Loving Well

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The girls gathered around the 2018 calendar as I hung it up on January 1st and began to add the dates from my own crisp new planner.  It’s fun to see the all the months at the same time.  Every birthday and vacation and visitor is added as we learn of them, and knowing what’s coming makes the girls extremely happy!  They love to be in the “know”!

Looking at the events in the month of January, a newer girl read out loud with terror in her voice, “Dental team with Dr. Dave and Mr. Tom!”  I continued to write without even looking behind me and lightheartedly added, “Dr. Dave is the best, only the best for you!” 

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Then the other girls began to add….

“Yea, he’s the best”

“He’s so nice”

“It doesn’t hurt”

“I mean you can cry, but he won’t make you cry.”

 

That last phrase killed me.  I almost dropped my pen.  That is the kid definition of safety…

 

“You can cry, but he won’t make you cry.”

 

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In the past ALL our girls were terrified of the dentist.  Getting dental care was traumatic, and not only for the girls. The caregivers felt their pain and cried tears of compassion with them as they winced, screamed and wiggled with tight lips and clenched fists. Many left the dental chair without ever receiving care.  Their fear simply wouldn’t allow it. 

 

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Over the past couple years, the dental team with Barnabas Task has worked to build relationships and trust among our girls.  They hold hands, say prayers, cry compassionate tears and always tell the truth. That’s empowering!  They love well.

 

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And what we know for sure is that “Loving well extinguishes Fear!” 

 

To this team: we are so grateful for you and your compassionate servants who are not only healing teeth and gums, but removing infection that, if left untreated, can snuff out a life.

 

Love snuffs out fear. Love always wins. 

 

A look back at 2017

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There is no way to capture a year in a snapshot, a bullet list, a 8.5X11 piece of paper and each year as I am faced with the task of doing so, I am in awe of how much has really happened and how difficult it is to nutshell.  

God has been so good.  

YOU are amazing!  

This work is special and significant and we will never stop trying to remember,

to look back,

to count our blessings

and to live with a heart of gratitude.  

So here is to another year, We are full of gratitude and hope!  We are dreaming big and we can't wait to share it with you!

A Reason to Celebrate

There are layers of pain.  Many complicated layers.  There is an oppression that permeates every aspect of the lives that are affected by it. Children who have been victims of great trauma are filled with fear and operate out of a place of fear almost always! 

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There is only one cure. 

Love!  

Love covers a multitude of past failures,

traumatic experiences, and

truly erases fear. 

Seems simple and it is,

but what does that look like? 

How do we do it? 

Who has the strength and energy for

Wild Love

in the middle of extreme darkness? 

 

We have learned a few things in our years of service.  

The first thing is that we don’t know very much AND

that all our best ideas and solutions are born in prayer. 

 

We’ve also learned to celebrate things that should be normal but aren’t -

like sleeping through the night,

regular meals,

giggles, hugs,

“please” and “thank you,”

“I’m sorry,”

telling the truth,

taking turns, sharing,

a soft answer,

moments of quiet,

and the ability to give a gift and receive one.

Each one of these are miracles that must be celebrated!

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So when the girls decided to make a birthday party the moment they learned their newest sister had never had one…I melted. 

 

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Most every one of them had their first cake in our house. Many didn’t have a birthdate, and one little girl didn’t even have a name when she arrived.

 

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They made the decorations. 

Purchased candy with their snack money. 

Created gifts and hand written cards.

 

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This is the big stuff. 

This was empathy, compassion, initiative, kindness. 

This was LOVE!

 

I knew that if they were stepping out in love,

it was because they knew what it looked like

that they had received enough and healed enough to be ready to give. 

 

New Hope was founded on the idea of dreaming big dreams for our girls. 

The biggest dream we have for them is

that they would Love God AND

love others well! 

 

Evidence of this is true reason to celebrate!

"THE GOOD STUFF"

 

 

The last year has been filled with so many amazing growth spurts for New Hope in terms of facility, staff, and the number of girls we serve.  It has blown our mind and made us sing and dance and cry humble tears of awe and gratitude.  We celebrated a year of firsts in our new home, “Casa Luz y Esperanza" - House of Light and Hope. 

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We have served over 20 girls in our intake room since it opened in March, and we are now serving close to 100 girls each week through our outreach programs.

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Our workshop is now onsite and running eight industrial machines, thus providing vulnerable moms with a dignified way to provide for their kids.  This is a true answer to prayer!

