All posts by RunAndBeStill

Ever wondered what a trip to Casa Bernabè is like?

In less than a week I am headed back to Casa Bernabè in Guatemala. The following video is something my daughter put together from our family visit in July. The beauty of Antigua, the city of Guatemala, and of course the kiddos at Casa Bernabè…it may leave your head spinning a bit with its speed but she covered a lot of ground and our cumulative days.

(If the video doesn’t load for you it can be viewed here.)

As I prepare to head back we are looking at the projects we would like to accomplish while we are there. 

One of the things that was most amazing to me when we were there in January was the opportunity to bless the house parents and check some much needed items off of their wish list (you can read about it here.)

We would love to be able to do the same this time. As you can imagine living in a house with 10-15 children will cause things to wear out quickly. 

These house parents are all amazing individuals who are serving on the front lines everyday, standing in the gap for the children God has placed in their homes, praying for them, guiding them, loving them as their own. 

Would you consider partnering with us on our quest to bless those living at Casa Bernabè? Tax-deductible donations made before 10/24 will be doubled through Love Runners. Learn more or donate here.

Thank you for being part of the Run and Be Still community! Hope you enjoyed the “quick” look into our July trip!

In Between

Here I sit, again, suspended above the earth in this in between place. In between families. In between realities and cultures. This frozen place in time where I have to leave one to be with the other. This is an impossible place to live.

As I gaze out my window I realize the clouds look like my thoughts feel, some banks looming large and other, wispy, fly away pieces. If I try to grasp any one of them they simply slip right through my fingers. Disconnected…disjointed…I can’t quite put any of it together.

I heard the seven most beautiful words earlier this week. “Today was our last day of school.” This was the very first English sentence that He has ever spoken to me. (I am so proud of him. Learning English is so hard!) This began a quiet conversation that allowed me to ask him things – what he likes- what he wants – and he was able to answer me without the need for anyone translating. Together we planned an end of school ice cream party for his house. A celebration of a whole lot of things. Big picture…I cannot even begin to convey how precious these words were and the effect that they had on my heart.

But I am terrified that this is where I am going to be stuck, in between. Hope is getting thin as my heart fills fuller and fuller, with a love I didn’t even know was possible, until I feel like it will burst or break. I try to see beyond our circumstances, beyond the bureaucracy, but the reality is hard. The reality terrifies me and so faith and fear do battle within me.

I don’t want to have to choose any more. I don’t. I want my entire family around my breakfast table on Saturday mornings. I want us all tucked in under one roof. I want Christmases, and birthdays, and boring old Tuesday afternoons. I want to share the life experience of every picture we went through on my phone after our ice cream party.

I don’t want to have to look into a set of eyes and say I love you and I will be back soon. I don’t want any more goodbyes on either end of the flight.

This is what life looks like right now and it’s taking its toll. I don’t know how long I can keep doing this and yet I don’t see any other way and I need to be both places.

Please continue to pray for God to move quickly. Your prayers are carrying us through. The tiniest spark of activity continues while the clock is ticking ever more loudly. I dream of the day that he is sitting next to me watching the landscape pass by below us, heading home.

For God’s glory…

Get caught up on our story…

This was not my plan

This was not my plan – Part 2

Please don’t stop praying

Down but not out

Down But Not Out

defeatedYesterday, for the first time in recent memory, I didn’t have words. I always have words, and zipping thoughts, on most days too many probably. But yesterday they failed me. We received word from our adoption attorney that the government said No. Hard stop. Just. No. We can’t do anything more. They hold the power, maybe when he’s 18 we can do something, but that is a long way off and presents a whole other set of hurdles.  The attorney that I had prayed would be the answer bowed out. And I was left holding this hurt with no plan, no idea what to do next, nothing. My brain shut down. And as the questions came in over the afternoon of “Any news?” I didn’t know what to say and I knew even less how to respond to your kind words of encouragement. I sat and stared for long periods of time at my blinking cursor, not wanting to appear short or unappreciative but just without the words to respond.

On the same day that we received our bank approval to add an addition with another bedroom and bathroom for our growing family, on the same day that a box of adoption books and materials arrived in the mail we were told “No.” Stop. Give up and leave us alone.  We are not doing this. We will not even look at this or consider approving this. And so a kid sits, alone, waiting and praying for a family who are waiting and praying for him. What is wrong with this system…

And my heart right now feels perilously close to the same way it did 17 years ago when my prayers for my son weren’t answered and the only thing we have of him are our dreams for what would have been, and a baby laid to rest next to his great-grandfather.

