As I sit here preparing to blog I am amazed once again at how God designed our hearts to hold both joy and sorrow and concern and love all at the same time.
I went over to Casa Hogar to write this since they have internet and we don’t yet. But that isn’t what happened. I ended up praying with a young mother whose baby came much too early, 5 ½ months, and she is scared and lost. Her story is a tough one, filled with abuse and shame. Then I sat with Jose, a 13-year-old boy, who’s dad wants to go to the states and is paying for Jose to learn about computers so that he can work when they get there. But the class requires access to a computer and the internet which he didn’t have until I came in today to write this blog. When he told me the problem and I said I could help him it was like watching every emotion possible pass over his face. Disbelief, fear, happiness, determination. We just finished looking up ‘what is the internet’ and ‘what is Apple’ for his homework and now he is ready to participate in his class just like everyone else. And the kids are setting up tables to play bingo. And 2 year old Rolando was dropped off by his mom and is devastated at being left again and clung to me sobbing saying I am his Abuela, grandmother. I was able to love on the little guy and when I left he was smiling more than he was crying. Then I helped write a thank you letter to Jessica Simpson who is a supporter of Casa Hogar. Yep, Jessica Simpson the singer.
And when Thad and I lay our heads down tonight, we will be praising God that he would let wretches like us be a part of all of this. And tomorrow morning we will praise Him again for another opportunity to bring His Love and His Light into this little corner of the world.
Just another day in our new life at Casa Hogar Elim Orphanage.
So that was today. What the heck else have we been up to since crossing the border on 12/1/2017? Here are some updates and pictures to go along with them!
Apartment. Not a lot of movement in this area. Competing projects for the same resources. If we are realistic about it we will probably have the bottom floor, which is dirt and sheetrock right now, ready to use in 4-6 months. We don’t have water or sewer yet. We are on camping toilet number 2 and a little concerned as the warm weather is moving in. But it is easy to remember that many people here live with this or less all their lives, so it helps keep the perspective. But I do have to admit to gazing longingly at my toilet that sits, like a lovely white throne, sparkling and untouched 😊 Someday….someday….
And right behind water and sewage in importance is 220 electricity which will allow us to have a water heater, a stove and an AC unit. Even as I write this I recognize hat these are all ‘nice to haves’ not necessities. Well, the AC unit is getting important. Thad and I could work our way through the heat but our four animals are struggling a little bit so for now we are box fanning it and will get a window unit to give them some relief.
Downstairs is still concrete floors and sheet rocked walls but hoping that in the next few months we will have the living room, dining room and kitchen!
UPDATE: We have water and sewage!! Hallelujah! We can use the toilet and retire our camping bucket! The 220 electricity has been run from the street to our apartment but not yet connected to anything. This means the showers are cold but it is getting warmer so that can be a good thing. And I hear cold water is great for your skin and hair 😊
UPDATE #2: We have electricity and a water heater! So awesome to be able to unpack the travel bag for the last time and take a shower at home!
Learning Center. I am absolutely thrilled to say that we should be opening the doors to the Learning Center Library on 3/16. We are down to the final touches, like hand stamping pillows and writing out the “How It Works” to begin training the leaders in each age group. We rethought our decision to implement a software tool for check out/check in of books because so many of the kids have no idea how to type or use a computer. It will be really simple to begin with and then when the computer center opens (Aprilish) and they have completed their basic training we can circle back if it makes sense.
As we learn more about the older kids we will be able to identify areas for apprenticeships and then work with local experts to get them access to on the job training. We expect this to be a process that will require getting to know the kids better and identifying trustworthy local resources. Not something we will achieve overnight but something we will work towards each day.
We are working on different ways to bring tutoring into the learning center. Having a daughter who is a teacher, I know the gift that good teachers bring to children and we want that for these kids as well. It is difficult to get good tutors in Nuevo Laredo so we would like to implement video conferencing so that skilled teachers and tutors can help the kids through online support or classes. This will require high speed internet which we don’t have ….yet…..
UPDATE: ¡El Centro de Aprendizaje está ABIERTO! The Learning Center is OPEN! We have done basic reading tests with the kids developed an initial schedule. Most of the kids who have been at Casa Hogar for a long time are doing well with reading although there are a handful who need help. There are many new children at Casa Hogar who do not even know their alphabet. School was not possible, at least not regularly, before they came to Casa Hogar. We have an amazing opportunity to have immediate impact on these kids lives which is what we came here for! WOOOHOOOO!!!