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But there are growing pains, as well.  As we embrace the new, we reflect on the best practices of our past that we never want to leave behind.

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In a recent staff meeting, we remembered the paper chains that hung in our first house, “Nueva Esperanza”- New Hope.  They hung as concrete reminders of our answered prayers.  We prayed over our simplest requests to our biggest dreams that we wrote on strips of paper and then assembled into chains as they were answered.

Mama Negra suggested that we return to this practice, saying, "May we NEVER forget where every good and perfect gift comes from.” Everyone agreed.  We remembered how we prayed in everything from our rice to our refrigerator and then our land.  God never once failed us. 

With the new facility, monthly finances are tighter than ever and it is time to “pray in the provision.” 

Saturday evening, the phone rang.  When I noticed it was Mama Negra, I hoped it wasn’t drama.  It wasn’t!  She was audibly glowing, beaming, and so excited to tell me a God Story. 

She had been praying for milk.  Her weekly food budget wasn’t stretching like before, and there was a company that had delivered milk once and had promised a donation of milk every three months.  But we hadn’t heard from them in a year!  She began to pray for them and pray for milk and pray that God would supply the necessary funds to feed the girls well in her new kitchen.  She specifically prayed that God would remind that company of their commitment to supply our girls with milk.  And not just the expired, inferior quality milk but “The Good Stuff."

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After not hearing from them for a year, on Saturday evening they had shown up with 20 boxes of milk, and it was “The Good Stuff!”  She was overwhelmed.  Every donor likes to have their gift received with gratitude, but they weren’t prepared for her emotional response to their donation.  She had to explain.  “You see, God used you to answer our prayers, and this milk is proof of His provision, His love, His perfect gifts - "The Good Stuff!” 

Another link in the chain, more proof of His goodness, faithfulness and favor.

Hang it up so we never forget!

Why do we ever worry about tomorrow?  We do we fret?  All the “Good Stuff" comes from Him, and He never fails!

"Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God, who created all the lights in the heavens.  He never changes or casts a shifting shadow."  - James 1:17

 

The Rock and Our Reminders

By Corinne Carver

It took place just a few days after I arrived to see the girls that had captured my heart during my year spent with them.

Joy came as she does daily to the house and the moment she began to share this idea with me I was all ears…

There’s something about Joy that is so beautiful: her ability to come up with meaningful, thoughtful, creative and overall signature activities and events for the girls.

I was sure this idea was going to be no different.

She said we would be going on an adventure, that we would go to the river, that we would go searching for rocks.

Although I am always all for adventure, and I love a great day by the riverside, you have to know that what rivers and adventures entail in little old La Vega is much different than what you would normally expect…

Because the river, well, it's usually littered with an unfortunate amount of trash and some interesting characters from time to time.

But still… I was hooked, I was ready, I was already anticipating what these rocks could mean.

Before we left, she began to explain a bit to me about the meaning these rocks would take on once we found them and brought them home with us.

She started to cast a vision of how these rocks would come to be reminders and take the shape of memories that the girls have cultivated and lived throughout the last couple years. Her hope was that we would remember together what God has done, what He has given us, and continue to dream, ask, and pray for more.

So when we loaded the littles into the van and took them closer to our old neighborhood where our mansion on the hill still sits, we huddled them together on the river bank and began to prep them before they began their search.

You could tell that the girls were already gripping onto the chance to be in a less familiar territory, exploring and searching and finding and discovering together.

We let them go free and occasionally had to reign them in from time to time, some a little more daring and prone to straying than others.

By the end of our time, girls had stones piled up on their bellies, holding them in the pouches they made from their shirts and stuffing as many as possible into their pockets and little drawstring bags they had brought.

We rounded them up into the van and began our journey back, but not without stopping for some lunch. At the table we began sharing stories at the table of all the changes each girl had gone through since coming to New Hope. It was the beginning of what these rocks would mean to the girls, mean to me, mean to us.

And it wasn’t till one of my last days with them we were able to finally gather in our upstairs living room and begin to name the stones that already felt like they held such significance. We gathered together in a circle, and Joy began sharing her heart, inspiring each of us to dig into a space with Jesus where He would tell us what it is that we have received from Him and the story behind it all.

I remember closing my eyes, but before I could even begin to ask them a word came so suddenly, so simply, so sweetly.

