Current Child Count

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

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Christmas, Round 5

*because Christmas is how all this started :)

Rather unbelievable that I haven't blogged about this yet, but what can I say! I’ve just been so busy doing it...and getting sucked into more and more responsibilities for 2010 at my church (!).

After having such a blessed, joyous Christmas celebration at the “Casas de Amor” with the staff and volunteers, I wanted to take it to the streets.

As I watched our children, so many with street backgrounds, enjoy their beautiful Christmas with presents and special meals and treats, their parents weighed heavily on my heart. Granted, some are in jail and others live in the most “hard core” part of town where it’s more complicated to visit safely. But I AM in contact with others who I’m comfortable visiting, and don’t know that some of their children live with me/in our homes.

So on Saturday, January 2, I headed out to see how a particular group was doing and feel them out about bringing a chicken meal later that day. It was a great reunion! I was really surprised how much it reflected the welcome my kids gave me after my trip. I went back later that day with volunteer Savannah, and then the mother of one of my kids mentioned us going to another group down the road.

Now, normally I’ve always been introduced to new street groups by someone who works with them, either foreigner or Bolivian, never by another street friend. But as I quickly thought it over, I decided I trusted her to take us.

While there, I was asked to buy or bring all sorts of things, as usual. I struggle with buying them whatever they want (or even really need) because that makes street life easier, versus changing and going into a rehab center or just getting off the street. But later that day, I realized that a couple had stuck out to me: a blanket for the newborn baby, and ointment for a nasty cut.

So the next day I found myself heading back, this time with volunteer Elena. We ended up going under the bridge because it was raining, we came bearing gifts, and...well I’m not sure how it happened, but we were allowed to pull ourselves up over a wall along the river and jump down into their world of danger, dogs, and despair.

Now I am not one to scare easily, but even I was nervous. Okay, maybe even scared. But I was desperately trying not to show it. Must have worked because 1) nothing happened and 2) I freaked Elena out afterwards by saying how dangerous that probably was, surrounded by 7 or 8 of them with no one else around to see us. (Hopefully her mother is not reading this!!)

Even so, I knew we had a strong foot "in the door" so to speak and the beginning of new friendships and building TRUST, which is the key word in this kind of work.

So, I went back to check on the baby and change the bandage.

Then the cut was healed, and the new friendships kept us going back.

Not long after, I stopped by for a quick visit and found one of the guys with two bleeding gashes on his arm. Deep, wide, dirty, the whole thing. But way past the possibility of stitches. Again, I am not usually squeamish, but this churned even my stomach. I did what I could with what was in my first aid kit, then went back 1-2 times a day over the weekend to clean it out and change the bandages. I'm getting more used to this sort of thing already.

So that’s how it started that I have a new group of friends in this “underworld”: literally (under the bridge), figuratively (lowest class of society), and spiritually (serious strongholds).

I’ve now visited almost daily since January 2, often with other volunteers or staff and even children (ones they would not recognize, always protecting from glue fumes).

This bridge is very close, a 6-7 minute drive from my house or a quick bus ride, and I can easily pass by when I'm doing anything downtown or in the north of the city.

At first, I had a little more free time because of "vacation" from several activities at church and quieter days at the homes as far as work because of the holidays. However, now that everything is kicking into high gear, it's a bigger challenge to balance everything and I have way less time for sleeping and eating, and forget anything personal, but it was made completely worth it a couple days ago.

I had just taken a few to eat dinner, which is a great opportunity for building relationship and talking without so much glue in the picture. As I dropped them off at the bridge, the 19 year old leader of the group and new father asked me when we could have a "serious chat" away from there. Then he said the words every street worker longs to hear "I don't want to live here anymore". Right now I'm waiting, trying not to be pushy, for the day when they want to talk further.

Elena comes with me when she can, a very brave, willing partner! The other day I stumbled upon the website "Street Sleepers" and loved reading how she and her friends (one of which I met in the Miami airport a few months ago) have had their hearts touched by the street population. And not only that, they are actively working to make a difference by providing bunk beds for a home here.

Okay, now that I've shared this, please do not set me on a pedestal! I am not a saint. This work is dirty, complicated, and full of setbacks, heartbreak, and disappointment. There are also as many theories on "how" to do it as there are people doing it! It's never easy to wade into the lives of people who have experienced severe trauma, abuse, and hurt, and know how to help....or even where to begin! I just plead for the Holy Spirit to lead me and protect us from the powers of darkness....and if I can make a difference in the lives of any of these "outcasts", it would be a huge privilege.

Right now things are going extremely well, and we feel very blessed to be so well received and welcomed into their world, where few dare to go. (Not sure about the day when a kid, quite high on glue obviously, asked me "so how long have you lived in the street?" but other than that... :)

I could share of so many adventures already, but will post first about the soccer game we took 11 to over the weekend - total blast!! More later...


Amy said...

"It's never easy to wade into the lives of people who have experienced severe trauma, abuse, and hurt, and know how to help....or even where to begin!"

That totally sums it up right there! :)

I love what you're doing! And obviously, the kids do, too...especially since they've accepted you and opened up to you. Stay encouraged! Good things will happen!

And you'll have to let me know how it went the other day with that couple...

Elena said...

Jen, thanks so much for having me jump right in there with you! I am so blessed to have a second ministry here that I never dreamed of!