Orphanage Emmanuel – First Impressions

Day 1 – Travel Day

Today, Kate, her boys and I traveled to the Orphanage and meet up with the rest of the team. It was an early start. I’m tired. Physically I’m worn out from the previous week. Even though I packed on Tuesday because I knew I wouldn’t have time with the consignment sale, I still had quite a bit of last minute stuff to do Saturday night. And none of that started until 8:30.

  • Dropped the dog off at friends who graciously agreed to care for her while we are gone.
  • Made the call to our neighbors to pick our mail up.
  • Got my last minute packing done and organized so I could get out the door on time in the morning.
  • Vacuumed because I can’t stand to come home to a house that hasn’t been vacuumed. I know – it’s just one of my quirks.

About midnight I ask myself – Why am I doing this again?

The folks I am traveling with are a fun family and I truly enjoy their company. It made me a little nostalgic for having my own boys still at home. We got breakfast at the airport and thankfully – I think – I am cleared to board. I was flying standby – so there was the slight chance there wouldn’t be seat. But there are plenty so on I go.

The flight was fairly uneventful. Except for that patch of really rough air that had us bouncing around worse than a roller coaster. I don’t get motion sick but I was a little worried for a moment as that bouncing around happened right after I had eaten my Qdoba burrito that I brought on the plane with me for lunch.

We arrived in Honduras and I asked Kate if she knew the address of the Orphanage to put on the immigration form. Nope. Phone number? Nope. Ok – so let’s get this straight. We leave Georgia for a foreign country with no idea of where we are to go once we get there and no way to contact anyone either. We actually got a pretty good laugh at that – what were we thinking?

View as we land in Honduras

View as we land in Honduras

Customs was a breeze. Far better, we learn, than the group experienced yesterday when they came in. 2 hours they said. 20 minutes for us and we were out the door into a sea of unfamiliar faces and unfamiliar language looking for someone in a yellow golf shirt named Norman who was hopefully holding a sign that said Orphanage Emmanuel.

Fortunately I was wearing my team mission trip shirt – so Norman actually spotted us first. He wasn’t wearing a yellow golf shirt, but his ID said Norman and he did have the sign. We trusted that he was who he says he was. We loaded up the Honda Odyssey and headed out.

The trip to the orphanage took about an hour and half. They drive like crazy people down there. Really can’t even begin to describe it. Just something that one has to experience in order to understand. Norman didn’t speak much English and I don’t speak any Spanish so my feeble attempts at conversation soon petered out. We did discover, however, that Norman loved to sing and occasionally accompanied the sound track on the radio! He was actually quite good. We were introduced to the Italian version of Frank Sinatra. Wish I could remember the artist’s name!

As we drove I became aware of what seems to be intense poverty. I did somewhat expect this. My mental vision of Honduras is that of a 3rd World, poverty stricken nation. The shack houses resemble “the projects” in America. I really don’t know if the people were poor. It just looked that way. I did notice that the people, especially the children, don’t seem to smile.

We drove through what are mostly foothills of some mountain range. I am a typical American in that my knowledge of geography is terrible and I must admit I am not even sure I know where Honduras is – except in Central America – that much I do know. The landscape is beautiful. Green. Lush. Colorful. A testimony to the temperate climate where things grow year round. Guiamaca, the town the orphanage is located in, is a little scary as we drive through. I’m not sure why I think that. I just do. As we approached the orphanage, the atmosphere changed. The orphanage is surrounded by a tall nicely built brick security wall with a large, locked iron security gate. Norman pulled up and we waited for the guard to call the office to make sure we are cleared to come in. Maybe my impression of the local town being scary wasn’t too far off?

The orphanage was not what I expected even though my husband has done his best to describe it to me and I’ve seen pictures. It’s large. It is very neatly manicured and beautifully maintained. It is spacious. There is a chapel and a school and a little store. Like a small town.

Campus

Campus

The team seems to be a little surprised we are already there. We get unloaded, say goodbye to Norman – thanking him for driving us – and get settled into our respective bunk houses. My husband is there – ready to show me around.

They have golf carts to use for the team. One of the team coordinators worked hard during the previous year to secure two carts, get them operational, and get them shipped to the orphanage.   That’s a blessing! So we use one of those and I get a tour. Along the way I see other team members already engaging with the children; painting fingernails and faces, blowing up balloon animals, playing soccer in the yard.

There are approximately 600 children ages baby through 18 housed at Emmanuel. They all seem friendly. My first impression is that they are hungry for attention. You have but to look them in the eye and they’ll be calling you and motioning for you to come over to give you a hug. I can’t help but hug back. I also notice that these children smile – unlike those I saw in the town on the way here

My husband showed me past work projects they have accomplished on prior trips and shows me what they’ll be working on this week. They are building a tower structure that a 600 gallon water tank will sit on that will be used to irrigate the mango field with water that is recycled off of the fish farm. They will also be digging the irrigation trenches and laying the pipe to water said field. They may even be planting some of the trees.

Wow – ok. That’s a lot of work!

I asked again – why does he like to come? And the answer is the same – to love on the children. How does building a water tower accomplish that? I don’t know. As we made the rounds I must admit I was uneasy. I was not immediately sensing what I would do or where I would find my place. My attitude coming into this certainly hadn’t helped; as I had not spent time to prayerfully seek the Lord’s opening of my heart to serve here. It’s never too late though – right? Right then, right there I began that prayer, that seeking. Asking the Lord to create in me a clean heart.

We ate dinner at 7. Group meeting at 7:30 to go over information for the week. By 8:30 everyone is pretty much in bed asleep. Tomorrow starts early.

Blessings from Honduras!

Denise