It was a word that seemed all too familiar, even vague and obvious to most, but I knew exactly what He was speaking to my heart, the stories behind this name He was giving to my last year and a half of chaos and beauty and trial and triumph.

And so we began sharing.

We began picking up markers and making permanent the reminders that these rocks would be to us so that we would be sure to remember, and to share, and to reencounter these God stories that were so precious as they began to be spoken out loud.

Girls began to share words like “family” and “friendship” and “joy” and “new life."

They also put words like “fridge” and “new house” and “patio.” These represented the tangible, material reminders that also spoke so truly of God’s faithfulness and realness to all of us.

We remembered together the things that we had like dirt floors and water tanks and the things that we have like trampolines and fruit trees and decorated rooms.

The girls were wide eyed and excited as one began a story that they all knew, each jumping on the inside, wishing they were the one to be telling the story, just as excited and delighted in the evidence of God’s way of providing that we had received together.

And when it came to me, I almost hesitated to share my word because it seemed so unoriginal and typical and obvious…

But once I finally choked it out I couldn’t help but explain what God had shown me behind it…

The girls waited patiently as I began to speak it out…

“Love.”

“My word is Love.”

And then I explained to them…

“It’s this love that God has for me that has convinced me of my love for all of you.

I wouldn’t be able to be here without this love. I would have never come, let alone come back. It is this love that has made me so sure…. So sure of what I am meant to do.

Because… 

I had to know I was loved in order to love each of you.”

And it was in that statement I was brought back to the moment when I knew I had to be in their lives…

The first time I had come to pick the lice out of their curly locks and walk their little selves to school each morning and venture to their homes and meet their families on the hill.

It was this love that has been compelling me all along, and it started with my ability to receive what the Father has always had for me, a love that has been bestowed and will always be meant to be given away.

This love that we are all made of, that He is made of, that the girls are made of.

I couldn’t think of a greater reminder to be given.

And as I wrote “love” on the rock before me, I hoped that the girls would be able to recall the story behind each time they reached for it… The love that has changed me, changed them, and allows us to change the world.

To be reminded of such a love…

It frees us to then give it away, to remember the purpose as to why we have been loved in the first place.

To be the love that saved us to someone else.

And what a beautiful recollection that will always be.

We finished our circle time with remaining blank rocks, but only because we believe our God continues to give, continues to write our stories, continues to pour into us and New Hope and our lives that so desperately need His vision and favor and kindness.

It was yet another symbol of faith and belief that He will meet us in our present and future, providing for needs we aren’t even yet aware of, but that He is already anticipating to give us… Not because He has to, but because we are His…

And again I am reminded of just how unconditional He truly is.

And I pray that these girls will continue to recognize the Father and search for these rocks daily, finding comfort and hope in what they truly mean. 

The victory in vulnerability

Some days we get word that we will be receiving a new girl. Some days we get word that we will be receiving two.

Like the day that they arrived.

The first one was escorted in around lunch time. After being welcomed and having her papers signed, she ate an entire plate of rice and beans with a fork and her hand.

She was dressed so much older, and I marveled at how she transformed back into a little girl when I gave her clothes that simply covered her body instead of displaying it.

The scars all over her skin prompted so many questions in my mind. I wanted to wipe them off. To hug them away. To make them disappear along with the memories that put them there. The things she had been forced to do made my breath catch.

As I was handing her necessities, the second one arrived.

She was so young. She escaped her situation on her own, for she decided she had had enough. She walked herself right up to the door of the people she thought could do something, and she begged for help.

We spent the first night sitting on the floor in the intake room together. The intake room is meant to be a place of sanctuary, where girls girls can process and recover from events and harsh realities. Often times they arrive raw and raging, sick both physically and emotionally and desire to share details about whatever situation brought them here. Therefore, immediately moving them in with the others can stir up more than wanted.

"I have no one," the younger girl sobbed. Words that sting coming out of the mouths of adults. The fact that she had already come to this realization in life brought tears to my eyes. She longed to be in our home, for she desired a sense of normalcy and belonging and felt she could find that here.

The older girl wanted nothing to do with the home our little family shares.

Home.

Family.

Words that don't have the same connotations for her as they do for me. She couldn't understand my intentions when I smiled and used those words in my description of what we offer.

So often I find myself reminding the girls that home and family are what we have here. But lately I've seriously questioned my tendency to do that due to their tendency to associate the words with meanings I don't intend.

