This Christmas holiday, I led a team to Peru with two families, plus my own. To be honest, I was tired. 2015 was a busy year at VisionTrust and the last quarter was no exception. My family was excited to serve orphans and I liked the idea of serving kids without families at Christmas—it seemed noble, good, and self-sacrificing even. However, I couldn’t shake misgivings about the trip because I was a little drained and didn’t know if I had the energy to lead well. But I said, “Ok God, this is your team, do what you will.”
We did a lot (see the bottom of this post for a list), but we also were given time to rest and reflect like I’ve never experienced on a team.
There is one girl, I believe, I was specifically there to be with. Meet Milagros, she is an orphan with mental and physical disabilities. She was the orphan I was hesitant about seeing. During a visit two years ago, she bit me pretty hard and always wanted to be held, but was almost my height, so physically she was a lot to handle. You might be thinking, “Heather, I can’t believe you’re saying such things. You work to help orphans in need.” I want to be honest with you, serving children isn’t always hugs, kisses and sweet smiles. God says to love them regardless. Ok God.
When we first entered the orphanage this trip, Milagros ran straight at me for a body-slamming hug and strong-fingered tickles. During that hug, I heard God in a quiet voice say, “Milagros has a need. She needs to be loved, to be held. Be patient and love her like a mother. Meet her need.” Ok God.
During the week, Milagros watched me and my daughter, Greydi, closely. Milagros followed me everywhere. When Greydi wanted a hug, Milagros wanted a hug. When Greydi sat on my leg, Milagros quickly sat on the other. When Greydi was playing with other kids, Milagros swiftly came to play with me. During church when Greydi got tired and leaned against my shoulder, Milagros got on my lap and leaned on the other shoulder (and got spit all over my blouse). At one point, Greydi got a little frustrated at how closely Milagros watched us interact. It was a great teaching moment. I explained to her, “She’s watching us as a mother and daughter. Greydi, Milagros doesn’t have a mommy. Be patient and be kind.” In those moments with Milagros, I felt like God was there. That holding Milagros was like loving God. Throughout the week, my caution with Milagros fell away and I truly looked forward to seeing her each day. My “Ok God, whatever you say” turned my heart from caution to being filled with love, warmth and renewal.
Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.” Luke 14:23
During the week of Christmas, the team:
- Wrapped 250 gifts for children in the three VisionTrust Learning Centers and orphanage
- Delivered those gifts
- Purchased and decorated a Christmas tree for the orphanage
- Attended a church-wide Christmas celebration with fantastic performances and food
- Baked dozens of cookies and cupcakes with the orphans with a newly purchased oven that one of the families fundraised for
- Spent quality time with the kids playing games, watching Elf in Spanish, teaching skateboarding
- Attended Christmas Eve dinner celebration at 10:30 PM in Mariela Clark’s home (our National VisionTrust Peru Director), stayed up till midnight for a beautiful 360 panorama display of fireworks across all of Ayacucho and opened presents at 1:00 AM on Christmas.
- Accompanied the orphans while they gave away last year’s toys to street kids
- My husband preached the Sunday service and my daughter, along with two team members, lead the English portion of praise and worship
- Visited the Casa Luz farm that provides food for the orphanage and Learning Centers
- Encouraged by Mariela Clark’s stories of God’s provision and miracles
- Made new friends among the team members, local staff, translator and children
- Spent a day touring Lima