It’s my 2nd to last day in Ecuador. I’m the only one without a camera this week, so my experience has been a little different, I think. Normally, I let my thoughts simmer for days or weeks, but this week has had my mind racing – trying to process all the information and images. I don’t know how to ascribe some significant meaning, so I’ll just describe my week…
In the morning, we visited a state run orphanage. The facilities were fairly well taken care of, but as with any of the places I would visit – things were amiss. A playground that children weren’t allowed to play in or toilets that frequently back up, spilling sewage into the shower and living areas.
Later, we visited an all boys orphanage. A starker, more dire picture…children (even teenage boys) sleeping two to a bed; a half a bag of rice to feed 40 kids and no idea when more food would come in. The leaders of these orphanges reminded me of George Muller: always in need, always praying that needs would be met with no idea how they would be.
We’ve flown to another city in Ecuador. We visit an all girls orphanage run by a French order of Catholic nuns. Two of the eldest girls take us on a tour of the facilities. One wants to be a doctor, the other would like to own a business. Anything is possible? I walked through the computer room and saw a young girl working in MS Excel. I wonder how my particular skills could help. Could I teach business skills? Could I improve the chances of a girl becoming a business owner?
Later in the day, at another Catholic orphanage for infants and toddlers, a little girl calls me Papa. Its crazy, but there are no men in their lives now, and the only men they knew beat them or their moms or were constantly drunk. They grow without any concept of what manhood means.
Squalor. Two months ago one of the orphanages was forced to move to a new location because their landlord raised the rent by 50%. Beds are falling apart, food in the refigerator would be appalling to most Americans. Most rooms smell of mold or urine. But then I hear of what this place once was… A hotel, but not any hotel, it was a hotel with a strip club attached. Rooms were rented a half hour at a time. Rather than think of what they’ve been forced to accept, my mind turns to redemption. This place can be redeemed, these children’s lives – thrown away by everyone they’d known – can be redeemed.
Later we visit a lady who opened her home to orphans. She told the government she could handle eight children, but she has more than 20 living in her home. Lice, rats, more smells that make my stomach turn. There are 2 staff taking care of all the children. It’s not physically possible to care for these kids appropriately. Here I should feel despair, but I look at the faces of the 2 workers and I just see hope. There is hope for these children.
We’re trying to address some immediate needs (replacing some mattresses, buying some eating utensils, some bags of rice), but the group has decided that long term, what the kids really need is love and attention. It’s going to take people to provide them with hope and an opportunity for redemption.
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