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Tijuana, Lice shampoo, and flying by the seat of my zip-off pants


"The best laid plans go oft astray." Was that Shakespeare who said that? (He said so many things, it must have been!) All I know, is that every time I go to Mexico, there is always something that goes differently than we had planned. Sometimes things work out, and other times everything slips away into the wind and chaos reigns.

Let me back up a little bit.

I have a friend who started an organization called One Generation Alliance. OGA is a non-profit organization that exists to support orphanages and orphanage directors in Tijuana. Dave Edmondson (and his lovely wife Shannon and their five children) have invested time, money, and countless thoughts and prayers into exploring the best way to help orphanages succeed in the gigantic task of clothing, sheltering, feeding and providing an emotionally safe place for children in distress. For more information you can visit their website HERE.

About two years ago I visited an orphanage called the Hacienda for the first time with Dave and a few others. While I was there, I met a little baby girl named Jessica who had wheezy breath sounds and a very fast respiration rate. She and the rest of the babies were shut up in a little room with no windows, or fresh airflow. I could not get her out of my head when we left.

Last spring I found myself taking another trip down to the Hacienda with Dave. This time we were trying to build some trust with the woman who was directing the orphanage at the time, a habit wearing, quasi-nun, ex-hermit that we called “Madre.” Madre was the wild card in the whole mix. We never knew what we were going to get with her. She was a walking contradiction; a woman who didn’t like children and wanted to retire, yet refused to relinquish any control over the chaos that reigned at the home. She had recently installed a camera/loudspeaker system throughout the home so that when the children did anything wrong she could see it from her office, press a buzzer, and yell at them without leaving her room. Nevertheless, she was gracious when we arrived and took some time out of her day to tell us of her health woes and the financial problems of the home before disappearing to her house at the back of the property.

On that trip I met Dana, a little girl who had a deep second degree burn on her hand because her father had come after her and her older sister with a hot branding iron. Her bandage was dirty and the wound was covered with a brown powder. For the first time I felt like my nursing skills were actually useful as I cleaned and debrieded Dana’s hands. Dana did not make a sound while I scraped the dead skin off of her hands. By the end of the day, her hand was clean, re-bandaged, and my heart was broken. Again, I could not shake her face from my mind.

It was because of children like Dana and Jessica that we decided to start going to the Hacienda once a month. We were tired of showing up intermittently at the orphanage and feeling like strangers. So we made a plan.

“The plan” was simple. Go to the Hacienda once a month. Hug kids. Tell them that we cared about them. Play with them. Tell them that we would be back again the next month. And repeat. We also decided to try telling them three simple God truths #1 God loves you, #2 God is with you, #3 God has a plan for your life. Do I need to tell you that every month we had a different hitch in “the plan?” Well we did… One month the group was rained in and got stuck in a room with 45 children with no impulse control, far too much candy, and a group of scary clowns that gave everyone LOUD whistles. On another trip, the group arrived only to find that Madre had taken a group of the older kids off campus for the day to keep them from spending time with us. Then, there was the time that we almost aborted the trip before it happened. But, somehow the group managed to make it to the Hacienda for 8 months straight. Although our plans often failed, we kept going and we kept showing the kids and the workers at the home that we wanted to help.

Mother Theresa once said, “God doesn’t require us to succeed, He only requires that you try.”

Today, Dana ran up to me, called me by name and turned her face up for a hug and a kiss on the cheek. Later, Jessica fell asleep on my lap and slept there for an hour. While she slept, I looked around and saw members of our team playing with the kids, telling them to climb down off the tables, and kicking the ever present soccer ball around with the teenage boys.

I know that a lot of the change in the atmosphere at the Hacienda has to do with the new leadership that has stepped up and is slowly removing Madre from authority. But, I like to think that it also has to do with the relationships that we have built over the past several months. We are making progress, and building trust. Often we fail to accomplish some of the tasks that we set out to do. But, slowly, we are succeeding in making these kids feel important and loved. And in the light of that, the tasks go unfinished are unimportant.

It is NOT important that we still have trouble getting all the kids to sit down at the same time. It IS important that the kids felt comfortable enough to sit with us and tell us about their lives and families, that they let us wipe their boogers and take the tomatoes out of their sandwiches.

It has been a huge privilege to be a part of One Generation. I will miss it so much while I am gone. Yet, I’m so excited to see what happens as the team continues to serve at the orphanages once a month. This post is dedicated to you. Thank you to Dave Edmondson, Michael Rowe, Joelle Houston, Kenzie Campbell, Lisa Boulanger, Kristyn Campbell, Katie Waide, Chris Cantero, Stefan Tehran, Kierstin Gier, Marissa Herr, Jeremy Mead, Savanna Galla-Rini, Carl Hanson and all the others who have tried, succeeded and failed together. Thanks for teaching me to try without thinking about success or failure. We try to love the kiddos in Mexico just because that is something that is important to do. 

After I got home today, I did  a load of laundry (washing the vomit out of my pants) and sat with lice shampoo on my head for ten minutes. But, moments like this make all of that worth it. That is Jessica, sleeping on my lap. :)



Comments

  1. OK, I'm crying. Just showed this to Dave, he's crying. Oh it's so hard to let you go! When you come back would you be ready to run an orphanage in TJ? We'll set it up while you're gone... (Dave's actually serious)
    Love you Amanda!
    ~Shannon

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks Shannon. I love you guys so much. Keep doing all the work you are doing. It is so important. We will see about Tijuana. Right now I'm just looking one step at a time. :)

    ReplyDelete

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