My prayers feel ineffectual. My heart is breaking. And, for what? A child who I can never tell how badly I want him. A child who I will never be able to mother the way my heart longs to. This was not my idea. I didn’t dream this up, I didn’t choose this.  But, there is no doubt that God placed this squarely in our path. It was a hard yes to say, it was scary, and while I didn’t expect it to be easy I am having a really hard time seeing where we go from here and understanding why? Why did God pull us into this? And I know the fight isn’t over. Somewhere in the recesses of my brain, I know this and I know that this isn’t over.  This can’t be over. I know that God can do the impossible. I know His promises, but today I am having a really hard time feeling them. Today, this feels so final and I feel so defeated.


Before I could even get this posted a shift began to happen. An “accidental” phone call from my sister early this morning that turned into words that I needed to hear. A reminder that my heart began to embrace. This is how God works and these are your prayers in real time .

Be Still. It’s something I should be intimately familiar with by now (Run and Be Still.) Dear wrestling and wiggling and fidgeting child, be still. Get out of the way, rest, and watch God work.  And I look to my past experiences as a reminder of what I know to be true of God today. And I throw myself at His feet, shedding my pity party.

So it is with every attempt to do something significant for God. It is never simple. Whenever God stirs us to establish His Kingdom in a new place, the enemy is sure to taunt us. The devil always tries to convince us that we’ve tackled too much this time and we’ll soon be humiliated. 

“The longer the blessing is in coming the richer it will be when it arrives. That which is gained speedily by a single prayer is sometimes only a second-rate blessing; but that which is gained after many a desperate tug and many an awful struggle, is a full-weighted and precious blessing. That which costs us the most prayer will be worth the most.” Charles Spurgeon

My eyes began to be opened to something that is so much bigger than one child.  What if the very words that have failed me are meant for bigger things? What if they are meant to advocate for an entire group of children waiting and praying? What if they are meant to bring God’s voice to a group of people frozen by 10 years of corruption and inaction?

What if this really isn’t about me (duh!) and instead about using my heartache, my passion for the kids sitting and waiting to age out of homes,  to bring about change. What if I refuse to sit down and be quiet, refuse their no for my child or any of the rest of them? What if…

For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14

And so it goes, as it always has, that an old song comes to mind, my prayer…

Please don’t stop praying…

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Just a quick note to say please keep praying. We are still fighting for this young boy. I never, ever, ever want to look back on any of this and wonder could I have done more. Here is the latest…

You have to love a question that begins with “I don’t want to offend you but…” One of my very dearest and bestest friends in the world and I were having a conversation and I had just shared with her our newest-big-news which is – We officially have a Guatemalan attorney who is going to petition the court and make this whole process official.  No more dancing around it, we are just going for, it in the biggest way possible.  The attorney was described to me as a “big gun who can get things done” and she was more than happy to help us. I was literally a puddle on the floor after my conversation with her. There is so much more to the story, but it’s long, so just know this, God continues to weave this story together in ways that humble and amaze me. He is doing things that only He can do.

Anyway, back to the offending question. It was finished with this “Do you ever wonder what you’re doing?” Ummmm, yes. Yes. Yes. A thousand times yes. We have looked at each other and asked that very question many times but we continually come back to what God is doing. None of this makes sense yet it is 100% right. We are trusting Him to direct our steps even when we have no idea where it is leading. Any doubt that I have is negated by what God has already done in putting all of these moving parts together and what He has done, not just my heart, but all of ours.

I want to share two more things with you tonight. First this video, I can’t tell you how many times I have watched this. (He was thanking us for a surprise that we had sent down to him.) You have seen pictures, but this is the smile, this voice, this kid, oh my…As you pray for him, I want you to know him too.

Second, this song. I recently heard it, not for the first time, but with new ears, it stopped me in my tracks. So many layers, my prayer, my wish for my boy who has given up hope for a family. Tell your heart to beat again…

 

This boy knows I love him. I have told him so many times, but he has no idea how fierce, and protective, and strong that love really is.  He doesn’t know what it is to be loved by this mom. One day, hopefully very soon, he will begin to see…Please, please, please don’t stop praying for us. God is on the move.