Chickens. Because we are old and wise 😊we have paused after building the nesting boxes before implementing the automated feeding and watering system until late April or May. We must get the learning center up and running so we can see what kind of time we will have and then we will begin adding to the schedule. We have been feeding them and watering them regularly, manually, which is new and may be why we are getting more eggs. When I asked the boys why they weren’t feeding them regularly they said because it made them poop more…uh…yeah…..
UPDATE: In our pausing, we realized that we could take a super simple approach to the feeding and watering and improve the situation for the chickens pretty darn quick. It’s all in how you choose to define ‘automated’ 😊. The watering system will be the large orange Igloo water coolers with a device attached that dispenses water through drip nipples. Just have to fill it up once a week. The feeding is super simple : his name is Omar and we have found that he enjoys the work and actually gets up in the morning to do it while everyone else is asleep! Future farm manager?? We moved the food over close to the chickens in a secure container, so it is easier to dispense. Within the next few weeks we should have the water system installed. We need to replace/repair a lot of chicken wire to secure the birds and will add new ones in the next months to increase production. We have discovered that many of the older kids do not want to eat the eggs because they are brown. They think it is because they are dirty! Great opportunity for education. And we are up from 0-3 eggs a day total to 14-18 eggs a day. A long way to go button the right road!
Garden. We are excited to be partnering with a young gal, Haley Scott, who is working on her Girl Scout Gold Award, the equivalent to an Eagle Scout distinction. She was already wanting to work on vegetables at Casa Hogar as she saw the benefit of getting fresh vegetables to the children. When she saw this was one of our goals as well, she knew it was a match made in heaven!
In February, Haley and her family joined us to walk the property and lay out the requirements for the first 7 x 40-foot bed that we will build. The plan is to grow common items such as tomatoes, cilantro, peppers, squash and cucumbers.
UPDATE: The bed is built; slightly different shape 11x26, and dirt is being delivered Monday and the net covering will becoming in the next 10 days. The hardest part is getting Mama Lupita to hang tight until Haley comes down in the next month or two to do the irrigation system and planting. Mama hasn’t had a garden in two years and she wants it NOW!! 😊 We are building two more beds ASAP that we can plant in immediately to give her some quicker results
Discipleship. While this happens every day as part of our lives, we do have some specific plans in this area. We will be opening our home to groups of kids for ‘family night’ where they get to help with dinner, clean up, discipleship and games, being put to bed, read to. We want to give them something that they could model in their own homes eventually. We also will be working with Mexican and stateside churches who have Español resources to host interactive video bible studies for all ages groups. As mentioned earlier – this is very dependent on high speed internet availability.
Every now and then we realize that we have no flippin’ idea how to run a library or computer center or raise chickens or run a farm and we are not yet fluent in Spanish. And we get a little squeamish. But God, in all His Grace and Mercy, reminds us that we are just His Hands and Feet and if we remember that, it will all work out beautifully! What we can do, all day, every day, is show his Love to these people, so that is what we will do.
And, friends, not one bit of this could happen without you. God has always been very clear that we were not to do this alone. We were to bring as many along as wanted to come. And you have come. It gives us so much peace to know that you are using Gods money to support this work, that you are speaking our names in prayer, and that some of you are even showing up on our doorstep to sling a hammer or just give a hug and lay hands on us in prayer. We need you. We thank you. We love you.
* Access to high speed internet at the learning center – some key programs need this
* Protection for Thad and I as a couple. And we are together. All the time. 24x7. And we have really different work styles. So there are a lot of opportunities for Satan to pick at our humanness, brokenness and create disharmony. And sometimes he gets the upper hand and we turn into self-centered, whiny, pity-me babies. We get our feelings hurt. Our expectations are not met. Thankfully, we are able to talk through it, bring God in to the middle of it all, bring the cross of our Savior to bear against Satan and remind him that he has already been defeated. Your prayers for protection would be most appreciated.
* Peace in Nuevo Laredo. An uptick in clashes between the cartel and military has caused a bit of unrest in other parts of the city. Seems to have settled down now.
* Discernment for Thad and I as we move about Nuevo Laredo, meet new people and are exposed to new situations. We have been living very small here and intend to continue to do so but inevitably there will be some expansion into new areas and we want to be wise in all things.
* Our language skills to continue to improve and for Thad to gain the willingness to make mistakes and look like a fool talking with his words and hands and whole body just like his wife does. 😊
* Financial support to continue to grow as God calls some donors to move their support to other equally amazing opportunities.
There you have it.
If you know others who might like to join the team, feel free to share this and the link to Giftofdignity.org with them. There’s a role for everyone in God’s plan and it would be a privilege to welcome them on board!
In His Grace, and His Grace alone, we stand,
Anita and Thad Maddox