What would Karyn Purvis do?

It’s hard to put into words the stories of the children I get to work with every day. It’s painful to look a child in the eyes and tell them they are safe when you understand they have never known what that word means. It's unbearable to watch someone hold a lifeless baby in their arms as you try to understand why his life had to end so abruptly.

I was trying to see God’s goodness in the most heartbreaking stories, but at the same time I was wondering why? Why is safety such a foreign word to a 5-year-old child or why did God not answer prayers begging Him to bring a precious baby back to life?

Since almost a year ago, when I wrote my last blog on a similar subject, I have found myself wrestling with the harsh realities of Honduras. There are so many things I wish I knew before stepping into the lives of hurting children. I wish I knew how it would shake me to the core and cause me to dare to question a sovereign God. I wondered how I got to this place. I longed to remember the person I was when I first moved to Honduras.

Ready to conquer the world, Ready to defend each child fearlessly, Ready to be love without reserve.

This was me—passionate and refusing to let anything stand in my way of loving children I might lose. Please don’t get me wrong, this is still me. However, somewhere along the line it was lost in the harsh realities of orphan care. I realized I couldn’t save every child that came through the Centro de Paso, and it was never my place to do so. I pushed through the hard days of children acting out in anger because of their trauma, seeing first hand the heartbreaking stories of abuse and severe neglect. Piece by piece I took on their trauma, a burden that was never mine to bear. I let it weigh me down and tire me out. 

My passion was still there, but I slowly let that fire inside me fade. 

Last year my two oldest foster daughters left to be with their biological father. Through the transition process I grieved and eventually watched them leave with their father on the final transition date of November 18th, 2017.

I was angry and feeling an immense amount of guilt after their transition. I should have done more. I could have done more. A part of me wanted them to go, and I hated that. I loved these little girls with all my heart. But they had a lot of trauma, and it came out in moments of rage and behavioral issues. I shouldn’t have taken it personally, but I did. Loving them was hard and I wanted it to be easy, I wanted a connection we naturally felt. Deep down inside myself I felt like I wasn't able to help them heal from their trauma, but I wanted to try. I had done the TCC trainings, read all the books, and talked to all the right people. I could do this… But trauma is a complex thing and raising children from hard places is exhausting. I kept saying to myself, “What would Karyn Purvis do?”

Eventually I compromised with letting a lot of things go and eating what I would consider enough junk food to fill a 7/11.

I don’t think people talk enough about how difficult parenting children from hard places can be, let alone being a missionary.… I mean, learning a different language and culture, navigating through feeling distant from everything you once knew, coming to America for a vacation and crying because the grocery store has 6 different flavors of Ketchup… it’s a lot to adjust to.  

6 flavors of ketchup is absolutely excessive, but that is how I would describe America anyways.

You see, I believe brokenness is beautiful and vulnerability is what brings us together, but please hear me out when I say that feeling like you have lost your passion is a scary place to be. Burn out is real, and it takes being intentional to move on from that place.

Running on passion is not sustainable and it never will be. Jesus must be where we run to with our heaviest doubts, darkest thoughts, and most overwhelming feelings of emptiness. If we are continuing to serve without the love of Christ and the passion HE gives us for HIS children, then what's the point? 

 I always go back to the moment I knew I was called to Honduras while sitting in the Spangler’s living room surrounded by babies and the most humble caregivers. I knew I would come back, I just didn’t know what that meant. I felt a peace about moving to a country whose language was not my own and where tortillas were eaten like they were the last thing on earth. I could honestly say I didn’t care about all those things. I trusted God and arrived to Honduras passionate and ready to take on whatever came my way.

On this day almost two years later, my biggest prayer is that everyone in this country will wake up tomorrow speaking only English and I will never have to see a tortilla again in my life. I’m kidding… but not really.

I love this country and what I do. I can’t see myself doing anything else. I am so thankful for Jesus and that His mercies are new every day. I am also thankful for a community of people that come alongside me and encourage me through my hardest days. I am thankful for a God who takes our doubts and turns them into belief. We must know that without Him none of this is possible, and our passion for the fatherless is because of His love. 

"9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

I will be starting up another blog series about the Crisis Care Center and Foster Care, because it is beautiful but oh so messy. I wrote this blog because it was put on my heart to share some of my most difficult moments and doubts this past year. I hope there is a foster mom or missionary reading this post knowing that it’s normal to feel as if you are losing your passion or feeling burnt out. Remember the base of your passion must come from Him, because without His love we can't serve and display the Gospel effectively. There is a God who is waiting for you to give Him your weaknesses, because His power is made perfect in your weakness. Reach out, because I know there is a community of people waiting to help you through it. 

fullsizeoutput_1fb.jpeg

Grace upon Grace

Ever since I arrived to Honduras my biggest prayer was for God to use me as He saw fit, that I would trust Him no matter the circumstance, and He would continue to break my heart in the best way for His children. This has not been easy as 2016 was one of the most challenging yet rewarding years I have come to face.

This past year I watched kids come into the crisis care center and then be sent back to the abuse they were so desperately trying to escape. I held children whose parents had been killed right in front of them. I wept with teenagers as they shared their story and started to come to a place of healing. I rocked abandoned babies to sleep as I rested in the fact that they are now safe.

I wrestled with the reality of being a foster mom to four girls at the age of 21. I compared myself to my friends back at home. I secretly wanted the college life. I missed America, speaking English, and going out with my friends. I lived in a space of longing for my old life.

I knew I was called to Honduras. I knew God had a purpose for my life. And I knew He had a purpose for me at Legacy of Hope. But there were so many things I questioned, including why I was chosen to do this job as my doubts and insecurities felt consuming at times. I couldn’t begin to understand why God trusted me with these children’s hearts.

As I gave God my questions, He started to give me answers.

God brought me back me to the moment I knew He had called me to Honduras. He brought me back to the moment I first arrived at Legacy of Hope Foundation to start my two year commitment. The excitement I felt, the passion within my soul, the drive to push through the hard moments. The confidence I had in Him, ready to take on any circumstance that came my way.

You see… I believe that God equips the called, but I had forgotten that.

In the midst of the chaos I had forgotten that He has called me and equipped me. I had let my anxiety, fear, and negative thoughts take over. I had let Satan attack me to the very core.

I have come to the realization that overtime it is easy to forget the moment God called you. It is easy to feel like your running a race that will never end. It’s easy to loose sight of the path that has been set before you. But I challenge you to give God your questions and doubts, just as I gave Him mine. Because I promise what He will reveal to you will be greater than anything you have ever imagined.

Don’t get me wrong. I love this place. I love speaking Spanish. I love waking up every morning to four little smiling faces. I love running the crisis care center and seeing kids come from a place of brokenness to a place of healing. I love this job.

What I’m trying to get at this is… The devil knows when and how to attack us, he goes for what we love and cherish, he can change our thoughts and perspectives against what we love the most. He attacks us in our weakest moments.

·      He plants doubts and lies (Gen. 3)

·      He fights against your faith (Eph 6:12)

·      He will try to take you down through pride (1 Pet 5:6-8)

·      He will try to cripple your faith through fear (2 Cor 4:8-9)

·      He will try to sidetrack you with worldly things. (1John 2:15-16)

Through prayer and wise counsel God has revealed so many things to me. He has showed me His goodness, His unrelenting love, and His plans for my life. I still have hard days of insecurities, anxieties, and doubts. But with time I have learned how to pray through that.

I gave God my insecurities and He gave me his confidence.

I gave God my anxieties and He gave me his peace.

I gave God my doubts and He showed me his grace.

2016 was one of the most challenging yet rewarding years of my life, but I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything in this world. As that’s how I learn best, through my failures and weaknesses.

But He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Zion

I watched her as she carefully walked through the front door, making sure her hair covered her face just enough so no one would notice her black eye and the cuts all over her face.

Child services brought her inside, she sat quietly on the sofa as I signed the papers and asked DINAF how long she would be staying. I ever so slightly peeked my head around the corner of the kitchen wall to see what she was doing. I began to see tears fall down her face; I could tell she was in an immense amount of pain.

DINAF had informed me that her mother beat her and cut her with a knife. She had stitches from a gash on her wrist, cuts, bruises, and other marks all over her body from what her mother had done to her. My eyes began to fill with tears as I slowly applied cream to all her wounds; my stomach began to turn as I slowly lifted up the gauze to see her stitches below, I lifted my head to look her in the eyes and let her know she is safe.

As she began to cry, I cried with her.  

She has now been in the Centro for a week, her wounds are healing, her eyes are beaming with joy, she is beautiful. Yesterday I sat and watched her play outside from my kitchen window. She had on a beautiful princess dress, her hair pulled back, and her lips colored bright red with a lip-gloss the staff had given her. My eyes once again filled with tears as I sat and rested in what God is doing in the lives of these children.