If you have no idea what I am talking about, you can get the scoop here and here.

This was not my plan – Part 2. (This is where you can write your part of the story)

(You can read part 1 here)

Two weeks ago or so I watched an almost 15 year old blow out candles on his cake. It was supposed to be a celebration but instead it carried the weight of finality with it. A last “adoptable” birthday, a marker of time passing, a milestone for sure, but not one for celebration. I sadly didn’t realize this until the candles were lit. And while we smiled and sang, reality washed over my heart, and I came to see how one so young can fail to be strong on days like today.

What did you so seriously and intently wish? Someday I will ask you.

Today I carry in my heart two pictures, the beautiful smile that most of the time so readily appears and the boy whom hope has left behind.

I struggle with whether to even share this much as I want to tuck our story away, protect it as ours, hide it from the harsh judgment of the bright light of day, but in it there is a reality that we all must face. Within it is a call to love that will break our hearts.

“So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them.  For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you.  He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Deut 31:6

Last night we received word that we have been granted an audience and an ear in front of key decision makers within two different governments beginning on Monday.  As the weekend closes in around us please be praying that hearts thousands of miles away will be aligned with God’s will, that He will go before us and move this mountain, and that He will bring this sweet boy home as our son. I am awestruck by what God has done thus far, to be standing at this place. Adoption has been closed between our countries for 10 years. We stand in a position to possibly make history and it’s humbling to be playing even the tiniest part in this enormous story by just making ourselves available. Please, please will you be part of it too? Can we storm the gates of heaven with prayers over the next four days, prayers that God will do the impossible and officially and legally make us his family? He has already transformed our hearts to recognize it. We need the courts recognize it as well.

“Are you going to be ok if this doesn’t happen?” my husband asked me last night.

“I guess I’ll have to be.”

“That’s not really an answer,” he said.

This was never my idea in the first place so if God has turned my heart from fear of opening our home to the terror of a homecoming never realized I have to trust that He will heal my heart from that prayer left unanswered as well. This is not about me at all any more if in fact it ever was. This is about a boy who is hurting. This is about a boy for whom God must have a mighty plan. I am finding that the weeping hot mess of a woman from February and March has been fortified, is filled with passion, fiercely strong and ready to fight.

Wouldn’t this make a magnificent, holy, 15th birthday present from his Father. The knowledge that he is no longer alone in this world. The Day, this Tuesday, is circled on the calendar. I know He’s able. I know He can. Will you join us in praying that He will? Our son needs brought home.

To be continued…again

“The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.””

Exodus 14:14 NLT

“Rather, cling tightly to the Lord your God as you have done until now.”

Joshua 23:8 NLT

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT

“I am the Lord, the God of all the peoples of the world. Is anything too hard for me?”

Jeremiah 32:27 NLT

“Then he said to me, “This is what the Lord says to Zerubbabel: It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. Nothing, not even a mighty mountain, will stand in Zerubbabel’s way; it will become a level plain before him!”

Zechariah 4:6 NLT

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”

Ephesians 3:20 NLT

““But forget all that— it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”

Isaiah 43:18-19 NLT

I’m asking for a friend…

I am coming to you today with an ask that I don’t usually make here but I feel compelled to try to help a dear friend, a woman who is standing in the gap for 13 boys whose mothers’ can’t or won’t.  I want to ask for your prayers, and also let you know about a specific opportunity to support my dear friends Luis and Nuvia who are house parents at the orphanage in Guatemala. I have spent many hours in their home over the course of the years that I have visited the orphanage. These are remarkable people who have given up their lives in the care of the boys in their home and I have come to love them dearly.

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This has been a challenging year for them because of some medical issues that have come up in their family. About 10 days ago Nuvia fainted and after examining her the doctors think she may have had a stroke. There are more tests that need to be done to determine what caused this and what care or treatment she may need going forward.

One of the biggest needs in this season at Casa Bernabé is to find ways we can better support and come alongside the staff there. The Casa Bernabé staff work incredibly hard doing jobs that are so difficult. They are all there because they feel called by God to this work, and each of them loves the jobs they’ve chosen, but this life is not without its challenges. One of those challenges is that all of them could be doing other jobs outside of Casa Bernabé and earning more money than they do working in a children’s home. The salaries of the CB staff do not currently allow most of them to save for unforeseen medical events like the situation Luis and Nuvia are currently facing. This is something their board is hoping to address and improve in the future, but for now, I want to share this need with you and ask you to pray about helping in any way you can.

