Haunted

 

I’ve just returned from a week at Prince of Peace Home for Girls in Guatemala and I am haunted.

 

There is a spirit following me around and it won’t leave me alone.

 

Perhaps I should explain more fully:  Prince of Peace is an orphanage where 43 girls and young ladies reside.  I went there with 13 other people on a short-term mission trip sponsored by Bethany Global University. 

 

The mission team consisted of five students from BGU who are in various stage of being trained to be career missionaries, four members of Hope Community Church in Tennessee, Kenny Ortiz who teaches at Bethany and his friend James, our team leader Jim Levine and his wife Cherie, and one stray Dan Jones just because they let me go with them.

 

Truth be told, I had been to this same orphanage last year and I did not hesitate to go again when asked. Prince of Peace ministers to girls who have had horrific things happen in their lives. But love resides in this place and it is the pure, glorious love of Jesus Christ. All of the girls in this home have been sent there by the Guatemalan government, which speaks to what they have gone through. At one point, we learned that 97% of sexual assault cases go unreported in Guatemala, which mean that things have to go horribly, horribly wrong before a judge decrees that a girl or a young lady would be removed from her family. 

 

There are no foster homes in Guatemala and government-run orphanages are the stuff of absolute nightmares, so Prince of Peace is a remarkable blessing for those girls they are able to accept.

 

We spent some time painting interior and exterior parts of the orphanage, but our primary mission was simply to love them. After what these girls had been through, seeing and experiencing true, genuine love was something intensely valuable to them. What that looked like often involved things like ping pong balls, crayons, jump ropes, bubbles, aerosol string, balloons, and just plain fun.

 

Sometimes it was listening to them and praying with them. 

 

Sometimes it was just a simple, heart-felt hug. 

 

The hugs were not difficult to provide.

 

During the day, while the girls were off at school, we also had the opportunity to share the love of Jesus in another way.

 

Affiliated with Prince of Peace is the Church of the Fresh Presence, which meets on Wednesdays and Sundays in the orphanage’s “salon.” (I believe most Americans would call it “the lunch room.”) The church helps support the orphanage, and it also operates a ministry called PROVEE (from the Spanish word for “to provide”) which brings nutritious meals to children in schools. 

 

We were told that, for many of the children we would be feeding, the meal we would provide would be the only one they would receive all day long. We typically gave them bread, black beans, eggs, and fruit. 

 

To say that they were grateful is an understatement.

 

Even so, they typically waited patiently until all had been served and a prayer said before they began eating. 

 

The staff of the schools welcomed us and PROVEE because they have seen test scores, learning, and health improve since the children have gained better access to adequate nutrition. 

 

We were also allowed to share the Gospel in the public schools as the government of Guatemala, despite its flaws, does not fear Jesus Christ as ours does. 

 

Usually PROVEE provides breakfast, but one afternoon we took 280 sandwiches to a public school late in the afternoon. I was assigned to a classroom with what I seem to remember were second-graders and we shared the story of Noah and the flood with them. 

 

One little boy in the front row knew all the answers and boldly read all the Bible verses out loud. He also seemed to be the class clown. As he and I were laughing at one of his jokes, I could see some of his front teeth were broken off. I discreetly asked our Guatemalan interpreter about this and she explained that it was most probably one of the symptoms of malnutrition. On his desk was a large envelope with his name, “Daniel,” written on it.

 

My little namesake worked diligently on the word search activity we gave him. Some of his classmates came to him for help finding the words they could not find.  Later, they enjoyed their sandwiches very much. And I think they prayed with more gratitude over those sandwiches than many of us are able to muster over our best Thanksgiving dinners.

 

Daniel will probably never know that you read this and felt pity for him. He is not living a life of pity. People who love him are bringing him food and the love of Jesus Christ. There are people who are trying to make his life and the lives of many other children better one sandwich at a time. He is as enthusiastic and joyfully about being a seven year-old boy as any seven year-old boy I have ever met.

 

The people who are helping and blessing Daniel and the girls at Prince of Peace are not growing weary in this. They are not overcome by the evil around them and they know that the darkness can never extinguish the light that is Jesus Christ.

 

One night, we gathered together to talk over all that had taken place over the course of our day. As we sat around plastic tables sitting on plastic chairs in the Guatemalan night, Kenny told us he hoped, he prayed, that we would go home haunted by the Holy Spirit. He prayed that we would be forever changed by what we had seen and experienced. 

 

And then he told us that 42% of the world has never heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He told us that the average American spends over $1100 per year on coffee while the average amount each American spends to bring that Gospel to unreached people is less than $30. We spend almost three times as much money every year on Halloween costumes for our pets than we do on telling people in other countries that all who believe in Jesus Christ will have eternal life.

 

And then Kenny said that he hoped we went home nauseated, nauseated, by the thought of acquiring more and more stuff to achieve the American dream knowing what we know and seeing what we have seen.

 

And so, yes, I am haunted. 

 

I am haunted by the Holy Spirit knowing that every song and every teaching I hear on Kinship Christian Radio about this incredible, glorious, life-changing, amazing love of Jesus Christ that puts a sandwich in the hand of little Daniel and rescues orphans from unspeakable evil is something that over three billion people have never heard about. 

 

And I would not be surprised to find that, one day when I am standing in heaven, I am introduced to a girl who was an orphan or a little boy with bad teeth named Daniel who took the Gospel to China or Afghanistan or North Korea. 

 

And I pray with all my heart, please Lord, grant that I was not sitting in my recliner with a TV remote in my hand eating junk food while they did it. 

 

Today’s Praise

Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him? James 2:5 (NLT)

 

(Photo by Kelly Mills Davis. The child pictured attends a school where approximately half of the students have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. He’s been provided with a breakfast of a hard-boiled egg, bread, black beans, plantains, and an orange. His name is withheld for his own protection.)

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