Isaiah 61:3

 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—

to bestow on them a crown of beauty

    instead of ashes,

the oil of joy

    instead of mourning,

and a garment of praise

    instead of a spirit of despair.

They will be called oaks of righteousness,

    a planting of the Lord

    for the display of his splendor.

 

These are all lies that I find myself believing about Foster Care:

  • There is no light at the end of the tunnel
  • It has no happy ending
  • In the midst of the tragedy there is no hope

But I have a good God and He gives me grace when I find myself in this time of doubt, He softly whispers in my ear “these are my children and I have a plan for their life”.

Jeremiah 29:11

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

 

These are the truths I know about Foster Care:

  • There is always light at the end of the tunnel, even if I cannot see it at the time
  • God has a plan for each child
  • In the midst of every tragedy, God gives us hope

Foster Care is a lot like the Gospel: it is a redemption story of the broken searching for healing, it is a song of weariness sang by the children who need restoration, it is a dance of joy in the midst of despair. 

Dear Reader,

Dear Reader,

I feel it is so important that you know and hear the full story of Centro de Paso and my new house with the 4 little girls who had no where else to go. So with that being said, here it is…

Before I moved to Honduras I had said “yes” to Matt and Marianne, but most importantly I had said “yes” to God. I would help start and fund Centro de Paso, the crisis care center. This home is for children who have been severely mistreated or are in a crisis situation. We work with and only take children through DINAF (Honduran Child Services). 

DINAF had been asking Matt and Marianne for quite some time to start up a Crisis Care Center. We knew this was something God was calling us to do, so I moved down in January of 2016 to start up this program. God provided everything I needed and more to finish out 2016 and provided extra when needed. He covered furnishing a brand new house, extra medical expenses for sick kids, and having to hire extra staff unexpectedly.

We had originally been told by child services (DINAF) to expect 7 kids a month and, at the most, staying for an average of 3 days. This is not exactly the way things unfolded, but God had bigger plans. There were months when we had 22 kids pass through and stay longer than 3 days. I have had everything from special needs children to cases so severe it made me sick to my stomach for the children of Honduras. I look back on this year and I think wow… that was God. In the midst of the madness, nights of crying myself to sleep, and wondering how I was going to push on the next day, He provided.

My funds were low, my staff was tired, and the burden to raise funds for 2017 was great. But God had a plan, and He knew I needed to just trust him. In April of 2016 two little girls, ages 3 and 4, came into the crisis care center. Their dad was a raging alcoholic and their mother was too scared to keep them, so they were then passed into our ministry. After months of coming in and out of the center, abandoned by their mother once again, DINAF asked if we could keep them at Legacy of Hope. We hesitated because Foster Care in Honduras is closed, we were stretched too thin, and our staff was tired. But I knew God was calling me to once again say “yes.”

I prayed continually about the next steps to take, as I knew the Crisis Care Center was not a place of permanency for 3 and 4 year-olds, and through that I was feeling the tug from God that he was calling me to move out of the Crisis Care Center and be the Foster mom to these precious little girls. As this was something I knew I couldn’t do financially and maybe not something I could do physically, I hesitated to make the move and kept praying to hear an answer from God.

About a month later, we get a call for a newborn baby. She was 9 days old and her mom had left her in the hospital making it very clear she didn’t want her. About two hours after hanging up the phone a sweet baby girl arrived at my house.

After about 2 weeks of having these three girls with me in the Crisis Care Center, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt God was calling me to create a safe and loving home for them outside of the hectic Centro de Paso. There was a house for rent down the street, and I knew this was it. I talked with my staff at the center, and after talking with Matt and Marianne, we all decided this was the right thing to do.

On December 1st I moved out of the Crisis Care Center with three girls.

About 2 weeks after beginning the process of moving out, I got another call for an abandoned baby that was found in the cemetery. I began to weep as I rested upon the depth and tragedy of this story. Later that day a green-eyed, three-month-old baby girl arrived to my house. And then I had four. Four beautiful girls, a brand new house, and a crisis care center full of kids with only two staff members.

I was restless.

I knew I needed to trust God. I knew He would provide. I knew He was calling me to do this. But I began to doubt and question if I was really doing the right thing. When I came home in December I was overwhelmed with the feeling of having to go out and raise funds, of having to put aside time with my family because two houses back in Honduras were counting on me to provide for them. I knew God would provide, but I couldn’t seem to make sense of how.

About a week later I got a phone call from Love Made Visible saying someone had given a large donation specifically to Centro de Paso. Again, I began to weep, as I knew this gracious donation would cover Centro de Paso for two years. That this donation would prevent children from being turned away due to lack of funds and staff, that it will provide work for Honduran women who will be empowered to care for children experiencing a crisis in their own area. I knew I needed to trust God. I knew He would provide. I knew He was calling me to do this. Then all at once He grabbed me by the hands and brought me to a place of remembering that through the trials and moments of disbelief He will provide. I just need to trust. 

                                                     - Sincerely, Sophia Fitzgibbon

I will once again be starting up a series of blogs about the Crisis Care Center and my new life as a mama. If you would like to subscribe to my blog to get automatic updates straight to your email you can sign up on the “Donate & Subscribe” page. I will also be sending out monthly newsletters apart from my blog, if you would like to receive those please send me a separate message.

The Story of Us

Today I have a story to tell, but this story is not my own nor is it about me. This story is about two little girls and a God who strong enough to move mountains, a God whose love has proven to be deeper than the ocean.

I have sat down and tried to write this blog numerous times, but the words were not flowing. I couldn’t think of how to type or put into words this story of my heart and two little girls I was called to foster.

So bare with me as this is my best attempt try and put into words a story God is continuing to redeem and make new.

This is the story of us

April 15th, 2016

I got a call saying two little girls ages 2 and 4 were on their way to the ministry, that their parents could not care for them, and there was a suspicion of domestic violence.

As the silver truck pulled up in front of my house the lawyer of child services began to step out of the truck with a little girl clinging to him as if he was her last hope, and the other slowly getting out of the truck. Her long black hair covered half of her face as she slowly observed her new surroundings. My heart immediately skipped a beat as he handed over the littlest of the two girls. As I held her in my arms I immediately fell in love.

Their first day with me

 

May 15th, 2016

They were within my care for a month, and within this month I fell hard for them. Child Services eventually called and said they were going to put them back with their mother. The day they left I was on my way back from the states, hoping and praying I would arrive before they left. I had bought them both princess dresses, and as soon as I arrived I packed their bags, put their dresses on, and held them tight. As I was not really sure where they would be going. I remember feeling as if my heart was shattered to pieces when that silver truck once again pulled up in front of my house. I found myself in a place of doubt, in a place of desperately searching for God’s goodness. We found out that they were placed in a local orphanage until their mom came to get them. 

IMG_0659.JPG

visiting them at the orphanage

June 1st, 2016

At around 8pm a blue car pulls up in front of my house, as I quickly stop what I am doing I walk outside to see what is going on. Out come the girls, in the blue and pink princess dresses I bought them before they left. They were wet, shivering, and had their hair in tangles. I run outside with tears streaming down my face, pick them up and immediately bring them inside. Child services began to explain that the mom had abandoned them once again and their dad had been found drunk with them in Central Park.

The night they arrived

I remember feeling as if I was outside of my own body.

The closer I looked at them I saw the little one had a black eye, and her older sister was shaking. The psychologist explained they would only be here until they could find a permanent place for them to live. Child services quickly left and I was alone with the girls. The youngest only whispered for 2 weeks, talking so quietly you had to ask her to whisper in your ear, the oldest recounting stories of the things they went through while they were gone. I was shaken to the core.

Almost a month later I get a call saying an Aunt has been found and the girls will be going to live with her. That this would be a permanent and safe home for them.

About a week later they were gone.

this summer

August 17th, 2016

We get a call saying that the Aunt had abandoned the girls and they needed a place to stay. We said yes with the intention of finding a permanent home for them outside of Legacy of Hope.

birthdays, babies, battling sickness, and learning how to love

December 24th, 2016

I try and make sense of this story, how God has brought them back to me. That every opportunity they had to leave God has kept them here. I wrestled back and forth with the thought of being their Foster Mom. Loving them fearlessly, allowing the word “mommy” to come out of their mouth, I struggled with knowing I was “too attached”.

This past November I knew God was calling me to move out of Centro de Paso (emergency crisis care center) with the girls into a different house within the ministry. That He was calling me to love them like He loves me. I have chosen to love fearlessly in the midst of turmoil and uncertainty; I have chosen to be their Foster Mom.

We have moved out and God continues proving His goodness to be true as He continues writing the story of us. 

