Today, Christen and I went to Alberto's house to pick up his four year old son, Fabio. While Alberto went to pick up his wife's death certificate and his youngest son's birth certificate, Fabio was going to go with us to play with some kids his age who live at El Refugio.
El Refugio is not an orphanage, but that might be the easiest way to explain it to someone who has never seen it. There's just no possible way to put it into words. Doris, the Swiss lady who runs it, lives there with twelve children between the ages of four and eleven. The air is filled with a mixture of Spanish, English, and Swiss German. Children running everywhere. It's the stuff movies are made of. Think Cheaper by the Dozen. Each child has a tragic story behind them. Some were abandoned by their parents. Others were born to mothers with disabilities. Many of their mothers were raped. But Doris makes it clear that this is not an orphanage. It is a home, and they are a family. Each child belongs. One might think that with histories like these that this would be a very sad place, but the miracles that Christ is doing here are incredible. I've never seen a house so full of joy.
At first, Fabio didn't seem too sure about the whole thing. But then he met the triplets. Blanca, Celeste, and Dulce immediately drew him in and made him their friend. They showed him how to use all their toys, and were very kind. What was really interesting was that Fabio comes from a much wealthier family, but at El Refugio, all were equal, and this afternoon, he was just as much a part of the family as everybody else. It's amazing the borders that children can cross.
After a while some of Doris's staff and I took the kids to the park down the street. There, I made friends with Samuel, who is four years old and loves to wrestle. But most of the time we were there he was content to just sit on my lap and stare. He kept calling me a clown. He's a really sweet, joyful little boy.
At the park, we also played chapadas, or tag. The triplets especially loved this game. When it was time to go, Fabio climbed up on my shoulders, and Samuel grabbed my hand, and we walked back to the house together.
Back at the house, we played card games and did puzzles together, and then it was time to start getting ready for bed. All the kids put their pajamas on before dinner because after the staff leaves, Doris is home with all twelve kids by herself. Needless to say, once the staff left and dinner was served, things got crazy. There's no way I could do what Doris does, but she loves these kids well.
Just before dinner, Christen asked me to get out Doris's guitar and teach the kids some songs. We sang "Lean on Me," "I'm Yours," "Jesus Loves Me," "Lord I Lift Your Name on High," and "Every Move I Make." The kids loved it. "Every Move I Make" was their favorite, and they all sang along, me singing in English, and the kids singing in Spanish and German. They all got out percussion instruments and played along and danced on the couch, laughing the whole time. Samuel even sang along, singing, "Blah blah blah blah...."
Just as we were leaving, Doris told me how our singing had lifted her spirits, how it had brought her such great joy. Christen later explained to me the difficulties of Doris's day, including many of her licenses expiring and the possibility of the government shutting down several of her homes like El Refugio. I was glad that I could be used to brighten her day.
But the best part of the day was seeing Fabio smile. Alberto still hasn't been able to explain to him what happened to his mom, but he knows that something is not right. It was good to see him truly enjoying himself and playing and laughing with kids his age. He is so full of joy.
After we left, Fabio and Alberto dropped us off at the bus stop, where we caught a bus back to one of the leader's houses for a camp meeting. We're starting to get really excited for camp. Only one more day until we leave! The camp team leaves Sunday to set up, and kids will arrive on Monday. We can use prayers for safety, both physically and spiritually. Pray for those kids that have an appointment with Jesus this week. And pray for their leaders, the ones who will make that introduction.
I still have not been able to post pictures on this blog, but for now I will be posting them on Facebook, and you can view them from my profile. Otherwise, my parents will have pictures at church. Again, thank you for your support and for your prayers!