t judge by the outside.
Story #2: at the bridge we have a guy in a wheelchair that is quite honestly nothing pleasant to look at by human eyes. Years and years of street life, addictions, and illnesses have taken their toll. However, “M” still has a sparkle in his eye and we rotate through jokes. For example, he would pretend to get very mad at me if I didn’t shake his hand and properly greet him each and every time I come (which is always multiple times a day), but when I’d shake his hand he’d recoil saying “so cold!!” so I’d go through an elaborate procedure to warm up my hand before shaking his.
And maybe I’m strange, but I can’t tell you what joy I get to recognize and be recognized by name by the “down and out” all over this city!
First Aid! And first aid and first aid and first AID! Day and night, there are medical urgencies and emergencies. I could write a book on some of the experiences I’ve had in 10 months time! In fact, tending to the knife cut of one at the bridge was one of two reasons I came back for a second visit (the other being the newborn baby) and the reason I first went under the bridge (with my partner Elena and a hastily assembled first aid kit that has stayed packed full ever since). I’ve gotten abundant practice in taking out stitches, giving shots, and tending to wounds, stabbings, lacerations, and burns.
Police mistreatment. I’ve taken this on as a special area of mine on the street, so could write a book on it. But in a nutshell… I champion for just treatment and basic respect. The police believe that they can do whatever they want to the street people because no one protests it. And no one does, unless I am there or am told immediately after by the kids. Every single day at some point I speak to police. I have studied law codes and talked with several lawyers and the police chief throughout the year, learning what rights the kids have and how to deal with out-of-control police who beat up them up and lock them up, many times without reason or proof of any wrong. Currently I’m also working constantly with a lawyer friend from church and so appreciate his support!
The kids think I am not afraid of police, but try being under a bridge at night or at the top of a cactus covered hill when 20 police show up in anti-riot gear, ready to tear gas and beat up everyone in sight, and see how YOU feel! I feel like Daniel in the Lions’ Den and pray for angels to watch over us!! Then I swallow the lump in my throat and deal with the situation at hand, which often involves showing my ID to the police and explaining what I do and why, then answering questions they have about the kids’ lives and habits. The abuse was so bad the month of September at my bridge that I and one of the most responsible guys presented a two page letter to the chief police and “Defensor del Pueblo” detailing the mistreatment, and there have been only two incidents since then! Although it often means missed sleep, and the police nearly make me cry sometimes by misunderstanding my work and (their favorite lately) threatening the kids (“If you are going to tell your blonde friend about this…”) or even saying they will get me thrown in jail, I have loved tackling such a needed area on the street.
Our conception in Casa de Amor before this year was that multiple people, churches, organizations, and institutions reach out to the street population in Cochabamba. Why would I get involved if I have my baby homes and the street kids have dozens of organizations on their side? WELL……as I started to go to the bridge more and more and more in January and February, and got to know the kids, and all of a sudden it was going every single day to change bandages, help with paperwork, be their guaranty as they try to move up in life, accompany them talk to family members, etc., etc., it started to dawn on me: I was the only one out there! Another group came one morning a week, but with their own agenda which didn’t always match up to the needs of the kids. Then they stopped coming. Then a dear friend from Norway arrived back and occasionally visits, but she is very involved with another group in the north of the city and so has delegated the bridge to me. I have been shocked at how many “desk” street workers there are, without a good grasp on how street life is every day and every night. Whereas my Casa de Amor responsibility is a desk job, and I love it, I also absolutely LOVE being out “on the field” in the thick of things as I serve the street population.
No matter how “bad” our family is, we only have one. So many times I’ve nearly written off return to or involvement with family as bad for a certain child or couple, but I consistently see that the few who manage to leave street life do it because they have a family who cares. It may be full of drunks or robbers or messy splits or “steps”, but the family is the family, for good or for worse. Same as with the children directly in my charge at Hogar de Amor, my priority with the kids is family reconciliation.
The Trust Factor. I’m a trusting person by nature, so this one comes easy to me and often surprises people who hear details of my work with the kids. I know that all of them have or do rob for a living, some of them being very good at it, but my philosophy is that to the degree that I trust them with my things, they are trustworthy with me. In fact anyone who even hints at robbing me or gives the appearance of not being trustworthy with something of mine is severely chastised by the others. My trust includes loaning them my cell phone for calls (particularly to family members), letting them use my camera, leaving them alone in my car even though there are valuables there…right up to teaching them to drive my car!
Alcohol abuse is almost as bad on the street as drug abuse. It’s really awful. I’ve always seen alcoholism as a major plague in Bolivia, with the consequences all too apparent in the lives of our children at Casa de Amor, but I hadn’t realized how many children, even as young as 12 and 14, are becoming regular drinkers on the street. I hate with a vengeance what the glue (and glue addiction) does to their minds, bodies, and relationships, but I can put up with someone being high any day over someone being drunk. Before moving to Bolivia I think I had seen exactly one drunk person in my life, and that was in Russia. Now I can tell almost immediately if someone calling me or talking to me is drunk, an education I never asked to have! And the drunk calls at any hour of the night, often by family members of the kids? Ugh, not a favorite!