V is for Vomit & Victory

Two weeks ago I received an 11 month-old baby girl who had been dropped at someone’s doorstep, abandoned by her mother. When she arrived to my house she just sat and observed for what felt like hours. Her big brown eyes examining each person and each object within the room, not wanting to be held, but crawling from space to space as if she was looking for something in particular.

As we slowly made our way to the bathroom to bathe her, I could only help but wonder what was going on in her little mind while she lay there motionless. I carefully took her beautiful white dress off to clean her dirt stained body, and search for any wounds that needed to be treated. 

Two days after she arrived we found blood in her diaper so we immediately brought her to the hospital. The previous week I had been in and out of the private hospital with two toddlers who had infections and were on the verge of pneumonia. So  to be perfectly honest I was not too thrilled to spend another week there or have another sick child… as appointments aren’t necessarily a thing here and at home injections aren’t really my forte.

On Saturday evening we finally returned home and my number one goal was to get this baby bathed, fed, and put in bed (that rhymed)… It was determined that she might have an infection and we were waiting for the results to return. As soon as we got home I bathed her and tried to put her to bed while all the other kids sat down for dinner. Well putting her to bed was a failed attempt as she screamed so loud I was scared someone from the neighborhood might report me, so I got her out of the crib and began to hold her. She was in my arms as I was trying to eat the only meal I had all day, constantly trying to knock my plate off the counter and screaming bloody murder in my ear and then it happened….

She threw up all over my shirt, my food, and partly on the dog.

Let me just tell you… I don’t really know a lot about babies, let alone a sick baby. So I’m texting Marianne trying to console this screaming throwing up baby. At this point I have throw up on my phone, what was left of my ponytail, and some of the throw up had made it into the bucket as I was trying to aim her head towards the bucket and drastically failed (traumatic, I know).

Meanwhile all the other kids are watching in shock as the crazy gringa tries and does what she knows best while attempting to remain calm… which was not going to well.

So here I am.. sitting in the kitchen covered in throw up holding the baby that was also covered in throw up. After trying to bathe her twice and changing clothes twice, I just decided to release it and sit in my throw up doused third pair of clothes, trying to console this baby. 

Finally getting her to bed after having her tummy settle was my BIGGEST victory of the day. I had slowly started to give her pedialyte throughout the night and we were on track to our next big victory… collecting a urine and feces sample to drop off at the lab Sunday afternoon WOOHOO!! Have you ever tried to get a urine sample from a 11month old baby with diarrhea? I wouldn’t pray that task on my worst enemies.

Well low and behold after 4 urine sample bags and some diaper scraping I had finally gotten what I needed to go to the clinic. She ended up having a slight infection in her urine (which we think was causing the blood) and she was already taking the medicine she needed to get better quickly. Fast forward 2 weeks later and she is a healthy little ball of sass that never ceases to make me smile. When I come home she crawls to me as fast as she can and bites my leg until I pick her up (cute I know).

Right now you may be thinking to yourself… wow Sophia needs to pull it together... if we were being honest I might be thinking that too, but really. Looking back on that weekend now, I think to myself where would she be if she wasn’t here? Who would have held her little body as she threw up and taken her to the doctor when she was sick, who would have been her mommy?

I have gotten to be a mommy to many children through these 8 months and I have learned quite a few things...

  • To embrace the hard moments and laugh through the difficult ones
  • Time goes too fast
  • Children come and go all too quickly
  • Mistakes Happen
  • There isn’t a manual and plan for everything
  • God is constantly in control under all circumstances

The Big Things and Little Things

At this point I have all of the numbers of everyone who works for Child Services saved in my phone… do you know why? So I can mentally prepare myself before answering the phone. Because every time I see one of those numbers pop up on my phone, I know... I know to expect that one of the following events has occurred: that a child was abandoned, a child has been abused, or a child is in a crisis... but regardless the situation, I know a child who I have yet to meet is desperately seeking refuge from the dangers they are currently experiencing.

Every time a child is dropped off at my house my stomach drops. I see the truck pull up in front of my house never knowing who is going to get out, or what shape that child will be in.

To this day I feel as if I have seen it all. I will never forget the 5 year-old little girl who stumbled out of the truck crying and confused with her face and body so beaten I couldn’t bare to look. Special needs children that basically threw themselves out of the truck and ran into my arms with complete yet unfounded trust. Teenagers whose stories I had yet to know but would never forget. As well as babies whose mothers found themselves feeling so helpless that they somehow felt they had no other choice but to abandoned their own child.

Regardless of the story or walk of life, they all have one thing in common... they are ALL children of the most high God, seeking shelter.

Foster Care is hard and Short Term care can seem as if it’s a revolving door of what seems to be an unfound hope. But God is good and He gives hope to the hopeless. I have recently began to challenge my teenagers to find the goodness in their despair, as I challenge myself to see His goodness in every situation and cling to the promise of Jeremiah 29:11.

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

I am the type of person who needs to have everything planned out... dinner tomorrow already prepped, the kids outfits for the next party picked out, and other daily details planned out that no one really cares about except me… I always have things planned with a backup plan. Because I am a control freak and have YET to fully learn I can let go of half the things I cling so tightly to… But if there is one thing Centro de Paso and Foster Care have taught me, it is that I cannot be prepared for what is going to happen next. Rather, I need to lean on my God who knows what will happen, today, tomorrow, and always, for all the big things and the little things.

Tomorrow I will be posting a blog about a sweet brown eyed baby girl who came into my care two weeks ago. Stay tuned...

Home Sweet Home

Let me just start off this series of blogs by showing you all where the magic happens…. and by magic I mean the place where love grows, fights happen, and healing begins.

Centro de Paso.

This house is meant to be a crisis care center for children who are only here for a time period of 72 hours. While this is something that is happening, there are also children who stay for weeks, months, and sometimes just a night.  This house provides food, showers, and clean clothes to children who would otherwise have almost nothing.

Centro de Paso is a blessing and I am blessed to be apart of it. Sometimes we have 3 children, sometimes 5, and sometimes 9… But however many we have we get to share laughs, love, and hard moments. As for many children this is their first step to a long journey of healing.

I have a team of Honduran women that work within the house to make all we do possible, and without them I would probably be a crazy woman with grey hair at 20 years old… God has blessed me in so many ways as He knew what I needed before the time came for me to arrive to Honduras.

I was given over what I needed for my start up cost in donations from so many generous people.

I was blessed with a group of local women who eagerly wanted to help clean, cook, and take care of children within Centro de Paso.

This House has currently served almost 100 children.

That is almost 100 children who have suffered from a severe trauma, a great loss, or were living on the streets with no place to call home, these are the children I get to love. My favorite kinds of children are the children who are looked at as a “problem”, the children that nobody wants, that are an “inconvenience”

This House has been my home for 8 months and will continue to be my home for much longer. It will also continue to be a home for the children who don’t have a place to call home. Centro de Paso has had many children pass through but each time a child passes through they experience a sense of what family is, and to me that is the greatest gift of all.

 

I love this crazy family I get to be apart of, I love my new normal. 

My New Normal

I have recently been reading my old blog posts and I realized something…

 

God has been moving in profound ways

 

Right after high school I felt called to the Dominican Republic, and my time there served a purpose as I was blessed to love on a group of street boys and truly learn what selfless service looks like.

After the Dominican Republic I was called home to Orlando, Florida. I was able to serve in an internship for Global Missions and equip myself through my home church to learn more about children from hard places.

In the summer of 2015 I was called to Honduras for the first time ever to serve along side Legacy of Hope Foundation for the summer.

After that summer I knew the Lord was calling me to move to Honduras.

On January 14th I arrived to Honduras with a unknown amount of time but the idea of 2 years.

As of September 2nd, 2016 I have now served 8 months here at Legacy of Hope running a crisis care center.

Right now I sit surrounded by toddlers, a baby, and a couple of teenagers. I sit here at my kitchen table smelling plantains cooking on the stove, listening to giggling coming from the patio, and a curious little boy looking over my shoulder as he observes my fingers moving across the keyboard. I sit here thankful for God’s sovereignty and the gift He gave me of being able mother these kids for the short amount of time I have them.

I’m thankful for the nights of rocking crying children to sleep whispering in their ears that they are loved and that they are safe. I am thankful for sharing Jesus with teenagers who had been prostituting themselves just so they could have food to eat. I’m thankful for being able to play such a small part in the lives of all the children who pass through my house.

But there have been many times since I arrived that I was not thankful, I was not joyful, and I did not see God’s sovereignty.

Lately I have been reading some blogs about orphan care and mothers who have adopted children or are currently fostering. I follow women on Instagram that make adoption and fostering look like a beautiful love story with no flaws, while adoption and foster care are a love story in the making it has many flaws.

Orphan care is hard, it is messy, and it is draining, but these are the things I like to write about. Because I believe that story telling can change the world and I also believe that our struggles are what make the best stories…

God is moving in profound ways and over the next couple of weeks I will be writing out what He is doing in my life and through this house. Stay tuned to get a peek into the messy but beautiful realities of my new normal.

