Last week I was thrilled when Tio Edgardo finally arrived back from his vacation. Tio is the Spanish word for uncle and Tia is the word for aunt. At Open Door Ministries, the titles of Tia & Tio are equal to a house-parent at orphanages in the USA. Back to Edgardo. It wasn’t his fault that he was three days late. Floods washed the roads away. He got back as soon as he could. The reason I was thrilled with Edgardo’s arrival was that while he was on vacation, I took his place as a Tio. I lived in a small house with 6 young boys for two weeks. With his return, I was looking forward to what I considered a well-deserved rest. I won’t take the time to explain the circumstances, but within a day of Tio Edgardo’s return, I volunteered to be a house parent again. This time it is a little more complicated. I am back in my apartment here at the orphanage, but living in the apartment above me are . . . drumroll please . . . three, beautiful, wonderful, but troubled, teenage girls. (Emphasis on wonderful and troubled)
Now, let’s clarify my status. I am a 62-year-old guy who came to Honduras to farm at an orphanage for a year. I am single, never had children, and I am a loner. Yep, put me in a room with a Bible, a book, a praise CD, and plenty of food and I don’t need other people at all. People wear me out. I can make it on my own quiet well without others thank you. I’m not saying that is the way that I (or anyone else) should live, it’s just the way I have lived for many years now. However, sometimes, in the quiet of those quiet days, I would pray for something else, something more. Sometimes I admitted to myself and to God that I wanted to be part of a team, to be part of something that mattered. Almost as soon as the words would leave my mouth, I would slam shut the door to my heart again and forget them. Guess who didn’t forget my words or prayers?
Yeah, that’s right. My Abba Daddy didn’t forget. So, here is where God’s sense of humor comes into the story. To answer my secret prayers for companionship and purpose, God sent me down to Honduras to be a farmer. Huh? Does that make sense to you? Me either, but let’s face it, if He had told me to do what I am doing now, I would have never believed it was from God. It is just too crazy! Not only does it not make sense, there was a greater problem. I didn’t have enough love in my heart to take on caring for three teenage girls. So do you see why God put me in an orphanage for 3 months? He knew I would fall in love with the little kids and He was softening my heart so He could do His job through me to the big kids. He wanted me to love the lonely, help the helpless, and defend the fatherless. Sound familiar? From his own mouth, here is Jesus’ job description.
“The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.” Luke 4:18 NKJV
Monday, my girls and I worked in the garden together. What a hoot seeing these 14 and 15 year-old girls with their hands in slime and mud separating dirt from sod. Farming will be part of their chores each day. Did you get that? God has given this ex-loner a team of farmers!
Tuesday, we piled into a taxi and I took them for a class in shopping at a local grocery store. Each girl had a list of 20 items and a certain amount of cash. I had them get a shopping cart and turned them loose with no help or instructions other than “buy the stuff on this list.” I haven’t laughed that hard for a long time. Imagine three cute teenage girls, each with a shopping cart and each looking at a shopping list. It was like an episode of keystone cops. If one went across an aisle, the others followed. If the first one realized she was in the wrong aisle and turned around, the others followed. I stopped laughing long enough to stop that behavior and then noticed another problem. Each had loaded her cart with her three loafs of bread first, and then piled other stuff on top of the bread. I went to each cart and put the bread in the section for fragile items. Somehow, the girls had formed a line again. I noticed that if the first one in line took an item off the shelf, the others took the same item. If she put the item back, the others stared at her, grumbled among themselves, and then put the item back. By this time, I was laughing so hard I had tears streaming down my cheeks. I’m not sure if the girls learned anything, but I had a blast.
There are two passages the Lord has given me for working with these young ladies.
The first is something King David says to the Lord.
“Your gentleness has made me great.” Psalm 18:35
Wow! We spend so much time talking about God’s power and holiness (and rightly so) yet David said that it was God’s gentleness that made Him great. I know my girls need discipline and tough love, but even tough love can be done in a gentle way.
The other passage is a familiar one to many of us.
“Mercy triumphs over judgment.” James 2:13
This quote is from the New King James Version, but I looked it up in the “old” King James Version too. Check this out!“mercy rejoiceth against judgment.”
Sometimes we forget (at least I do) that triumph (victory) brings joy. And if we are truly filled with joy, we can’t help but laugh. Somehow, God’s sense of humor is wrapped up in His joy and His joy is wrapped up in His triumphant victories in our lives. He thinks it is funny to send an old, single farmer to care for teenage girls.
My time with my girls (I can’t help but call them mine even though they are His) may only last for the rest of my year in Honduras. Or . . . it may last for a second year. Or a third year. Or it may last for the rest of my life. I truly don’t know, nor do I care—as long as I am obeying my Jesus and He does His job through me.
Do you see what a mission trip has done to my heart? In less than 3 months, I have learned not to plan the adventure, but to live it. Life without a plan is finally fun for me. But here is something equally amazing, life in the midst of fifty kids is actually fun. I do truly love my girls, but I know that they will make mistakes. Most of them already have. However, the real tragedy is that God had to send a 62-year-old guy who doesn’t even speak their language to be their Tio and His example of His love for them. It is a tragedy for those who were supposed to do this and missed out, but a tremendous privilege, blessing, and adventure for me.
Once again, I want to thank Barry and Penny Compton, the founders of Open Door Ministries and also Lauren Compton, their daughter who manages the day-to-day operations of the orphanage and the girls’ home. They are trusting me with their kids and allowing me time to change into whatever God wants me to be. Thank you Barry, Penny, and Lauren, I am humbled and grateful to be part of your ministry team.
I thank you, friends and supporters of Food 4 Kids. Please know that our original mission is intact. We will finish the gardening school. We will install aquaponics systems. But we will do all this in God’s timing. Our Father is at work in many hearts and I for one want to live the adventure. Who knows, someone reading this may be the next one to sleep in a house with six boys for a week . . . or longer. Know this, your prayers and financial gifts are making a difference in the lives of the children down here. Go look in the mirror. You will see a Tio or Tia in the reflection, Listen close and you will hear God say, “Good job.”
Last, but most, I thank You, Jesus Christ, Lord of lords, King of kings, and lover of my soul. I thank You for the love that now flows through my heart. It seems like every couple of weeks You have me fall in love all over again. First it was with my little buddy Manuel. After he went back to his mom, you increased my love for Esther and Jasmin. Then I learned to love the boys in Tio Edgardo’s house. Now, You have added Jocelyn and Eili to the list of those that have captured my heart. What is neat is that I don’t have to stop loving one person to love the next one that Jesus puts in my path. He expands my heart’s capacity so I can love them all. Lord Jesus, I hope that You enjoy Your sense of humor as much as I do. And Lord, I don’t know if I am great, but I know this; Your gentleness has made my life great. Thank You.
January 18, 2014, Tocoa, Colon, Hondura