Wednesday, January 26, 2011
La Flor de Cuenca (The Flower of Cuenca)
The View out of Flor's new Bedroom Window...
Hangin' out with Flor's new Roommate Maricela...
Opening presents from the Grandparents (my Mom and Dad!)
On Friday, February 5, 2010, I met someone who, though I didn’t know it then, would change my life. Her name is Flor. She is about 20 years old (“about”, because she was abandoned as a baby and no one knows her real birthdate. We met by accident in an orphanage in Guayaquil. I will never forget when I first saw her. She was sitting alone on the floor, hunched over, without a shirt on, in a puddle of urine, staring at her hands. I approached her and introduced myself, and then told her that Jesus loved her…at which she scooted away from me screaming hysterically. I took that as a sign…so the next week, after praying and fasting for her, Gene and I returned and were met with a much different experience. Though she was still sitting on the tile floor by herself, when I approached her and asked if we could sing, she nodded and smiled, taking my hand. I began singing some songs in English and whatever Spanish songs I could remember, while Gene prayed and read Scripture. I then prayed a simple prayer with her and explained that Jesus was her friend and wanted to help her and that He was always there for her.
Since then, whenever in Guayaquil, I would visit the orphanage, and helped the others who were ministering there to see that they needed to include her in their activities and make sure she was getting attention too. She and the two other boys with special needs came to our camp the following April and had such a good time, they were NOT happy to go back the orphanage. Flor has a huge smile, a great laugh, and a lot of love for others. She won the hearts of everyone at the Cristo Vive camps, and continues to grow more and more famous as her story circulates throughout Ecuador and the world.
As we spent more time with her and Laura, the director of the orphanage, it became apparent that they lacked much when it came to providing for the needs of the children, especially the special kids, and that the people who lived and worked there were taking advantage of the situation. To be completely honest, they were negligent, and at times, downright abusive. We had many ideas for making it a better place, taking a team of volunteers there to work on one of the houses, but, recently, the people in charge, and the government, decided that they needed to close it down, rebuild it, and start over with new employees and new children. All the children except the three special kids, as it turns out, have some sort of family, with whom they could live. So, we began the search for a home for Flor, Julian and Jose. I am still in awe at how the Lord worked everything out, from the closing down of the orphanage, to the inauguration of a brand-new facility in Cuenca.
This last Sunday, January 23rd, we celebrated Flor’s arrival with chocolate cake and gifts, and we decided that from now on, this would be her “birthday.” She spent the night at our house, and on Monday morning, we made the journey to “Mensejeros de la Paz” (Messengers of Peace).
It is a stunning place with a beautiful view. It is very impressive, the brand new houses with bright orange rooftops, nestled into the mountains. There are areas for physical, occupational, and speech therapy, classrooms, trails, wheelchair accessibility, and space for about 36 orphans and young people with severe disabilities. The criterion to get into this particular place was quite strict, being that they are a facility which has the capacity to care for those who are truly dependent upon others for their basic needs.
We showed Flor around, got to know the workers and some of the others who were also just beginning to arrive, and tried to help where we could. One concern we have is that they are planning on having about 12 residents in each house and only two staff people to care for them. As far as I know, this includes such things as laundry and dishes, which means they will be overwhelmed. And, some of these people have little to no experience working directly with people with special needs. Granted, they do have a nurse, a psychologist and therapists, but I cannot imagine having to care directly for 6 residents. The people that we have spent time with there seem like very nice people with good hearts and that they want to take good care of them, but my desire all along, especially for Flor, is that these children have a place where the love of Christ is shared every day, and the spiritual needs are met, as well as the physical.
Noele and I returned with a few friends the following day, Tuesday, to make sure that Flor was adjusting well. We entertained the handful of residents that share her house, took them for a walk, sang some songs, stretched and helped with lunchtime feeding. After lunch, Flor colored for a while (which she loves!) and then, unfortunately, she started to throw a fit. I have seen this from her a few times before, and so we just kept trying to comfort her, holding her, praying for her, telling her that we love her, while being careful that she didn’t hit, bite or scratch herself or one of us. It did not last very long, and we took her to lay down. She was restless and upset, and I sang to her and held her until I had to leave. I think she is realizing that everything is changing, and that she has no one there that is familiar. She knew that we were going to leave as well.
This is the heartbreaking reality, and I felt horrible leaving her. I keep thinking, “Why do I have more than enough…why do I have so many friends and family who love me and want to take care of me, and Flor has no one, and nothing?? But I know that Flor has God and He loves her more than any of us can. Flor knows who Jesus is, if you ask her, she will point to her heart and to heaven. She loves to pray, for herself and for others, and she is very affectionate and very funny. I know the Lord put her in my path to teach me many things, one of which is that we need to fight for the innocent, and advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves, love those who need loving, not just ignoring them and letting someone else deal with it. So, please keep on fighting…pray for peace in her heart, and healing of her wounds.