 

                                                                                   

 

La Finca

This blog has sat in my drafts for too long, I thought that if I ignored the task of writing it I would be able to somehow dodge the harsh realities of the children who come through my house. That I would be able to shift through everyday tasks a little easier, I figured I wouldn’t feel and remember the stories of each child. For the protection of the children their names have been changed, but unfortunately their stories still remain the same. I believe that story telling can change the world and bring awareness, I believe in the redeeming love of Jesus and I hope that one day every child who has passed through my house will come to know that love. My biggest prayer is that after reading these stories you are compelled into action.

I ask that you pray for protection and strength over this young girl *Rene who was returned to her mother. *For her safety her name has been changed*

3/8/16

On the evening of March 8 I received a girl named Rene who unexpectedly arrived to my house. She was brought by two social workers in the DINAF truck, crying and extremely distraught. Since I did not receive a call that she was coming to the house I guess you could say I was not prepared in anyway. As I quickly walked to the door to receive her, Rene’s shaking hands and slurred speech brought tears to my eyes as I tried to comfort her and assure her that she is safe here.

Rene had already been removed from her mother’s house before with reports of abuse. She arrived to my house with blood stained jeans and heavy eyes. As I am still learning silence is ok I just sat with her at the table and listened to her soft cries, my heart ached for her. The psychologist came that night to do the evaluation, and Rene shared her story. Her mother had beaten her and slammed her head against the wall after Rene was caught doing drugs. Her mom had ripped her clothes, schoolbooks, and almost everything she had called hers once before. As if that wasn’t enough she had a large cut on the inside of her mouth from when her mom had beaten her, needless to say I was broken for this girl.

The next morning DINAF picked her back up, and she was once again returned to her mother. Last Saturday Rene showed up at my doorstep, she had come back to visit and spend the morning at the house. I am once again reminded of God’s goodness, I am continually reminded through the small things that His love prevails in every circumstance. I have been keeping a journal of all the children who have come through my house. There are prayer requests, thoughts, and stories of each child within my journal. I found that writing everything out has become a release for me. It wasn’t until this month that I realized I was holding everything inside, that I wasn’t giving it fully to Jesus. It wasn’t until 3/9/16 that I fully realized I needed to surrender, that these kids weren’t and are not mine, their stories are not my burden to bear. These children are in the hands of a Heavenly Father who is sovereign and all knowing, He makes beauty from ashes. I needed to release and fully trust Him.

This story is hard to swallow, as I look back at the tear stained page in my journal I take myself back to this date. *Names have been changed for the protection of these children*

3/9/16

The morning Rene was picked up I was asked how I felt about taking a little girl with severe medical issues. Child services explained she was at an orphanage and they had overdosed her on the medicine she was taking. They informed me that *Hannah is 8 years old and would be soon be admitted from the hospital with nowhere to go. I told them we would absolutely take her along with the boy *Joshua whom they were working on finding a safe place for. Later that evening Child Services showed up at my doorstep. The social worker knocked on the door while the kids waited in the truck. She explained to me that the little girl was in a rough state, seconds after she said that the truck door swung open and Hannah came storming out of the truck walked herself right into the house and started walking in circles through each room. The social worker looked at me awkwardly laughed and said she needs to be watched at all times (no kidding)… The teenage boy slowly got out of the truck nervous and unsure. He had a stained yellow shirt on that was about 4 sizes too small, dirty pants, and shoes that barely fit.

As we all made our way into the kitchen Hannah was running circles around us, holding tightly to a pink bunny that she had brought with her. Child Services explained her medical condition and why she was in the hospital, after I was given a list of medicine that was longer than my arm I began to get flustered. As Hannah ran circles around me and kept trying to pull her pants down to go to the bathroom in the kitchen I knew I was going to have a long week ahead of me.

Once child services left I felt helpless and extremely incapable of what was just dropped on my doorstep. As I locked eyes with Samantha (my roommate) we both just looked at each other in silence. As the evening went on I began to understand this little girl had more going on than just health issues. As dinner was served she hovered over her plate as if she were an animal, using her hands to shove the food down her throat as fast as she could. At bedtime she went off like a light switch, fighting me, screaming, and refusing to lie down. I remember at one point just sitting down and watching her bang the door until I thought it was going to break off the hinges.

After a long night of no sleep the next few days did not seem to get any easier. Long days of cleaning bodily fluids off the floors and walls, watching her every move to make sure she wasn’t hurting herself, changing her in and out of diapers since she could not control her bladder or anything really for that matter. Having to give her cold showers because that was the only thing that would calm her down when she was in rage, endless hitting, hair pulling, and biting.

 I locked myself in my room and just began to cry. I felt so deeply burned, I had one child after the next for about 3 weeks at this point. The stories so deeply burdensome, I had not given it to God. I could feel myself getting frustrated with Hannah, wanting her to leave, wishing she would be picked up and brought somewhere else. In this moment I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit ever so powerfully, I was reminded to be still and rest in Him. Resting in Him was something I was not doing, I was having my quite time and reading His word but I was not resting in Him. To rest in Him means giving myself and all my burdens FULLY to my Heavenly Father, this is something I was not doing. I felt like I was in autopilot moving from one child to the next, the same routine. Caring for them, saying goodbye, then onto the next. A process I am just now beginning to get a hold of.

Hannah broke me in the best way, as I knew I would be having her for a week I came out of my room and put my best foot forward. From that moment on something changed within me, I knew I had given everything bottled up inside me to Jesus. I could see Hannah slowly let her guard down and beginning to feel more comfortable. She would sit by me, follow me around the house, and watch my every move. Constantly confirming with me that she was going to be fed breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack, with her shower following dinner, as I would repeatedly reply “Yes Hannah” to her every question. The days seemed to feel more like normal instead of a Rock em Sock em Robots game (I was always the loosing robot).

One day that week Hannah woke up restless, she spent the whole day angry at me and anyone who was within range of her, it seemed as if we were going backwards and I didn’t understand. Once again the day was spent pulling hair, biting, hitting, banging on the walls, doors, anything that was insight really. That evening the power had went off, the house was pitch black. Hannah’s little light switch went off and she went ballistic, as I struggled to find candles to put around the house for some light Samantha tried to keep her contained in the bedroom. The power had finally come back on but Hannah was not calming down. She started throwing herself and banging her head against the wall. As I tried to restrain her I was being bit and punched. While she kept telling me to tie her hands to the door and leave her there, my heart ached as I wondered what this little girl had been through. She eventually fell asleep, then once again spent the rest of the night pacing around my bedroom.

That Monday her uncle had requested to visit her. Hannah was elated when she saw him, she completely changed, she was smiling and filled with joy as she spent time with him and the psychologist. This was the day everything changed, you see this little girl didn’t talk. She used very few words, noises, and her hands to communicate. March 14th is that day that Hannah told her story, she told it very clear with details, remembering very clearly each part.

Her mother had abandoned her when she was a child, so her father raised her. Hannah’s father worked in a coffee plantation and would sometimes bring her to work with him. One-day men who worked at the coffee farm called Hannah over to where they were gathered and stated they had candy to give her. Within minutes she was being brutally raped. While she was being raped her father saw, and began to beat her. After this little girl was raped she was beat by her own father… days later her father was killed by the same men who raped Hannah. Then she was moved once again to an orphanage, from the orphanage to the hospital, and from the hospital to my house. In 8 short years this girl has experienced more than I probably will in a lifetime. Come to find out while she was in the hospital the nurses would have to tie her hands so she wouldn’t hurt herself at night time, she was traumatized at a coffee farm, and those words remain in her head, “La Finca”. I once again feel myself going back into my autopilot mode, as the same day Hannah told her story I received another teenage girl, and two teenagers who were within my care ran away.

*all of this is from the mouth of the little girl, but nothing has been proved to be true by law*

As I have stated before, I thank God for His grace and mercy as I need more and more of it each day. I thank Him for His goodness and patience, for His love. I know He has these children in His hands and His light overcomes every form of darkness. I have been journaling, diving into my bible, and now truly resting in him. This blog was my release, my burdens, and my heart. I hope that as I move forward you will choose to do the same. My biggest prayer is that you will join me in lifting up the voices of children who are not heard and continually look for His goodness in every circumstance. 

Isaiah 61:3

3     and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.