I say home and they remember instability, a structure with bare floors, empty plates and a location for memories they'd rather forget.

I say family and they remember abandonment, conditional love, zero tolerance, broken relationships and abuse.

And the reality is, I can't expect them to magically rewire the connection between experiences they've had and feelings that have resulted from them. I can't magically change their perspective on life simply because I give them a hug and tell them they are safe now.

It's a process.

Just like everything.

Some days I feel like we are taking ten steps forward.

Some days I feel like we may never find the road again.

And these two little ones who arrived on the same day...

Their process has been so amazing to watch.

I've seen them go from crying through their first few nights to comforting others crying through first nights of their own. I've seen them mesh into the routine and the normal, adding more sparks and joy than there were before. I've seen them love Jesus, worshipping Him with their little hands raised high and retelling stories of miracles He has performed.

They themselves are living miracles. 

I heard them testify just yesterday.

A dear friend brought visitors to the Luz y Esperanza safe house, and our girls soon learned that these visitors had stories worth sharing.

We sat around the fire pit intently hanging on every word our new friends said, for they related to the lives the girls have lived. They understood the loss of parents. They understood the curveballs life can throw. They understood uprooting from "normal" and being placed in a group home. Circumstances in their own lives placed them in one many years ago, and they're both still living there at 20 and 21 years old.

The girls listened wide-eyed as these two beautiful, young women who appeared as though they had it all together shared the ways that their lives have been torn apart. Through their openness, these strangers transformed into inspirations. Through their willingness to relive their hurt and experiences, it was another step towards healing for some.

They became an inspiration to the little girl whose parents also died of HIV.

They became an inspiration to the little girl who also witnessed significant acts of violence done to her own family members.

They became an inspiration to the little girl who hasn't been convinced that this family of ours could ever become hers.

Our two new friends encouraged them and told them the secret to surviving the things that have happened to them.

The Lord will use for good what man meant for evil. 
It's okay to not be okay.
Don't try to deal with your grief alone.
Run to Jesus.

Then came their question for the girls:
Does anyone want to share something with us?

And those two little sparks of life who arrived on the same day in January eagerly raised their hands to give their testimony.

I listened as the older one went first and shared the anger she carried when she first entered our house. She shook her head as she remembered the person she was before. She smiled at me and recalled how many times I held her when she sobbed, and she declared that her life is full of joy now.

The second girl, the younger one, raised her hand too.

I listened as she described the anxiety that plagued her mind and the tears that filled her days of her first week here at Luz y Esperanza. She told parts of her story to our new friends and the other girls, and she did so with her unique and vibrant way of speaking.

"When I first got here, I cried all the time over not having friends, and now I have friends in the girls here," she said.  "Jesus answered my prayer of friendship, and I have a friend in Him too."

Both girls shared from places of deep hurt that were now filled with living hope.

And I watched one who had just arrived a couple of weeks ago hang onto every word they were saying. The cycle of sharing and encouraging continued.

These girls are ever-changing. How amazing it all is. 

To see them begin to understand the meanings of family and home...
To see them recall the days of the past and hardly recognize themselves...
To see them envision the possibilities of the future...
To see them share their struggles with others in hopes of the chance to reassure...

Our biggest opportunities to witness can come from our deepest places of pain, of shame, of darkness. When we share the valleys with others, when we tell them how we pulled ourselves up out of places that we once lived in, a glimmer of hope can spark.

And to those who are willing to share, to converse with those who may learn from you...

Your willingness to be vulnerable is a already a victory.

Through sharing, you have said that your vulnerability does not matter more than your testimony or the potential impact on others. You are allowing someone to watch as you sit down with humility and tell of what you have had to overcome. Places of brokenness seem to yield the most beautiful moments of connection.

That is what will change the world. Even if it's just the world of one.

His Construction Zone

I walked into a construction zone as if I had never anticipated it. 

It’s true, I had heard that there were projects going on. They were on their third team from the states and about to receive another in just a few days. I knew the plans, I was excited by what I was going to see.

But I didn’t ready myself for all that I would see when I opened the iron gate that enclosed our property.

I had to weave through piles of sand and rock and drying cement.

I dodged wood structures reflecting the walls that would one day be solid and standing.

By the time I reached the house I was already covered in dust and clay.