There are a series of 10 tests Nuvia’s doctors want to run to figure out what is going on. Yesterday she had a multitude of blood tests done and today she will be having an MRI and an electroencephalogram. (Please be praying for peace though this entire process.) The cost of this testing will be $750, and that amount is beyond what Luis and Nuvia can afford at this time.

If any of you are interested in helping cover part of the cost of this testing for Nuvia, you can do so by clicking here. Your tax-deductible donation will be made through Love Runners.  No amount is too small, each dollar has the ability, when combined cooperatively, to have much larger impact. Cooperative giving is how Love Runners accomplishes meeting these needs.  “This is what it’s all about for us, serving in the immediate.”

We are also asking for your prayers for Nuvia’s health. Please pray for a clear diagnosis and course of treatment in her next few appointments. The boys love her, and we want to see her restored to her full health as soon as possible.
nuvia esperanza

This was not my plan

Nineteen months ago, I got on a plane with my 14 year old and we headed south to Guatemala…the great unknown, an adventure, following a dream and a calling.

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By Wednesday, day 5 of our trip, I was pretty sure we would write this off as a “learning experience.” An amazing time but I was ready to be back home, back to my comfort zone, back to my own language. I wasn’t sure we would be back. And then this happened…

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Sponsorship…and this…something so much bigger…

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I can only tell you that in the moment that he hugged me something happened. A hole that I didn’t even know was empty was filled. My heart was wrecked and overflowing at the same time by this young man who has never known a family outside of the orphanage. His, a heart-wrenching story that we didn’t know until after the fact. At a point when I was wondering what I was doing there, feeling like I was floundering, to get an answer to prayer, and be an answer to prayer…God is so good! I didn’t go to Guatemala thinking this would happen. I would have not believed that a 13 year old boy would so capture my heart in the span of seconds. I would not have thought that now I would worry for him, worry for his future in a country that is so poverty stricken. (excerpt from An aching heart)

And then we were home and time passed, and normal-ish resumed it’s dominion. We wrote letters, mailed gifts, and sent prayers heavenward. We nurtured and fostered a relationship despite the miles and language barriers. We were also smack in the middle of navigating having a senior and a freshman, our lives full of wonderful teenage fueled chaos. And then, because God has a sense of humor we moved for the 2nd time in 3 years. (The sight of moving boxes now causes PTSD and I am pretending our storage unit full of I don’t even know what doesn’t exist.)  Smack in the middle of state playoff football, and just weeks before Christmas I was offered an empty spot to go back…

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“I’ll go.” “No, I can’t go.” “Ok, I will go.” “No, it’s just not going to work.” This was the back and forth of my recent decision to go back to Guatemala. I had said no to this trip at least 5 times for very valid reasons and yet the opportunity and question “Will you go?” continued to come back around. And then I got an early Christmas gift from Guatemala with a note that read in part “May God bless you for all you have done in my life. I love you very much.” And suddenly none of those reasons mattered anymore. The only thing that mattered was this boy. (excerpt from On Again, Off Again, On Again)

Wheels downs in Guatemala just one year after my first visit…and my number one priority was sitting at the top of the hill. My reason for returning.  I couldn’t wait to see him.  When he came to the door, here was this grown boy, looking eye to eye with me. Still shy, but with a smile for me that made his eyes shine and my mama-heart melt. As the week went on, from across the church or the campus, his eyes would seek mine out and a smile and wave were quick to follow.

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What can I tell about this place except that it will break you. This sickening feeling of broken-hearted-joyfulness is one that I just want to hold on to, to not forget, to not let fade, even as the cover lays closed on the photo album and days turn to weeks. God is doing a mighty work within the walls of The orphanage and the walls of my heart. I cannot escape being overwhelmed by that. This is the collective experience of two trips and many a servants’ heart, not only mine. Tears. Lots and lots of tears. Not sweet, leaking eye tears but ugly, crying sobs. Broken hurts but broken heals. My heart has been mended back together, stronger and patched with the tapestry of this beautiful country, the smiles of a group of boys and love from this woven together family. It changes you, being broken, and not everyone will understand it. This shy boy, who’s simple words have shattered me has also shown me a love within myself that I don’t understand. A love I didn’t know I was capable of, a love that is bigger than me and hopes in the impossible. A love that I wasn’t looking for but now can’t imagine living without, whatever that ends up looking like. (excerpt from How Was It?)