 

full hearts & full cups of coffee

My journey to Honduras began at 2:30 am on January 14th, after arriving to the airport I was informed that my airline would not let me on the plane with a one-way ticket. At 3 am I am sure you could imagine my reaction… after getting a little sassy with the lady behind the counter I decided that arguing with her of why she should let me on the plane was not going to work. So I purchased a return ticket at the counter for a price that was COMPLETELY absurd (which I have already refunded through the airline). As I made my way through security and to the gate of my plane, we began to board. I heard my name on the intercom being announced… After the second time of them announcing my name I began to listen because lets be honest… there was probably not another Sophia Fitzgibbon, as I listened and reported back to the ticket counter they informed me I could not get on the plane once again. As my face began to turn red and I tried to remember WWJD I listen to the lady who made me buy the return ticket, she informed me that she forgot to charge me two pennies, (I think she did this on purpose because of the sass I chose to give her). After saying an apology and paying the two pennies I finally sat on the plane and began my journey to Honduras.

After arriving to Santa Rosa I began to walk around the neighborhood and say my hellos. As I made my way to the Spangler's house, Marianne had walked outside to take a phone call. She came back in laughing, and I already knew what she was going to say… she informed me that I had a sibling group of three were coming my way. So as you can imagine I rushed back to the house and began to get things ready. Trying to prop my eyes open with my ffingers due to the fact I hadn’t slept in like 2 days..

Before I knew it the Child Services truck pulled up to my house as I was waiting outside. The man who was driving went around to open the door and out came a little girl who was 2 years old and extremely malnourished. As I picked her up she immediately laid her head on my shoulder and wrapped her arms around me tightly. Next came her 5 year old brother and 9 year old sister. Their mother was sending them out into the streets every day to beg for money and work, she had been arrested and they had nowhere to go. Scared and unsure I brought them inside, did a lice treatment, and gave them something to eat. They slowly began to unwind and play like kids do. That night they insisted they wanted to all sleep in the same bed. As I tucked them in and watched them all cuddle together I prayed over them quietly with a full heart. They were picked up and returned to their mother the next day.

As I type this blog a boy named Jose sits on my left side, a boy who has a story that breaks my heart. He arrived to my house yesterday evening scared and unsure of his surroundings. He had on a tank top and shorts, his feet so black I could only imagine how long he had been without shoes. As he began to make his way into my house with a man from Child Services he looked around with insecurity, rubbing his hands together to calm himself. I was informed of his name and age, then stood with him as we watched Child Services drive away. As we sat at my kitchen table he began to share with me his story, something I don’t feel comfortable sharing because safe family members are still being looked for.

As we sat and I watched him eat bananas so fast I thought he was going to choke I tried to ask him questions to get his mind off of everything. As he went in to shower and do a lice treatment I sat on the floor and began to look for shoes for him. My eyes began to fill with tears as I thought about where I was at 11 years old, how I have and had so many shoes I could have worn a different pair each day of the week. As the night went on he slowly began to feel more comfortable, around 10 pm he told me he was tired and wanted to go to bed. As I went to tuck him in he stared at his new bed. As I shared with him this is where he will be sleeping he began slowly rubbing his hands on the sheets mesmerized by the softness, astounded he would not sleeping in the streets tonight. As I tucked him in and quietly prayed over him he pulled the covers over his head and immediately fell asleep. This morning as we sit and have a super hero movie marathon he lays on my couch, constantly looking back at me and smiling. It is this morning with once again a full heart that I ask to keep this precious boy and all these children in your prayers. Especially Jose as he slowly begins his journey to a safe place and quite possibly a place of healing. 


Ps. please excuse spelling errors, and sentences that don’t make sense, because between the dogs, construction workers, loud music, and kids that wake up at 5am, I don’t sleep. I just wake up and drink a full pot of coffee BY MYSELF

Glory to God

As I am about to embark on many new adventures there is one adventure I have yet to share. Before I go into this blog, there are some people I want to thank. First off my parents, your un-ending love, support, and wisdom have gotten me through it all and lead my relationships where they are today. Second Sara Smith and Grace Jenkins.... what would I do without you two. Thank you for holding me accountable and constantly speaking truth and life into my story. Thank you to Sue Butler, for all the prayer and wisdom you have poured out on me. My mentor Tiffany Forysth, I love you more than anything in this world, our coffee talk and your wise counsel is so appreciated. Todd Williams, for your support and advice. Lastly, Marianne Spangler. Who has challenged me, cried with me, laughed with me, and recently stepped into my story in such a big way. Thank you for everyone who knows my personal life and has been praying for me in every circumstance. 

For the people who have been following my blog, thank you for embarking on all these adventures with me. My biggest prayer is that you will see my flaws, mistakes, and vulnerable moments. Then know how thankful I am for my savior, because He redeems and makes new. For those of you who know me personally, you have already figured out that I am a very independent person, you know that I am a dreamer and more then most of the time a reality check is needed, that sometimes I am not gentle with my words, and that I always need to be brought back to a place of remembering I can not do it all alone. 

With all this being said there is someone I want to introduce, his name is Alberto Jose Reyes (Nino). Some of you already know him and for those of you who do not, let me explain. We have been friends for almost 4 years, and I guess you can say we have been through it all.. I met him in the Dominican Republic, as I went down on a mission team and he was our translator. We met when I was 16 years old and our first conversation consisted of me asking him to help me translate something.. He said back to me "I don't translate things for little girls, you can ask someone else" I vividly remember responding back with a very rude comment. Gotta love being an immature 16 year old, I guess you could say it was not love at first sight. 

In 2013 I returned to the Dominican Republic for a month with a group of students, where Nino was there working as a translator and a caretaker to kids in the orphanage. After that month he shared with me he had feelings for me as more then friends. I told him I wanted nothing more then a friendship, although I shared some mutual feelings I had kept to myself. We both moved on and lost touch, as it was my senior year of high school and I had some big decisions to make. Around January of 2014 I knew without a doubt that God was calling me to the Dominican Republic, I looked all over the island for orphanages. Making sure I was not wanting to go anywhere for or because of Nino. Every orphanage I had been corresponding with in email stopped responding when it came to the point of me going down to visit before committing. At that point I knew God was leading me back to where I had been going since I was 16.

As you all know I moved to the Dominican Republic in the summer of 2014. Those 5 months in the D.R. were some of the most rewarding yet challenging months I have ever been through. I was there with another girl named Grace Jenkins, who without her and Nino I don't know what I would have done. Nino was such a blessing to us, constantly checking up on us and making sure we had everything we needed. As I sat back and watched him be so strong and show such godly character through everything, I think that was when I began to see his heart and look at him differently. 

In January of 2015 I returned home from the Dominican Republic. This was the point where Nino began to share his true feelings with me and I shared mine with him. We both knew we needed a lot of time and a lot of prayer... along with wise counsel. This is where my AMAZING parents stepped in, with abundant wisdom and great advice. After lots of prayer, wise counsel, and time of Nino and myself sharing our hearts with each other, and others, we have decided to move forward into the next step after friendship. This upcoming Monday I will be returning to the Dominican Republic with my mom to pursue the relationship I know God is calling me into. 

Nino and I have both matured and grown up in tremendous ways since we met in 2012. After seeking The Lord in prayer we know our stories have collided for so many reasons. Nino dreams of having his own children's home, and the passion he shares with me for street children is something I couldn't ignore. He is currently studying to become an English teacher and also has some big things coming up involving orphan care and bettering his community, but I will leave that up to him to announce. As you all know I leave to Honduras in a matter of months to start a center for children in crisis. We both know and understand that our ministry and God's plan comes first before anything.

So yes we are stepping into a relationship that will be long distance. Yes we are trusting in God's plan and in His way. But we both understand fully that before we make any larger commitments we need to know and understand each other as boyfriend and girlfriend. We fully understand this will be difficult, at times the distance will be unbearable, and that wise counsel will be more than needed. I know I can speak for both Nino and myself when I say no matter what, glory to God. Rather we don't work out or we do, glory to God, if we find that God is calling me to Africa and Nino to China, glory to God, through all the cultural differences we might encounter, glory to God. 

I ask that you pray for my mom and I as we travel and spend time with Nino's family, that our time will be blessed and purposeful. I ask that you step into our journey and watch us try and figure out what God wants to do with this relationship. I ask that for those of you who have been praying, please keep praying vigorously for myself and Nino. I know I can speak for Nino when I say we are so appreciative of your support and prayers, and we both know at the end of the day no matter what, glory to God. 

Currently Being Dragged By My Ponytail

I am constantly pushing myself to be connected and open to the Holy Spirit (unfortunately that is not something that comes naturally to me) I am constantly having to redirect my thoughts, plans, and pride. As many of you know I have just returned from Honduras. The purpose of my trip was to act as a sub-director while the directors and their family returned to the states for the first time all together in 3 years.

Let me just explain to you how this unfolded... My Global Missions pastor had shared with me in January of 2015 that our global partners in Honduras were looking for someone to run errands and help with the ministry needs. I informed him that I needed sometime before I jumped right back into things, and dismissed the thought of Honduras in general. Around February I joined an internship at my church for Global Missions, and God continued to place Legacy of Hope ministry in Honduras on my heart, at this point I knew I would be ignoring the Holy Spirit if I didn't at least email the directors in Honduras to let them know God was placing them on my heart.