I saw strangers all around that looked like me mixed with locals who were also part of the construction team. I greeted them as I walked through but my eyes darted as I searched for the ones my heart had truly come for.

I wanted to bring out my camera, wanted to somehow capture our interactions for the first time in months but I decided against it.

I wanted both hands free, both arms open.

And as I began walking through the front doors of the house,

I began to see the ones I knew... The one's that had captured my heart so many times before. 

There were only a few, the rest were returning from school but it was enough for me to be filled with so many emotions… familiar and foreign.

I grabbed them by twos… I held them so close… Some of them bigger than before… growing into themselves and looking more and more like little women.

Minutes later I turned around and saw the little ones pouring through the gates I had just entered back through. I saw them and my heart leapt.

So. Much. Love.

And I yelled to them, called out to them, and began to walk back outside where dust and sand swirled in the air.

And then they began to run.

They ran to me.

And my eyes filled with tears as they had almost daily when I lived with them just shy of 7 months ago.

Before I could move towards them any more they had already reached me...

They were already in my arms again.

And it felt so familiar.

It was as if no time had passed.

It was special, but there was this normality about seeing them that also made me realize the depth in our relationships reflected a reunion that didn’t feel so out of the ordinary.

It was as if this reunion was always meant to take place and we were just stepping back into each other’s lives, each other’s stories in the most natural way.

And I watched them play later that afternoon.

In that space outside overtaken with dirt and sand.

As teams worked into the night and the girls ran around their projects and messes.

The path to their trampoline littered with scrap wood.

 

The walk up to the house required a bob and weave motion under and over countless latters and makeshift structures.

The volleyball court overtaken by piles of broken rock and cement.

The kitchen shoved into the corner of the house entry way while the permanent one was being built on the other side of hanging tarps and temporary walls.

And I began to see this reality come together as I took in the environment around me and also reflected on the girls and what my relationships with them have taught me.

I began to see their stories, my stories, our stories within this construction site.

All the different areas, aspects, and endeavors taking place in this enclosed area that belongs to them.

I started to see piles of rubble and they began to speak out the brokenness and areas of the past that were marked with darkness and difficulty.

These areas that are being made and remade that speak of the experiences these girls have gone through and the process of healing, restoration, redemption and freedom they are in the midst of.

It’s a now and not yet reality…

The work is still being done.

The cement is still being mixed.

The tile is still being laid.

The beauty is still breaking forth.

But the process is something to behold.

Because it matters.

And it takes an army.

And as I looked out at all the workers I began to see the faces of so many that have walked into these girls lives and been invited into their stories, their realities, their lives that hold so much diversity and value and endurance.

I saw myself walking frantically between each of the projects… Wondering where to start… Trying to identify what needs to be fixed and finished and even forgotten.

But then... He stilled me… Because He told me I was in the piles, too.

And I was being found just like they were.

Found in the mess.

Found amidst the transformation and chaos and labor.

I began to see my own construction site.

And it didn’t seem as dramatic or impossible or intimidating.

Because God’s kindness in bringing in the teams, the back up, the reinforcements in my own life helped me know that these girls aren’t walking without that same reality in their own stories, in their own processes, their own journeys.

And to enter back in during this time made me realize that I still get to be part of it, too.

In whatever way the Lord will allow.

Because with each meal I share with them.

And with every song we sing together.

And with every hug I squeeze them with.

And every kiss that I give their brown cheeks.

I get to be part of it.

Whatever it is...

Whatever stage in the process they’re at.

And I’m not anxious or worried about when it might be over or when I’ll step onto the plane in a little over a week and I’ll have to say goodbye again...

Because they’re still part of me.

And I have to believe I’m still part of them.

In this mix of stories and breakthroughs and victories and battles.

I still feel part of it all.

And I’ll always be able to enter in, that I am certain of, that I have true confidence in.

-Corinne Carver, former intern

An intern's update on the daily

Every time I sit down to write a blog post, I seem to get overwhelmed at how many stories I want to share. Each day brings post-worthy moments, but I can't always find the words to relive them.

So the same process happens again and again. I find myself in these moments FULL of lessons and revelations, but typing letters that form words that form sentences that form a whole story can be daunting.

But I feel the need to share an update about my new normal.