And then a door opened, an opportunity to do what I love, a chance to advocate for all of the children living within the walls of the orphanage, a new job, a new adventure, and another trip south only 3 mo after my last visit. God had been busy in that short span of time. Working overtime on the hearts in our household, moving mountains, opening doors before we even had a chance to knock, doing the things that He does best, and the things that only He can do. And of course, my heart almost bust, when once again I laid eyes on this smile.

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Nineteen months ago adoption could not have been further from our radar. Today, it is a constant request laid before the Lord. We would love nothing more than to make this “official,” to bring this sweet boy home, to be a forever family in one place, to share his dreams, his fears, to struggle together, share the monotony, the hard days, and celebrate on the good ones. Right now this is still an impossibility as adoption remains closed and my heart is grieved beyond measure.

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I see this sweet little face, just after he arrived at the orphanage, and wonder why he has had to wait all these years only to face red-tape and the declaration of “impossible”and I am frustrated and at the same time amazed at what God has been weaving together for the past 15 years, all that He has done to get us to this point in time, standing at the threshold of the unknown, unimagined, unplanned,  that we might play a small part in this God-sized story.

We stand confident that we don’t live under the banner of impossible with God, and that is where we are placing our hope, our faith, and we know that this is not impossible but the clock is ticking ever more loudly these days. I am sharing this today because we need prayer. The only way this will happen is through God’s hand and in His timing and we seem to have hit the wall.  Would you join us in prayer?

Orphan care is just as much about pulling a child out of a broken story as it is about you being pulled into one. You will love more passionately, hurt more deeply, grieve more bitterly and celebrate more joyously throughout the process of caring for vulnerable children than you ever thought imaginable. This is the hard reality of where orphan care begins, where it takes you, what it requires of you and how it will break you. We must be willing to walk down this path, for their sake. As we do, our embracing of their brokenness paints a vivid picture of how Jesus embraced ours. ~ Jason Johnson

No matter what, we are family and in two short days, for the first time we will all be together in one place. I am not sure my heart will survive.

To be continued…

Living in Spanglish with my heart lost someplace in between

Last Thursday evening I found myself doing a form of the chicken dance, with a four year old I had just met, on the jet bridge of of my ATL to CLE flight.  I think I am losing my mind although she looked at me and said “I like you.” So hey, at least I am making new friends and keeping stranger’s kids entertained. To this point in the day, it had been 10 hours of extreme closeness with strangers and long lines and hurry and heartache as I replayed the previous 3 days in my mind and the miles slipped away.

I was returning from a short trip to Guatemala and Casa Bernabe as I have accepted a new job.  I am the new Development Director for Friends of Children Everywhere, the stateside non-profit that provides approximately 80% of the funding for Casa Bernabe.  And while I am so, so excited about this, the weight of what this actually means is settling like a mantle on my shoulders.

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The amazing combined boards of FOCE and Funproni.  A group of individuals dedicated to caring for the needs of the children at Casa Bernabe. We were celebrating being together at an Italian restaurant owned by a German family in Guatemala City. Hmmmm….

During my first visit to Casa Bernabe, about a year and a half ago,  I was struck by the image of this place of care and respite literally being like a city on a hill.  Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world – like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.  No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket.  Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. “ This place is a beacon of hope in a city that is filled with so much hopelessness.  A place for these traumatized children to feel safe and loved.

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According to a recent article  in Christianity Today, in 2015, Guatemala had the second-highest rate of child murders in the world. Of the crimes against children that get reported—including murder, rape, kidnapping—most go unpunished (88%). An estimated 2 in 5 children are malnourished. Among indigenous children, that rises to 4 in 5. This is the load that these children at Casa Bernabe are carrying with them.

My heart nearly broke during a visit earlier this year when I watched four young brothers being received into Casa Bernabe.  The care with which not only the staff, but the other children, showered them with, to immediately being healing the broken places that they came from touched the deepest part of my soul.

My heart is so raw and to be quite honest it is exhausting.  It hurts to feel so much…

I came face to face with this ache again this trip and my heart has continued to be heavy with the hurt since I have been home. These boys are the same age and one has a hope and a future and the other…well…I will not stop until he does as well.

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This is why I am doing what I am doing.  These are the faces of my passion, of my heart and there is much work to be done.