After emailing back and forth and a couple of Skype calls, the directors informed me they were going to the states for 3 weeks and needed me to cover the ministry. At first I was thinking "me God??? You think I can handle that??" then it went to "yeah I got this.. I can be the boss for 3 weeks" then after committing to the directors my thoughts were similar to "wait.. why did I just do that.. who does that". With boldness (and some fear) I moved forward to start the fundraising part of my preparation for this 2 month trip to Honduras, God provided beyond the funds I needed, and I went over the amount of money I needed to reach. The prayers and encouragement I received were incredible and at moments unbelievable. After receiving all these blessings I knew this was absolutely from The Lord. 

As I was getting closer to leaving the Devil began to attack me, making me feel insignificant and incapable, just like he always does. As old fears and doubts began to creep in I called upon The Lord for strength and courage, then before I knew it I arrived in Honduras June 27th. As I looked out the window of the plane I saw little shacks and tents surrounded by the big buildings of the city of San Pedro. I knew immediately the poverty and desperation I was about to experience. 

Through the highs and lows of my time in Honduras I clung to my heavenly father to keep me strong. While hearing horror stories of children that made my heart shatter, while experiencing the fears a child in crisis feels, while holding babies who without Legacy of Hope might be dead. I clung to my heavenly father. Through my time in Honduras I knew God was calling me here for longer than 2 months.

When the directors returned to Santa Rosa De Copan and my time in Honduras was coming to a end I asked them what it would look like if I stayed. They shared with me that they need a sub-director and someone who could open a house for emergency placements. After praying and feeling the pulling of God so immensely I knew I would be being disobedient if I turned them down. 

So here is where all of you will question my sanity and possibly call me crazy... In January of 2016 I will be moving down to Honduras and I have committed to Legacy of Hope for 2 years. I will be opening a home for abused, battered, and abandoned children, along with victims of rape. This house will act as a Safe Families home. Only taking emergency placements and keeping them for as long as 72 hours. During these 72 hours child services will be trying to locate family members or find a orphanage to relocate the child to. I will be taking ages infant-18. I will also act as the sub-director for Legacy of Hope.

Since I have returned home on August 27th I feel like God is moving 1000 mph and dragging me by my ponytail. I can't even begin to explain in a blog post how things have unfolded... To keep things short and sweet, Child Services (DINAF) in Honduras has offered to give 50,000 LPS a month to the house I will be opening, the First Lady of Honduras contacted DINAF and shared she wants to buy all the furniture for my house, so not only do I have a house waiting... but it is going to be fully furnished and funds are already pouring in.So that would be like Michelle Obama paying for some furniture..... I would take her furniture any day.  

Anyways....

There is still so much I need to get done and funds that I need to raise. I am trusting God will provide all that I need and more, just like He always does. Please keep me in your prayers as I move forward, if you are feeling lead to donate please message me personally. But what I need most is your prayers. Because that is truly the most important thing.... keep you posted ;)


On Earth As It Is In Heaven

 As I write this blog I find myself in a country where children have no voice, where justice seems to be unheard of, and happiness is thought to be found in America. As I write this blog I pray for peace and understanding. As all of you know I keep my blog honest and express my heart. Right now I sit still, broken to pieces. I sit here disgusted with myself and my American lifestyle. I sit in a house full of babies whose stories break me even more. A little girl who was left under a bridge to die, a boy who had a stroke as a infant and was left in the hospital by his mother after birth, a child whose father is her grandfather, a precious baby whose mother threw her on the dirty floor of the public hospital and left her for someone else to raise..

I cry out to God and pray for this earth to be as it is in heaven. Before this trip I prayed God would break my heart, and He is so faithful. I am being broken to pieces, my heart is aching. He wakes me up in the middle of the night to pray for His children. He is showing me a small glimpse of what He sees, He is slowly giving me His eyes and His heart to see His children suffering.  

Shortly after I arrived we got a call, Child Services informed us four babies had been abandoned and left at the public hospital. For what seemed like hours of running around the house frantically getting everything ready we anticipated the arrival of these little ones. We arrived to this place that they call a hospital. A hospital where laboring mothers share a bed to give birth. Where people die from MRSA infections every day. Where the Maternity ward has dozens of new parents and family members sleeping outside on a concrete floor, because there is no plush comfy room for them to stay with their new baby.

After turning corners and going through hall ways we arrived to where the waiting babies are. As we were waiting a man covered in dirt with a burlap sack over his back stood behind us in tears. Come to find out this was the first of the four babies father. This babies mother had died in child birth, the father arrived at the hospital to pick up his new baby boy not knowing that his wife had passed away. The nurses informed him when he arrived. He had walked more than 5 miles and left all their other children at home. Tears filled his eyes as he waited to be handed his new child. I looked away because I couldn't bare to look this man in the eyes. I dare to say that I questioned my God, "God how can you let that happen, don't you love him?" The mother of the second baby was using heavy drugs while pregnant and the baby was born addicted, child services was looking frantically for a family member who could be trusted with this child. I dare to say I questioned my God again, "Do you not care about this child's life, do you not see whats happening?" The third child's story we do not know, but the fourth child's story we know all too well.

I found myself leaving the hospital with a 4lb baby boy who had no name. We were informed that his mother had mental problems and had tied his wrists together. So as we got in the car I slowly took off his blanket to see if there was any damage, my heart ached as I saw his little wrist was bloody and full of puss. I remember thinking "God... where are you, how can you let this happen" After what seemed like endless nights of crying and barely eating we decided he needed to see a doctor. We were informed that he was a healthy baby and nothing seemed to be wrong. The next day he spiked a fever and he was brought to the hospital. Come to find out infections and bacteria had filled his body and made its way into his blood stream. As I held his frail little body I prayed God's will would be done, later that night he was admitted back into the public hospital.

Three days later we were informed fluid was filling his lungs and he wasn't expected to live. I once again questioned my God. Before we knew it we were transferring him to a private hospital to save his life, after blood transfusions, IV injections, and oxygen tubes, he was released from the hospital, God had worked a miracle. Praising Jesus I held him tight one last time as I watched him leave with his new family at almost 2 weeks old.

But what about when you pray for healing and it doesn't happen, when you cry out to God and He doesn't answer? I found myself asking these questions yesterday once again. I found myself looking around at devastation and thinking God you can't be here. Your presence can not be in this place where abandoned babies are being killed and sold for body parts. God you can't be in a place where abandoned babies are murdered and their lifeless bodies are filled with drugs to smuggle over the boarder. You can't be here in the midst of a child being raped. 

How dare I question the creator of the universe and the father of these children. They are not my children... they are His. How dare I scream "God where are you, don't you see whats happening!?" How dare I think for even a second my ways and my plans are better than His. How dare I question His love. I believe in a mighty God. I believe in a God who is sovereign and all knowing. I trust in a God who's plan is far better than mine. I believe in a God who forgives when our human ways take over. God is restoring and renewing but in His timing, and in His way. I find myself having to stop. Having to look past the devastation and in the midst of it all I hear His voice saying "trust me Sophia."

Jeremiah 29:11 states, "I know the plans I have for you declares The Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you hope and a future." Yesterday as I sat in the office of Child services I fought back tears as I was trying to be strong. I tried to forget my fear I still had from that morning. My heart pounded as I held on to a little girl who was about to slip through my fingers. Jeremiah 29:11 was posted on the wall with a bright yellow sun mural. As tears filled my eyes I sat back and watched Child services take this little girl from me and send her away to a orphanage.

This little girl has a name and a story, just like the rest. Her name is Rosemary Daniella and she is from a little town outside of Santa Rosa de Copan. She has been sexually abused, physically abused, and verbally abused. She has been malnourished, assaulted, and lost most of her teeth due to malnutrition. She arrived at House of Hope almost 3 months ago and at 2 years old she is now in a orphanage. Yesterday at around 9:45am I took some of our children to have visits with their birthparents. Two people I have never seen before showed up. Child Services begins to inform me these are the parents of Daniella and they demand that they see her. They ask that I go get Daniella and immediately bring her to the office to visit with her parents, to see the people who raped her, who beat her, and who feed her trash.

At this point I questioned them, because I knew they were not allowed to see her. But DINAF began to explain seeing a child is the parents right and they can not deny them of their rights, with this being said I go back to the house to pick up Daniella. With tears streaming down my face I think of how I am even going to begin to explain this to a 2 year old. I arrive at the house and I just hold her. Explaining we are going to see her parents and I will be right there with her the whole time. We arrive at the office and I can not begin to describe her face when she laid eyes on her parents. It was almost as if the life was immediately stripped from her face. Whimpering and looking at the floor she begins to make her way back to the visitation room, her little fingers tightly clenched around mine.