My daily work includes working with New Hope Creations, the New Hope workshop that employs vulnerable mothers. These women receive training, discipleship and an income that allows them to provide for their families with dignity. They begin each day in prayer and in scripture, for the workshop is designed to be more than just a place to work. Our desire is that the women form a community amongst themselves that serves as a safe place to share, grow, pray and find encouragement in.

My role consists of organizing and tracking inventory, checking in with the workshop, keeping up with social media accounts (follow us on Instagram!!) and designing advertising materials for New Hope, New Hope Creations and our products. The proceeds from products sold pour back into New Hope to provide an education and safe house services to girls ages 7-15. Shameless plug: Click here to explore our online store!

And while my primary role is one of business, it wasn't just my mind that made the move to La Vega. My heart for people paved the way, eagerly anticipating the opportunity to attach itself to all the people it could meet. People like my nine little housemates in the Luz y Esperanza safe house who have all hidden little pieces of my heart deep inside of theirs.

Oh, no, my position has never been (and never could be) just a marketing intern. My emotions would never allow it.

So when I'm done with the task list for the day, when the bigs are home from school and ready to run at the track and the littles get home and need help with homework and all of them need love and attention, I play the role of being theirs. I spell words for English homework and ask them about their days as they fall into my lap. I jump on the trampoline and recite endless amounts of handshake games. I remind them of the importance of apologies, table manners and being kind to animals. I cry when I think about us being separated one day and when they display the Lord in ways that prove there is light in darkness.

What precious children they are. What a life we share together.

As we conclude each evening with devotions around our much-used kitchen table, I often reflect on the moments that the day included.

It can be chaos.

Like the other night when nine were all yelling at the exact same time because they desire to be heard and one was scaling a column to escape our teething, two month old puppy and one of them slid across the floor because the same puppy peed where she wasn't supposed to and another one couldn't find her cup of juice anywhere until we noticed it had been hidden under the table and two of the littles were dipping their ham sandwiches in Kool-Aid and the nannies and I couldn't help but laugh.

It can be calm.

Like that same night when our tummies and hearts were full from dinner and devotions and the bigs were finishing homework and the littles were braiding my hair and one was sleeping in my lap and one of the caregivers was talking to one of the girls about her favorite worship music and everything was quiet.

It can be draining.

Like when it was too early one Saturday evening to just put them to bed and one was yelling about not wanting to eat soup for dinner and I was so so sick which is why we had soup in the first place and one took out her frustration and anger on me and I retreated in my room to lay down because my head was spinning and my heart was hurting.

It can be uplifting.

Like when they proudly hand me coloring pages and notes they spent an hour and countless crayons on and one of them writes a sweet song about each caregiver and there are more breakthroughs than breakdowns and smiles appear where they didn't exist before and we have the most spirit-filled prayer time sitting around our kitchen table together.

Some days I can't believe this is the life God has called me to live for this period of time. And the most amazing part is that each day I get to wake up and live it again.

-Lauren Sims, Intern

Princess Sophia

Ruby, our family dog, lived in two family homes during her nine years, but we always said that when we got the girls’ house she would spend her last days there loving and protecting them. 

 

The day finally came that she arrived to the new house, “Luz y Esperanza”, and we were so eager to see the girls love her.  But, much to our dismay, she was not well received.  The girls didn't know how to treat her correctly--they haven't had the best examples of how to treat animals .  They were mean to poor Ruby, and very much out of character, she was mean right back!  We then learned that she was dying of cancer and it became clear that her time was short.  We had to tell the girls that we took her to our beloved vet to take care of her in her last days.

 

I was so sad as she had been such a good girl, and I wanted our girls to know the unconditional love of a dog.  Dogs are such great companions for children.  I had recently received a testimony from a veterinarian friend about that very truth…

 

“We reach people by showing how the most innocent of creatures can show mercy, kindness, forgiveness, understanding and compassion in a way that is only equal to Jesus.  Many children in our neighborhood only get complete love and devotion from their pets.  Through those furry creatures of unconditional love, we teach the gospel of Christ, and the belief in Hope.”

 

I so wanted that for our girls! 

 

Then one Saturday after their long run at the stadium, our girls spotted a litter of abandoned puppies covered in fleas and patches of missing hair.  Of course they decided that one of them needed rescuing, so they picked out "their" puppy and brought her home.  They named her Sophia, and they were determined I let them keep her. 

I wasn’t too convinced. I was nervous they would resort to their old ways of treatment after the initial swoon ran dry.  I wanted to be sure our staff was on board with the work of a puppy. But, she was so sweet and mellow I couldn’t really resist.  I’m drawn to fiery girls and mellow puppies! 