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I would welcome the opportunity for opening the door to conversations so that I can share more of this passion with you. You may find that it captivates your heart in the same way it has captured mine.  If you would like to get on my calendar for the coming year to have me come and share, with your church or organization, all of the exciting things that we have accomplished thus far at Casa Bernabe and the needs that we have going forward I would be excited to do that as well! God is writing quite a story.

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Haz Cosas Pequeñas Con Gran Amor

A lot can change in a year…when I got to Casa Bernabe, the first thing I did was head up the hill to see CJ.*  I had been looking forward to this day for the last year, and when he came to the door, here was this grown boy, looking eye to eye with me.  Still shy, but with a smile for me that made his eyes shine and my mama-heart melt. As the week went on, from across the church or the campus, his eyes would seek mine out and a smile and wave were quick to follow. To be there again, not as a stranger this time but as someone who belonged to him, I just don’t have words…

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I still remember being told, as I walked in oblivion up the hill on the day I met him, “He just needs a little love.” That was about 5 minutes before God completely rocked my world and wrecked my little existence.  Since that moment, we, as a family, having been pouring love into his life every possible chance we get.

To love and be loved and to belong to someone, even if it’s a long way away…a year ago this 13 year old boy was struggling, he was praying for a family, hungry for a relationship.  To hear how much better he is doing now, to hear that he is more self-confident and outgoing, and to know that his easy smile has returned over the last year was humbling to me. Loving from a distance is so hard and there have been many days when I wished I could do so much more but small things with great love have made a tremendous impact…

Haz Cosas Pequeñas Con Gran Amor…Do Small Things With Great Love

Maybe it’s a bag of jerky, a pack of sharpies, or a t-shirt, some photographs, a handful of letters, a whole lot of love and prayers for the right words to say to this sweet child…small things with great love, packaged up and sent south to Guatemala, every single chance I have gotten over the last year.

A lot of different people have said it in a lot of similar ways because its truth runs deep.  We can’t change the world, but we can certainly change the world for one person. It doesn’t have to be hard…it doesn’t have to be big…

If you are interested in learning more about visiting Casa Bernabe, sponsoring a child at the orphanage, or contributing to our November 2018 Casa Bernabe trip as we head back down to Love Boldly, please let me know. I would love to share this passion with you.

In the end, love doesn’t just keep thinking about it or planning for it.  Simply put: Love does! ~ Bob Goff

IMG_3199-1Our newest t-shirt design because it’s one of the biggest lessons I have learned…God can take these small, seemingly insignificant things and magnify them beyond what we could imagine. This design is only available at DoGoodStudio.org and all proceeds will benefit our November 2018 Casa Bernabe trip.

Read about our latest trip here.

 

 

*names have been changed to protect identity

How was it?

I am home. I have been for over a week now. The suitcases are empty.  The coffee has all been delivered.  The laundry is (almost) caught up. The house is (almost) back in order. The pictures have all been printed, photo-journaled, and the photo album on its new coffee table home, a display and a reminder. And yet here I sit, still trying to figure out what happened 10 days and 1900 miles ago.  I was not even going to go on this trip and now, as it was last year, I am afraid that life won’t ever be the same again.  Then again, I am even more afraid that it will.  Does that even make sense?

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“How was it?” A question so easily asked, but the weight of the explanation that it compels me to give is so large.  A full emotional explanation would be impossible. The far reaching effects and implications of this week are continuing to unfold and make themselves just barely visible. Whisps of smoke and hope that slip through clenched fingers just when you think you are able to begin to make sense of them.

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What can I tell about this place except that it will break you. This sickening feeling of broken-hearted-joyfulness is one that I just want to hold on to, to not forget, to not let fade, even as the cover lays closed on the photo album and days turn to weeks.  God is doing a mighty work within the walls of Casa Bernabe and the walls of my heart.  I cannot escape being overwhelmed by that. This is the collective experience of two trips and many a servants’ heart, not only mine.  Tears. Lots and lots of tears. Not sweet, leaking eye tears but ugly, crying sobs. Broken hurts but broken heals. My heart has been mended back together, stronger and patched with the tapestry of this beautiful country, the smiles of a group of boys and love from this woven together family. It changes you, being broken, and not everyone will understand it.

