The first year I visited, our arrival was greeted as if we were Santa Claus. ALL of the kids were in the lobby to see us, climbing on guys, hugging us. They were starved for affection. Any time we had free time and were sitting in the lobby, you could bet that we each had 2 or 3 kids on our laps or sitting around us. There were no people other than the staff at the home except for our group. Other people who had been on the trip before told me it was like this every year.
That same year, the home was put under the direction of Captain Luis. Captain Luis is a man of vision. People from our group who had been to the home in previous years said there was a difference in the atmosphere of the home that year.
The second year I went, the kids were plenty excited to see us – but not quite as much as the year before. One day a lady from a local church was there tutoring some kids. And a taekwon-do instructor came a couple of times a week to give classes to ALL of the kids. There were musical instruments and band practice. The kids called the Captain “Cappy” and you could tell they truly liked him.
This year, we arrived while the kids were on summer vacation, so the home was not as full as usual. (Some of the children still have family and are able to go home on weekends and vacations.) But the kids there - well, they were happy to see us. But they were not starving for affection and attention. They had something planned almost every day we were there – field trips, service trips, etc. While we were there another large group came and entertained the kids. Many of them were dressed as clowns and did funny routines.
I know that the kids still need us, but not like before. We no longer are the highlight of their year. This is awesome, right? These kids are being fed emotionally, physically and spiritually – all year long.
But can I be brutally honest? It was kind of disappointing. It feels good to be the highlight of someone’s year, never mind an entire orphanage. And so, while the realization was that these kids don’t need us like they did is a wonderful thing, but kind of its kind of bittersweet. It made me look at why I go on these trips. Is it really to help others – or is it to make myself feel good – about myself?? Truthfully, I’m not sure I have the complete answer. But maybe this is the advantage of going to the same place multiple times. We get to see things change and grow, knowing we helped along the way. And maybe, just maybe God uses this to remind us that He works through others to rebuild, restore & renovate.
Later I will share more lessons from my trip to Mexico City.