It's only appropriate for God to throw one more emotional roller coaster at us before we left. For most of the team, Thursday was the hardest day. The team visited a temporary "orphanage" facility that is run by the Nicaraguan government. It is known as HAT. It's very hard to describe this place using words. You pull into the gated complex, drive passed the guards, and park in what seems like an abandoned elementary school parking lot. As you get off the bus the piercing echoes of children yelling and screaming saturates the air. It's been 4 weeks since these children have seen anyone other than the few people that are assigned to HAT. As you walk through all of the buildings, everything is barren and surreal. There are no toys. There is no color. The beds are either filthy or destroyed. There are holes in the walls and broken glass lining the walls from the windows that have been shattered by the children. There is one dim light bulb, if any at all, in each of the dark and dreary rooms. The only thing that comes to mind when trying to think of a good comparison is the orphanage that Oliver Twist lived in.
Currently there are 21 children living at HAT. They range in age from weeks old to 26 years old. Many of them suffer from a handicap such as down syndrome, psychosis, etc. Many of them are runaways or were taken from their families because of abuse. Although HAT seems like a terrible place (and it is) it is a far better place for these children than the alternative (living on the streets). HAT really has a lot of potential to do great things for these children and the countless others that have yet to go there. The problem lies in the Government. Unfortunately they don't feel it necessary to provide funding for food, adequate shelter, toys, or anything else that children deserve. With a little TLC, HAT could really be great. They have enough space to house hundreds of children, have classrooms, a playground etc. if only they had the funding. Fortunately, the government has asked for Forward Edge to help. The extent of that help is unknown, but it is our prayer that HAT will be turned over to an organization like Forward Edge so that it's potential can be realized.
During our day at HAT, our 3 electricians were busy installing adequate lighting in 4 rooms, which drastically improved the living conditions for these kids. The rest of the team spent time raking leaves, picking up trash and broken glass, and played with the children. We gave them the few toys we had brought with us. The children loved them but we still felt like it wasn't enough. There has to be more that we can do. The team also donated a couple hundred dollars so that HAT could buy some food for the kids. There has to be more that we can do for them. Something that shows these children that they're not forgotten.
Before we left, we had a little fiesta. There was dancing, a pinata, and ice cream. The happiness that was created by those small gestures was amazing. It was a truly humbling and awe-inspiring day. God is obviously at work there, but we need to ask ourselves, what does God want us to do? Why did he show us HAT?
Now I'd like to shift gears a little bit. Did you know that Nicaragua is the second most impoverished nation in the western hemisphere? The team got a glimpse of this poverty last week. I'm sure that everyone experienced a high every time they got a hug from a little girl with a dirty face, and a low every time they realized there was nothing they could do to keep that child from having to sleep in the dirt that night. Now that we have experienced those feelings and those connections with the people of Nicaragua, what do we do?
Forward Edge International is an organization that has repeatedly proven their commitment to helping the people of Nicaragua. We witnessed the beginning phase of the dream that is Villa Esperanza. We saw the fruit of that labor in those 16 girls that have been rescued from the confines of the dump. Even better, Gloria, Wilbert, Susie and the other employees and volunteers are teaching those 16 girls how to show Christ's love, just as they have been shown. Villa Esperanza translates to "The Village of Hope". That's exactly what it is. You can't help but have an overwhelming sense of hope when you see La Chureca (where the girls came from) and where they are now at Villa Esperanza. It is a beautiful thing that can only be described as a gift from God.
Vida Nueva, the other orphanage the team visited, is also an Oasis. It is a private organization that is run by an American family. That place is such a blessing to those 30 plus kids that live there. Without Vida Nueva, those kids would probably be in HAT, or a situation similar to it.
El Faro Church is a blessing to the people of La Chureca. It gives them an opportunity to get out of the dump and intermix with other residents of Managua. It gives them a place to take their children while they work, so the kids aren't at risk of being hurt inside the dump. They feed the people of La Chureca every day. They pour out Christ's love on anyone that will accept it.
What I'm getting at with all of these examples is, God is on the move in Nicaragua. He's working through Forward Edge, Vida Nueva, El Faro and even HAT. God is radically changing the lives of so many people in Nicaragua as well as the Americans that visit. What is God calling you to do? Maybe it's time to plan a trip. Every team that goes to Nicaragua plays a part in God's plan. When you make a connection with those kids, they remember you. You're not just another Gringo! They really remember you, and are excited to see you again. Maybe God wants you to sponsor a little girl that lives in the Villa. It's a small monthly donation that will completely change the life of a beautiful little girl. It will give her a chance at a better life, living outside of the dump, away from fear and danger, in a place that is full of love. Maybe God is telling you to sponsor a whole house. The cost of one house that will house 8 more girls is a small sacrifice when you compare it to saving 8 more children from living in despair. Maybe God is asking you to donate some diapers, or formula, or money to Vida Nueva. It takes about $10,000 a month to operate that orphanage. However, that facility takes care of 30 plus kids that have been abandoned or even left for dead by their parents. Maybe God is calling you to donate money, your talent, or your ideas to HAT. It is so full of potential to be a haven for the unwanted children of Nicaragua. It just needs the time, money and "know how" to get it there. Maybe God is asking you to pray. The most important ingredient, and the most powerful tool. None of these projects are possible without prayer. God is on the move. God wants us to join him. What is He asking you to do?
We would like to thank each and every one of you that has prayed for us and supported us. Thank you for making this trip possible. You were all just as much a part of this team as those who were actually there. We just pray that you will search your hearts and find what God is asking you to do. Why did he make you a part of this team?
For more information on how you can help visit: www.forwardedge.org