Violence. On the one hand, it’s worse than I thought. While the average citizen here is anywhere from extremely cautious to terrified in encounters with street people, I quickly learned that they are much more violent with each other than anyone else. They settle their issues with knives, rocks, and fists, particularly when drunk (see lesson 7), which is why I stay so busy with first aid (see lesson 2)! I’ve learned that while a late night drunken fight can land someone in the hospital, by morning they are still friends. I’ve learned that a hurled rock can do an awful lot of harm. I’ve learned to ask for discounts in the hospital for bringing in such a flow of patients! But on the other hand, there are more “internal regulations” than I had imagined. In a way their communities are more controlled than I thought, with clear cut leaders and rules. If someone is too problematic, they are kicked out and not provided the “protection” of the community which is often like one large family.
Expect the unexpected. Every. Single. Day. They surprise me. I’m not surprised when they do something wrong or dirty because that’s what everyone expects of them. But every single day (and night) they teach me something amazing and I learn from them. As one example, this winter (May—August in Bolivia) was the best yet for me. Before I resented not having indoor (or car) heating, but I just couldn't complain when THEY never complain. Sure I was out all hours of the day and night being with them, but at least I had a house and warm bed to go home to eventually. Another example is when someone does something wrong or hurts someone’s feelings, and I watch the kids work so hard at reconciliation. Sometimes they are examples to me! Another way they convict me is how kind and accepting they can be to the weakest, most down-and-out member of their group, often someone that society has completely turned her back on. Sometimes they fight over who is going to buy me my dinner, or something to drink. And then there’s the whole trust thing (lesson #7). More than once it's happened that money is showing out of my back pocket and someone I barely know goes hey, your money is showing, rather than so easily snatching it. I could go on and on…
On a more lighthearted note to finish, did you know that you can earn a whole lot by begging or just washing windows at intersections?? It’s rather amazing, actually. In a few hours of work, one can easily earn 40 or 50 Bolivianos, equivalent to $7, which is more than most Bolivians make all day. I joke all the time I’m going to start washing with them! Some of the cute younger kids who beg on a busy street on a weekend night can get up to three times that amount. The problem is they occasionally lose all they’ve earned to corrupt police who claim it was stolen, so often they save it back with me.
Many people assume that I win the trust and acceptance of the kids by buying them food or clothes, but the truth is I rarely do that—just on special occasions, or when someone cannot work for some reason. They CAN make money without stealing, so I do not want to reward laziness even with a loan.
I have learned so much else, such as…
...the reality of how most people live in Bolivia (in one room, for example)
...how to get around many far flung zones of the city I had only heard of before this year
...street slang (I just THOUGHT I knew Spanish before...!)
...how to ignore constant itchy flea bites
...that I can operate on much less sleep than I ever thought possible
...celebrating birthdays creates wonderful memories and strong friendships
...the locals think I'm either crazy or a saint for going to the worst areas of town "alone" and for reaching out to the criminals and drug addicts of the city (but I'm not!)
...that watching soccer is so much fun when you know everyone playing, same for going to the pro games with die hard Wilstermann fans!
...that my stomach is finally up to speed to the bugs here and I can eat anything from anywhere without getting sick
...the importance of educating authorities on the situation of the kids
…and that there is always room for one more in my car, dubbed the “auto fantastico” on the street! On an average night, up to 15 pack into my Toyota Raum, a mini "mini van".
The lessons go on and on! I am so, so privileged to have the double blessing of running Casa de Amor and also being mother, doctor, pastor, social worker, lawyer, and just best friend of over 100 on the street. And several off the street, starting a new life.
I appreciate your prayers for strength, finances, and loads of grace and patience as I work in the darkest parts of society every day and every night.
"And the King will answer and say to them, Assuredly, I say to you, Inasmuch as you did it unto one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me." Matthew 25:40
"He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" declares the LORD." Jeremiah 22:16
If you would like to know more, such as my goals and vision working with these people I've grown to love so much, I'd be happy to tell you in between all the hecticness that is our life here! Just write me.
Monday, November 1, 2010
have birthdays close together.
This is the first year they've lived in the same house (Casa de Amor II), so the staff there decided to turn the biannual picture day into one big birthday party!
The cakes were AMAZING!!!!
Little girl D, turning 3, requested a cow cake, and Tia Savannah came through!
Little girl A, turning 4, got this gorgeous flower cake. Before the colored icing, I told volunteer Haley it reminded me of one of those huge round cakes at the fair on "Pollyanna". Remember?
Friday, October 29, 2010
This week we had our biannual group picture day!
Even though I see them every day, my heart about melted when I first saw the sight of all those babies in a row - triplets and "triplets" - with kids just a bit bigger holding them!
Our lovely volunteers - Amber M., Savannah, Kaley, Haley M., Elena
(Yes we have a guy volunteer, but Maxim opted to take the picture rather than be a part. Wonder why?!)
A picture featuring Casa de Amor childcare tias, mother of the triplets, volunteers, and more squeezable, chubby babies!!
More pictures coming of the special double birthday party also celebrated this day.
Any guesses as to who the birthday girls were??
Monday, October 18, 2010
I have so many post ideas and so many pictures....
Saturday, September 25, 2010
See what YOU think!
Then I realized something else....