In the visitation room her father began to get angry. Making threats towards me personally and towards his daughter, we had to leave the office abruptly. With Daniella screaming crying in my arms, I pile all the kids in the car strapping them in as fast as I can. As I am doing this one of the child service workers come out to the car, warning me that Daniella's parents are going to try and follow the car to take Daniella. Frantically I drive as fast as I can praying and crying out for Jesus, stricken with fear I drive 20 minutes outside of town then turn around and head back to the house. After getting a few phone calls I was informed Daniella's father is trying to find House of Hope to take his daughter. Within 2 hours of the visit I had to move this confused, helpless, and distressed child to a orphanage for the safety of myself and everyone in the house.

At 1:30 pm Daniella was taken to a local orphanage for safety. I sat in that office trying to be strong for her. Waiting for the truck to come and take her away. Trying to let her see that she has to be brave, that she is strong, and that God loves her so much. How do you explain to a 2 year old you are giving her to a orphanage to protect her from her parents. To protect her from the people who are suppose to love her the most. This was the point where I look up and saw Jeremiah 29:11 and the bright yellow sun. With tears streaming down my face I just held her and prayed she will one day know she has a Father who is good, who is love, and who is waiting for her with open arms. As I get in the car and drive away I see her crying trying to make her way to where I was going.

Sobbing crying on the way back to the house I felt God's presence so immensely, I felt His pain and brokenness for His children. I sat in my sorrow and wept. As I got it together and walked back in the house a little boy named Anthony came up and asked me where Daniella was. I began to explain she was moved to a place that will be better for her, but really in my head I didn't have the words to say. This little boy saw the tears in my eyes and just gave me a hug. I crave a sweet childlike faith, so trusting and genuine. I live for the day that earth will be as it is in heaven. I live for the day that I can see Daniella again. I now have a small glimpse of what God sees. I came here to learn from this ministry. I am learning so much more than just orphan care, I am learning God's heart for His children.  Please pray for Daniella, pray for healing, and for her to feel her Heavenly Father's love. 

Breaking the Culture

I believe the Lord is close to the brokenhearted, I believe that He saves those who are crushed in spirit, and I believe He replaces devastation with restoration, I believe He uses everything in our lives for His good, and I believe He can turn our darkest hours into our most beautiful moments.

For those of you who are close to me, thank you for getting me through my darkest hours. For those who are not as close, thank you for your prayers and love from afar. I believe that if it was not for all of you I might not of made it through the month of January. When my devastation was consuming me I received texts with a simple "I'm praying for you", when my brokenness felt far to  heavy to bear I received acts of love and encouragement, and when I thought I couldn't carry on I felt the warm embrace of my Heavenly Father.

Im not sharing this with you to feel sorry for me, or for you to wish my time in the Dominican Republic had gone differently. Because I wouldn't change a thing, I would actually do it all over again. I truly believe that experience made me who I am today and changed the way I look at orphan care. I now have an unrelenting passion for global orphan care that is stronger than ever before. I use to think orphan care was a beautiful thing and don't get me wrong because it is, but it is also messy and difficult. The reason I went to the Dominican Republic in the ffirst place was because I want to have my own children's home one day, and I can absolutely say I learned what not to do. Which in my opinion is the most important thing to learn. I gained wisdom and insight I did not have before, and I learned how to truly give selflessly to those in need. I know God brought me back to the U.S because I needed more time to grow and learn, and I am so thankful for that. 

The daunting questions I often receive are "what are you doing with yourself", "where do you go to college", or my favorite "what do you plan on doing after college." Which in my opinion are not the easiest on the spot questions to answer. Especially since most of them automatically suggest I'm in college. Breaking American culture is something that is not easy to do... whenever I tell someone I am an intern at Mosaic for global missions, I want to have my own children's home in the Dominican Republic, and I don't plan on going to college. I get one of three reactions, a blank stare with an awkward "I don't know what to say" conversation following, me trying to scramble for something to say while they are looking at me like I have two heads, or the less expected "I'm so excited for you" follow up. (the third reaction is always my favorite)

Some of you may think I fell off the face of the earth for awhile, and to be quite honest I did. I didn't want to leave my house, all I wanted to do was eat Mcnuggets from McDonalds and lay in bed (I know thats disgusting). If it was not for my God, my close friends, and my church community I don't know if I would have bounced back like I did. Believe me when I say I am so thankful for all of you. 

As I was praying for the next steps to take and what direction I should go in after returning home from the Dominican, God lead me back to my home church. I have made a one year commitment to Mosaic church in Oakland Florida to be a part of their internship for global missions. I am learning about orphan care, and the proper steps I need to take in order to build a ministry that will successfully further Christ's Kingdom. I am in awe as I receive mentoring from the amazing leaders of Mosaic who are going through life with me. Through this internship I am so blessed with endless opportunities. I have been able to attend conferences focused on orphan care in different parts of the country. I am able to be a part of a ministry called Love Made Visible. While being presented with opportunities to go back out on mission. 

So with all of this being said, I am a living example of God bestowing a crown of beauty instead ashes, giving the oil of joy instead of mourning, a garment of praise instead of despair. I am so excited to announce that Mosaic is sending me to Honduras for 2 months, to work in a home for abandoned babies. I leave June 27th and return August 27th, words can not describe how excited I am. But I am also on a time limit to raise 1,000$, in about 3 weeks.. I know with God all things are possible. If you can't support me financially please support me with prayer because that is just as important. My Razoo account explains the ministry I am working with, that is also where you can donate towards my mission trip if you are feeling lead. The link to my Razoo account will be on my contact & subscribe page. Please pray for me as I leave this month to Honduras. Old fears and doubts are creeping in as I get closer to leaving. I know these are not from God, please pray for peace and confidence as I leave on a new adventure. I am so excited and can not wait to see what God has in store for me in Honduras. 

Isaiah 61:3

3     and provide for those who grieve in Zion
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.

 

to be continued

Ecclesiastes 3:4 states that there is a time and season for everything. A time to weep, a time to laugh, a time to mourn, and a time to dance. Luke 10:27 tells us to love the Lord our God with all our strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.  Isaiah 1:17 teaches us to learn what is right, to seek justice, and defend the oppressed, defend the cause of orphans, and plead for the widows cause. Helping Hands Orphanage has captured my heart and held it ransom. The experience I had at Helping Hands Orphanage I would not trade for all the money in the world. If I got the choice, I would go through those 5 months all over again just for a kiss before bed that leaves my face covered in spit, a soft voice outside my door at 6 am letting me know it’s time to start my day, or little voices begging me to just sit with them while they play in the dirt. I have never loved any child as much as I loved those children. Those boys held my heart in the palm of their little hands. God took my heart and broke down every single wall I had ever built up. He let me experience their brokenness, their defeat, and their day-to-day struggles. A meeting on Friday January 2, 2015 ended my time at Helping Hands Orphanage. The meeting was unexpected, and all I could do was sit there and listen to what the leadership of the orphanage wanted to share with me. I said sorry when I needed to, and listened when it was necessary. Not understanding or agreeing with all the reasons why, but knowing I was being forced to leave within a 72-hour period of time. Thank you Jesus for my boys, for their hearts, and my short amount of time with them. Thank you Jesus for everyone who supported me, loved me, and encouraged me from across the ocean.  Thank you Jesus for redemption, your grace, and unrelenting mercy.  As you can imagine I am at loss for words. If you would please keep my boys, Grace, and myself in your prayers as we continue to make sense of what happened. Also that our hearts would begin to heal, the boys were on vacation when we were forced to leave, resulting in us not getting to say goodbye or give one last hug. Please know I am open to any hard questions that you would like to ask, or concerns you want to share. I got home Sunday night and since then have been wrestling with my brokenness. I know my God is good and His peace is overwhelming. I pray that I will feel his peace soon. 