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This shy boy, who’s simple words have shattered me has also shown me a love within myself that I don’t understand. A love I didn’t know I was capable of, a love that is bigger than me and hopes in the impossible. A love that I wasn’t looking for but now can’t imagine living without, whatever that ends up looking like.

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The pride of having his sponsorship publicly recognized at our “thank you” night.

This was a hard trip.  It was both emotionally and physically draining. My body and my heart would hurt at the end of the day.  As a team we accomplished much, crossing many items off of a “to do” list and yet barley scratching the surface. We spent a day hauling metal roofing up the hill towards the clinic, being able to take part in a double blessing as Casa Samuel got a new roof and the old roofing was to be given away to families outside the orphanage who could use it.   Painting the art room and offices were a welcome change of project after the roofing. Paintbrushes and rollers aren’t nearly as heavy as sheet metal. The monotony of a wall preferable to the monotony of a hill.

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In addition, throughout the week, members of our team took turns traveling two hours away to build a 10 x 10 block structure so that three children from Casa Bernabe could be reunited with their family. These days were tough, filled with manual labor that our bodies and minds were not accustomed to.  On my day, concrete day, I hauled countless buckets of sand and gravel down a steep and twisty path and then pulled buckets of water, necessary for the concrete, up from the well until my muscles protested and ached. As I walked the hill throughout the day, I watched young girls wash laundry by hand, young boys carry back breaking loads of wood to sell, old women cook over fires on the ground, and at the end of the day I walked away carrying the weight of their reality.  There is so much about this day that my heart continues to struggle though reconciling. And yet, there is the certain knowledge that God’s love was evident in every bucket of sand and water we hauled.

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As hard as some days were though the trip was filled with the lightness of laughter, the sheer unbridled joy from the kids that is so contagious.  It was hard, but we had fun. Be it through a mouth full of marshmallows while playing chubby-bunny with the kids on the basketball court, pitting team against team during an afternoon of paintball with a group of teenage boys, sharing a meal of a Big Mac and fries, coloring a picture, kicking a soccer ball, or celebrating the week with an ice cream party and some whip cream antics, we had fun! New relationships were built and others were grown.  The language barrier disappears in these situations – laughter is universal! Love trumps all!

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Chubby-Bunny

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It’s universal, of course the whip cream is supposed to go right into your mouth!

The highlight of my week though was not some big, sparkly, grand gesture moment. My highlight was being, not just invited, but welcomed, into a home close to my heart, given space on the couch to sit shoulder to shoulder, surrounded by family, to do something as simple as watch a movie.  As I sat there, the awkward, visiting American, who has a tendency to just smile and nod dumbly was gone. God worked this beautiful moment (with a little help from English movie subtitles) that touched the deepest part of my heart where we were sharing life, normal, everyday, life and I didn’t want it to end. This moment wasn’t planned or staged or organized and for that I am so grateful. Come in friend and share life.

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The boys with their new towels.  Thank you Love Runners community!
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I love this kid!
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Thanks to the Love Runners community for their generous giving that made this television (and so many more donations this week) a possibility!

I wasn’t going on this trip. The timing, financing, and lack of preparation were all wrong.  Saying no to this last minute opportunity to fill a vacant spot, just 3 weeks after the holidays, in the midst of moving our family of 4 and living in the mess of major home renovations, was certainly understandable. But I went and now I am home and I know that these few paragraphs and strung together words can’t do justice to what God is (and has been) doing.  The picture is so big.

More than anything, here is what I want to convey to you from this trip. I don’t want to be Jonah. Traveling in the belly of a whale, while more spacious than economy class, is not preferable to being available and obedient to God. “No” is many times the easy answer.  “No” may even be the answer that makes the most sense in our orderly lives, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the right answer. Two questions that He has asked me in my past have been resurrected and keep cycling through my head.  First, “If not you, then who?” and “Do you trust me?” Seriously God?   This wasn’t new information, just a much-needed reminder.

Physically, emotionally, and spiritually, I gave more of myself during this trip than I would have imagined possible, but you just do it.  You keep moving, hauling one more piece of roofing up the hill or one more bucket of sand down, you keep saying “Yes” to what God asks you to do.  You give until it hurts, love until you think your heart will break, and God makes it possible to just keep going, giving, moving, serving and loving.  In the exhaustion, physical and emotional,  you begin to see more of Him and less of you.

God needs you. It’s ok to be wary, be cautious, be scared. Just make yourself available.

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Take me where love is needed.