Current Child Count

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

Saturday, January 30, 2010

stretching my music muscles...

This year, 2010, has already been an incredible year - incredibly BLESSED - after the heartache and challenges of 2009. I'm trying to savor every minute of it and not take ANY of it for granted, for example how healthy the babies have been overall.

I've been blown away by how many opportunities have just dropped into my lap. Right now, besides directing the homes and visiting street friends almost daily, I have two new responsibilities at my church, the Cochabamba International Church.

I'm part of the newly formed leadership team for the "University Students and Young Professionals" group. Since none of the new leaders speak English but many of the young people want to learn, I've been asked to lead a few of the praise songs on guitar (in English), and at the end give a summary of the Spanish Bible lesson (in English).

The other very weighty responsibility is to lead one of the two praise teams. We play every other weekend and I currently have: acoustic guitarists (2), electric guitarist, bass guitarist, drummer, singers (3), and myself on piano/keyboard. Good group!

I thought I'd share our first song list as a team. If you find that weird...unless you've done this, you wouldn't believe how many hours go into analyzing every aspect of things and then deciding on song flow AND portraying your ideas to the team during rehearsals so that everyone is on the same page.

Right now I could quote you this list and the order of every verse/chorus/bridge and transition while standing on my head in a rainstorm. Practice, practice, practice!

~Te Alabare: always a favorite song in Bolivia!

~Trading My Sorrows/Cambiare Mi Tristeza: I'm partial to this song because of the great bass intro, but it's also a lot of fun to sing and play and meditate on the meaning.

~Salvation Belongs To Our God: good strong song.

~Mi Dios Puede Salvar/My God is Mighty To Save: where to begin!! A Bolivian friend actually first taught it to me when I was in Texas 1 1/2 years ago. I've mentioned it several times on the blog, particularly the line "He rose and conquered the grave, Jesus conquered the grave".

~How Great Is Our God/How Great Thou Art (chorus): Two great songs that make a very powerful medley when combined.

~Forever: Pastor Graham Porter is preaching through Psalm 136 ("His love endures forever"), and it will be an open mic service of people giving testimonies of God's faithfulness. Forever seemed the perfect song to end with, and we've had a great time practicing it already.

As my dear sister Heather so eloquently described it, "I love it! You're preaching, leading the music and working the streets at night. ;-)"

All I can say is, my organizational skills must be in tip-top shape if I'm going to survive and thrive this year with so much responsibility. Leading with diligence...

Well it will be non-stop tomorrow, rehearsing then playing at church, taking kids out to lunch afterwards, taking 7 of my street friends + their babies + a couple of my kids to a huge soccer game, then an "Italian Night" with our volunteers and a few staff members to break in our kitchen at the "new" Casa de Amor II.

Good night!

Friday, January 29, 2010


Today I…

Picked up all remaining trash and cleaned at our former CDA II
Made decisions upon hearing test results from CDA III (parasite outbreak)

Chatted with friends under their bridge home
Had dealings with the relative of an ex-president of Bolivia

Practiced guitar for church on Saturday
Practiced piano for church on Sunday

Talked with a friend from the street about family problems
Talked with a middle class volunteer about family problems

Coordinated two babies going in for immunizations
Comforted one of them through a rough afternoon

Talked with a teenager from the street about her pregnancy
Consulted with a midwife-in-training about risks of the pregnancy

Barely ate all day
Had a deliciously filling dinner

Took note of the frigid weather in North America
Appreciated temperatures in the upper 70s here

I think variety keeps life interesting - don't you?

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...

original artwork

While I was in the US, my sister Emma told me to choose two pictures of her artwork to share with my kids here.
I got them framed and here they are!

House with picket fence and tire swing
Casa de Amor II

Gumball Machine
Casa de Amor I

Neat, huh?

Thanks, Tia Em!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"New" House Tour, continued...

Bedroom #4, for little boys A (6) and B (4)!


David saved me! I was wilting painting the ceiling at the hottest time of day.

And... after!!

Already a great improvement, with a fresh coat of bright paint!

But then....

Oh then...

Elena got to work...

Creating little boy dreamland!

Check out the airplane banner:

The heavens declare the glory of God
And the firmament shows His handiwork.
Psalm 19:1

Monday, January 25, 2010

Here it is, in black and white:

But didn't we already know that at Casa de Amor? :)

(Today Tia Carmen, one of our staff members, gave birth to a big baby boy, her second! Felicidades!)

"New" House Tour, miscellaneous

As we went, we kept finding new areas that definitely needed a fresh coat of painting.