Our girls had much to learn about being kind to an animal.  At first, they would love Sophia for a few minutes and then toss, hit or kick her aside.  They didn’t know what to do with such attentive unconditional love.  It was impossible not to see the parallels to their own lives and how most of them came unable to receive care, touch and love.  I became even more determined to make this work, but I’m only one me, and our staff just didn’t “get it.”

 

But, God sent us Lauren, our newest intern, who excitedly spotted every single animal on her drive from the airport to New Hope the day she landed.  We half-jokingly reminded her, "We rescue GIRLS, not animals."  She laughed and said that she would convince us.  Her family has several family pets, including six dogs!  She was the perfect girl for the job. 

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I LOVE how God provides!

 

Her love for people and animals is perhaps unmatched by anyone I have ever met, and it has spoken volumes to our girls and staff.  The girls have learned to take care of Sophia and give her the love she deserves.  They feed her, bathe her, clean up after her and carry her around like a babydoll. But it isn't just the girls who have had a change in heart!  Today in our staff meeting, tears were shed as they shared how precious the journey of bonding with this sweet puppy has been.   Giving and receiving love from an animal is something they never imagined possible! 

 

I look forward to the watching the love and friendship between Princess Sophia and our girls grow, and I am so excited for the ways God is working to heal the hearts of our girls. 

In her arms

Oh the last 11 days have truly never ceased to surprise me. Showered with blessings and break through’s they have been, with also great burdens and bruises that I have simultaneously endured.


 

I’ve heard a lot of words this past week. I’ve gone deep into the mess all over again and realized that there is a need everywhere I look… And it has made me uncomfortable, it has made me anxious, it has made me crumble.

 

And as I soaked our dining room table with my tears this morning and reached for yet another tissue again and again, my own deficits began to become more apparent to me than ever.

 

I saw myself in the way that I see my girls.

 

I became one of them.

 

The girl’s lack of their own parents in their life became my own as I longed to be in the presence of my mama.

 

The girl’s lack of discipline and responsibility became my own as I wanted to give up the calling and mission He has given me here once and for all.

 

The girl’s process of emotional healing became my own as I reflected on the reality that God is still in the business of being my Healer, my Father, my Great Physician.

 

The girl’s insecurities and questioning and pain became my own as my identity began to crumble and the lies that I have made the habit of pushing away began to take ground over the truth planted in my heart.

 

And as we began praying and asking for the Holy Spirit to speak over us what He would want to say, Negra, one of our caregivers, placed her hand on my shoulder. My brokenness wanted to push it away but as the Lord began to soften my bitterness I let it rest there and put my hand on top of hers.

 

The more her touch radiated on the inside, a desire to be close began to well up within me.

 

At first I wanted a hug, and I imagined receiving a big, overwhelming embrace in her arms. I pictured it in my mind’s eye, and even then I didn’t want her to let me go.

 

And by the end of our staff meeting… Through my tears and wails and cries....

 

I was not only hugged, but held.

 

I ended up on our Negra’s lap... hugging her neck... unable to let up my grip... I just let myself go and was overcome by the deepest desire to be known and loved. Understood and valued. Honored and treasured. Affirmed and desired.

 

I told her how much I needed her in that moment. I missed my country. I missed my family. I missed the safe place in my own mama’s arms.

 

She let out soft sighs and told me I always had a place on her lap, that as she has dreamed of having rocking chairs on our property to rock our girls as a way of therapy, I too would be welcomed into that safe place of healing and refuge with her and the Father.

 

It’s a humbling place to know you are called into a service when you are still sorting through your own pain and past as well. Things come up that you thought were dealt with, done with and conquered, but I have realized that God is desperate to bring everything into alignment, and wholeness is the manner in which He is healing the world back to.

 

He’s just too good of a Father to leave us with holes and hurts that might be hidden but still reside deep within.

 

I’ve realized that my purpose for being here is bigger than a service, a mission, or even a calling.


It has to do with my story, their stories, and how we fit into the Father’s story together. My past in conjunction with their pasts, my future in conjunction with their futures, and us together in a present that feels so excruciatingly difficult but surely has a place in this adventure, relationship, and story that God invites us to be part of with each new day that comes.

 

- Carina (Corinne Carver, Intern)