Puzzle Pieces

Have you ever sat back thought about your life? All the people who have entered, the people who have exited, and the experiences that have made you who you are today? Well, this morning as I did my quite time, my life up until this point was all I could think about. My mistakes, my past, the people God has given me, the people He has taken away, and ultimately the experiences that have made me who I am today. A question I am constantly asked is, “what are you going to do next?” My response normally consists of three words, “I don’t know.” What normally follows that is a blank stare or a “well, you will eventually figure it out.”  Which is true, I will eventually figure it out, I will eventually know what I am suppose to do next. My senior year of high school, God spoke to me so clearly, so powerfully, and so mightily, I knew I just had to drop everything and leave.  So here I am, seeking His will again. For all of you who are wondering, I don’t know what I am going to do after this year. But what I do know is my life is in His hands and there is no better feeling then that. The one who created the earth, and put everything into being has my life in His hands! That makes me speechless, humbled, and breaks my heart in the best way. I will always be transparent. Not knowing, scares me and makes me want to take matters into my own hands. I look at these beautiful boys and want to stay with them forever, but if that’s not Gods will, I will pick everything up and move where He calls me. The real question I ask myself is, why is it so hard to trust in God? Once again those three words come back to my mind, “I don’t know.” But what I do know is I crave that trust, I crave a relationship with him that is so strong I never doubt, I crave a passion for my God that is so powerful I could change the world with a snap of my fingers.  But then I wouldn’t be human, then I wouldn’t have to crawl back to Him on my knees every day, then I wouldn’t have to seek Him and His will. One of my many flaws is I hold onto things so tight. Sometimes, so tight I wont give it to God, I have this attitude problem you see…. Something to the extent of I think I can do everything myself. Surprise right? Not really for those of you who know me well. I think of all the people I have held onto so tight and God just took them right out of my hands. I think about the plans I had to go to college and God just turned my whole life around. I think about my first mission trip to Haiti, when God ripped my heart right out of my chest.  Being on mission is hard, being alone in a foreign country is terrifying, actually. I think about the pieces of my life, at first I didn’t understand why. I didn’t know why none of my relationships worked out, I didn’t know why all my test scores were so low, I didn’t know why I cried all the way back from Haiti. God is good, he is Sovereign, He is just, His ways are perfect, and His plans are far beyond anything I could imagine. The best thing I ever did was pick everything up and leave. The best thing I ever did was end unhealthy relationships. The best thing I could ever, and will ever do, is dedicating my life to the least of these. Be a mother to the motherless, be an advocate to the helpless, be a voice for the unheard. Stand up, get out of your comfort zone, and change the world. Because, I can promise you it is the best decision you will ever make. Whether it’s going out into the world, or right there in your own community. Make the stand for Christ because he made the ultimate stand for us. My God is good and His love is great. Just an update on me, God has put some people in my path with visions, hopes, and a passion for the country of the Dominican Republic with a call to orphan care. I trust that God will lead me in His path and not my own. Please partner with me in prayer, as I start to really pray and seek the Lord for what to do after this year.  As for the boys, they are doing great. They leave on a vacation to visit with distant relatives and family members December 25- January 7th.  Thank you for all you do and the support you give. 

Peace


There is just something about the peace of Christ that surpasses every feeling in this world. As I grow up and move out into the adult world I am truly starting to realize how important it is to have peace. I have had a roller coaster of ups and downs here, and an ever-raging war in my heart.  I thank God for his peace because without that I would not be able to do what he has called me here to do, love on his children.  I praise God for being slow to anger, having mercy, and giving out grace like it is a gift.  I strive to have these qualities more and more every day. Please believe me when I say that there is just something about the reality of world hunger and poverty that hits you all at once. When it hit me, it hit me hard without relenting. I immediately felt incapable, empty, and like I was longing for water within the dessert. I have prayed every day for peace and for this war within my heart to end. It wasn’t until this weekend that I had truly given everything to the one who holds my heart, Jesus Christ. If you had told me that moving to the Dominican Republic would be this difficult before I left, I don’t think I would have gone. The old me would have unpacked my bags and sat in my bed thinking of what to do next.  But here I am growing stronger within my God, in a country that is not my own. But please know this has been the most amazing three months of my life. I am growing spiritually stronger every day, growing in boldness, finding myself, and starting to see the pieces of my life come together.  As I am sitting here writing this post I am looking out up into the mountains, covered in little houses. If my God can put these mountains in place, and care for each person placed in the scattered villages, who am I? My God is bigger then all my problems, all my burdens, all my fears, and all my insecurities. You know what? Praise God, because I have so many problems, burdens, fears, and insecurities. I can’t be a mom to 30 children without him. I thank Jesus for changing me slowly from the inside out and making me a new creation in him. I thank Jesus for giving me a peace in my heart and loving those who don’t love me. I thank Jesus for helping me surrender my all to him. I challenge you all to look to every person with the love of Christ, to discover yourself in our savior, but most importantly make the difference in someone’s life through The Gospel.  Thank you for all your support, love, and care packages. It truly makes all the difference for Grace and I. We couldn’t do it without all your prayers, love, and encouraging words. The boys are doing great and receiving all the love Grace and I have to give. We ask that you continue to pray for this orphanage and our strength. 

"I can do it myself"


Since my blog posts are pure honesty, I would like to start off by saying: this is one of the hardest things I have ever done. If you ask any missionary about living in a different country, culture, and 1000 miles away from home, I believe they would agree it’s a very difficult thing to do. If they don’t agree, its safe to say they are lying to your face. If you would have told me 2 years ago I would be living in an orphanage with 30 boys and mixing powered peanut butter with sink water for a snack, I would have laughed in your face. But God works in mighty ways, and once He gets a hold of your heart He will never let go. Jesus changed my life and rescued me from my sin and shame. I am a new creation in Him, and thanks to God, because who I was is someone I never want to be again. But God never stops changing your heart and your ways. He is still working in me, and changing me from the inside out. I think it is fair to say that I am the most stubborn and hardheaded person I have ever met. Since I could talk, I always told my parents “I can do it myself,” to this day at 19 years old, I still tell them “I can do it myself.” The problem is I find myself telling God this. Who am I to think I can go through this life without Jesus? Who am I to think I can go a day without His presence? Who am I to think that I can do this on my own? Who am I to think I can bear my own burdens? My identity is not my sins, my identity is not my shame, and not my burdens. My identity is in Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior. I have been knocked down, broken, and most days I feel like I can’t pick myself back up. You know why? Because I cant pick myself back up. Only my God can pick me up. When poverty, depression, and the pain of an orphan’s past hits you, it will hit you hard. I have been knocked down and I am struggling to get back up. Most days I feel physically and mentally so broken, but my God is good, and His plan is great. I often wonder to myself why we, as humans, focus on all the bad things when there is so much good. I get to wake up every day and love on my kids. I get to be a mom to children who don’t even have a general idea of what the word “mom” means. I get to tuck little ones into bed at night and tell them how much God loves them. I get so frustrated with myself because I constantly focus on the bad when there is so much good. Like when they tell me I am beautiful and how much they love me, how I have received enough hugs and kisses to last a lifetime, or when I hear a voice softly call me mom, that these kids can fall asleep at night knowing how much God loves them. I always have to stop and ask myself what I am doing… because sometimes I don’t know what I am doing. This is why I need Jesus. Isaiah 49:14-15 says, “The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me. Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” God does not, will not, and cannot forget us. These children have been forgotten, neglected, and put to the side. I know why I am here, even in my pain and brokenness. To give everything I have to the least of these, not only my children, but also God’s children. 


Broken in the Best Way

 

This morning I come to all of you broken hearted and once again humbled by my God. Last night after returning from church I came upstairs to find one of the boys laying on the floor crying. I approached him and knelt down to ask what had happened, assuming one of the other boys had taken something of his or I had just missed a fight that had broken out. This precious boy named Anthony continued to tell me he was remembering the death of his mother. Needless to say tears immediately came to my eyes, I was speechless. I sat down with him held him in my arms and just cried with him. As I held him in my arms with his head on my chest I just felt this precious child’s pain so immensely. I was broken in the best way, my heart was just destroyed for the Kingdom of God. I just sat there humbled, broken, and quite. I haven’t felt God’s presence that strong since I have been here, all I could do was cry. I felt God just quietly whisper to me “Sophia your problems are so small”. These children, my children, have nothing and I have everything. The water has not been working, there is no air-conditioning, my wifi never works, the only time I don’t sweat is in the shower, and I have had only bread for more than one meal. Why I think this is a problem, I don’t know. But what I do know is I am a disgusting human being without my God. This morning I am not only coming to all of you broken and humbled, but with a heavy heart. This world is so broken and in need of Jesus. I have made a stand to be his hands and feet, sacrificing myself every day for His Kingdom. I want to challenge all of you to take a stand with me to change this world for Christ. Rather that is on your campus, in your workplace, throughout your home, or in your own heart. Reach out to the broken, help the needy, feed the hungry, chase after Christ, and pursue his plan for your life. Because I can promise you it will be so much better then any of your own plans will ever be. What I am not… I am not perfect, I am not completely humbled, and I am not without sin. I am nothing without Jesus. All I can do is laugh at myself sometimes, I think about myself trying to mix powered peanut butter with sink water, and stir it with a broken hanger. I try to speak Spanish and all the boys do is look at me like I’m from another planet. When I go to kiss the kids good night, and I trip over the fan cord almost every time. How I get so frustrated when one of the boys refuses to get out of bed. That I get mad at the kids when they scream my name just for attention. The fact that when I find one of the boys remembering the death of his mother, all I can do is sit with him and cry. I am not a lot of things, but what I am is human. 

 Anthony, 12 years old

Anthony, 12 years old