The plan of painting 3 bedrooms soon stretched to 4 bedrooms + 2 hallways + a middle common area!

Rainbow hallway!!

A nasty dirty closet

Yours truly tackling the nasty dirty (very hot!) closet

Ta-da! (Katrina C. did the detail work)

This is the middle "common" room on move-in day. Within literally two minutes one day, we had all agreed on the color "clary sage", which turned out to be a glorified white, but we like it.

Definitely spruced up the room from before!

(Heather, you'll be pleased to know that the violins came over in my car in the very first load!)

Now it could be called the Jonah room.

I said one day "that looks like a little whale!" and someone said it was, gracias a Nic.

Some inside joke with the volunteers, what can I say?!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

"New" House Tour, continued

Bedroom #2, for little boys JK (5) and M (4)

The room before we came in

Blank canvas...

Starting with the lion

The jungle takes shape!

Reaching the end!

Is this neat or what?! It's nearly impossible to decide on a perfect room, but the great results in this room surprised us all.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

One Year: Remembering

{Bottle time, at about 3 1/2 weeks}

I've alternated between not wanting this day to come, and wanting it to come quickly so that we can be on the other side of it.

The six month mark was also difficult but in this post I shared the brighter moments we have experienced.

{First visit to the pediatrician, the day they arrived. For several weeks they could snuggle in the same carrier, too cute!}

I don't know how to do a one year anniversary of losing a baby you loved. January 23, 2009 was simply the worst, most tragic day of my life. I tear up or full out bawl anytime I give it more than a passing thought. The only other deaths that can begin to compare with Gabriela's came when I was 6 and 15 (mothers' miscarriages) and those were awful enough, marking my whole childhood/adolescence.

Words fail me. Who would imagine losing a child to the common childhood illness of chicken pox? It's unfathomable, but now I loathe even hearing about chicken pox.

It attacked her brain so quickly. We knew she was suffering more than the rest, but the one-in-a-million complication took hold so quickly that morning. By the time I got her in my car, she was gone, even though I denied that viciously while racing to the hospital. (I finally changed out that car seat. Every time I looked at it for months, I remembered her dying there.)

I will post more later as I process this with friends worldwide who are remembering Gabriela today, and with the caregivers (including the one who is adopting Gabriel). Today is very full, for which I am grateful, so it might be late tonight.

Thank you to everyone for your support (like my sister H who sent an ecard, and Elizabeth a card from England)! Just like we got through their first birthday, we will get through today. "Beauty Will Rise" by Steven Curtis Chapman will be my music, and I will not take life for granted for one minute, particularly of the 36 little ones I have the great privilege of being responsible for.

We miss you, Gabriela!!

"The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away, blessed be the name of the LORD." Job 1:21

{See all pictures of Gabriela & Gabriel from their arrival on October 3, through January 23, 2009, in the album at right. I will take it down soon.}

Update just past midnight: apart from being January 23, it was a very good day. I was out for most of it, visiting street friends, the cemetery, church, the market with kids, pharmacy, buying soccer game tickets for lots of street friends/volunteers/kids, and "kid washing" (a project downtown).

Katrina (from NZ) gave me a beautiful little yellow rose bush! Those are the flowers I buy for Gabriela when I visit the cemetery. We went there today with friends from the street and we all had 2 or 3 babies to "visit". I was glad for others to share the time with, instead of being alone in my sorrow and remembering. It's strange to not be with the same set of people (family and volunteers) who were here when the twins arrived, or on January 23 last year, but such is the transitional life we live here.

Thanks again to all who did special things, and for the emails and phone calls. Elizabeth should receive special mention for visiting "Gabriela's Aberdeen Goodbye Place" - in freezing rain in NE Scotland in January.

And now, I'm exhausted and my bed is calling me!! Too many short nights lately and too many nights thinking and planning rather than giving in to sleep.

Friday, January 22, 2010

"New" House Tour

Bedroom #1, for girls L (7), J (6), and (eventually) E (2 1/2):

First look at room, with the owner

"mauve finery" and "snowbound" white

I'm not a purple person, but I couldn't stop saying "I LOVE the colors in this room..."

First polka dot!

Seeing dots...

I did most of the green and yellow polka dots in between meetings one day, while Elena did the blue and purple dots.

Cute enough, eh? Oh but you haven't seen anything yet.

And the other side of the room:

(Looks very pink, but it's actually the same pale purple as the rest.)

Pictures of more rooms to come!