Tears in the Night

Most nights are normal for our little family of two. I tuck my child in, sing her a song, read the bible, and she will drift asleep and then peacefully wake me up in the morning. She’ll tell me the sun’s up, and that its time for us to get up and time for me to drink some coffee! Most nights we function as any other family would, but there are some nights that expose just how far from “normal” we really are.

On these nights my child will go to sleep and wake up multiple times in the night crying desperately for “mama,” unable to be comforted by my hugs and kisses. She will mourn, feeling the pain of the three times she experienced abandonment in her life. She may not remember what truly happened, she may not even understand where the sadness is coming from, but there is one thing I’m sure she knows: she has lost something so valuable in her life.

I won’t go into details about what’s happened in our lives, but my child is not my biological one. Although she keeps in touch with her biological family, she was not raised physically by them. She was raised in an orphanage and then by me. Too often people will see her big bright smile, aspiration-filled eyes, and spunky attitude and believe she’s totally fine, that no matter what happened in the past she’s just like any other child. I can assure you, although she has recovered drastically, she is still hurt beyond comprehension.

The reason I’m blogging about her tears in the night is not to ask for a sympathy vote, but to show the real reason why orphan prevention programs are so necessary and why ROOM works its hardest to come alongside families in keeping their children. That initial separation between mother and child creates a scar that cuts so deep its unable to be filled by anyone, no matter how great of a caretaker they are. While new bonds can be formed, formidable and healthy, that child will forever be scarred from that one separation, no matter if they were just born or a teenager.

My child is not the first child I’ve seen cry in the night for a mother that left her. This story is a story as old as time, a pain that many other foster and adoptive parents have to experience. Adoption is one of the most beautiful things in the world, but for a child to never have to experience loss in the first place and thrive in a loving family is the best option they can be given.

I wish my child never had to experience the pain she does. I wish someone had come alongside her mom while she was pregnant, and aided her so that the initial separation never had to happen, even though she is the love of my life and I’d never want to see a world without her.

Now, that being said throwing a child back into their family isn’t not always the answer, as was the case with my child. While reintegration needs to be handled with much care and cautiousness, we strive to come alongside mothers and families to keep their children before that lasting scar is ever torn into their children in the first place.

Won’t you come alongside us and donate to ROOM’s prevention project? Save a child from tears in the night, save them from a lifetime of hurt from the loss of their family. Save a family from the loss of their child, provide for those who can’t just because of poverty. Sometimes the answer is not to be the mother, but to save the mother.

The Homecoming King

This past week I’ve been feeling nostalgic. Life was kicking my butt, and I wanted to go back to the States, go back to being young, go back to High School. I contacted some of my high school friends, asking if I could see them next month when I would go for a visit. This morning I woke up, thinking of one friend in particular I wanted to see.

As I reached to my phone to contact said friend, I saw multiple Facebook notifications. Opening them up, I couldn’t even start to comprehend what I was seeing. The one friend I wanted to contact and talk to had been killed last night in a freak accident.

Dylan Slager.

How could he possibly have gone? Why him of all people?

Dylan was my only friend from high school that kept up with me after I moved away. He would try to visit me whenever I would go back to the US, and he would send me messages asking how I was and how everything in Honduras was. I know it seems like simple stuff, but to me this meant the world. I went through a world of change, of cultures and languages and friends. I would become attached to people and then they’d leave because they needed/wanted to move back to the US. Among few others Dylan stood as consistency to me in my ever-changing life.

I feel as if I can’t even begin to start writing about him, I don’t think I could ever do him justice. But I just want anyone and everyone to know him, and to grieve with his family and friends, because he was truly a man like none other. For me he brought me friendship all through high school as well as after – he always made me feel relevant, cared for, and loved. All throughout high school I was extremely insecure, I never thought anyone actually cared or wanted to be around me. I was everyone’s back up friend, I never had a stable best friend that lasted more than a year. On the outside I was popular, but on the inside I was someone who never really seemed to fit in anywhere.

After I moved to Honduras it worsened. I didn’t really have a chance to make friends because everyone came for a few months and left. There were a lot of times I didn’t want to live or be anywhere, I just wanted to disappear because of how lonely I felt. I was no longer cared for by my friends in the US, and I couldn’t attach to anyone here. But that’s where Dylan helped me. Because he still kept up with me, even in just tiny things, I was able to feel not so lonely. I was able to persevere. I was able to face the trauma of becoming a teenage mom and losing my child because of his small acts of kindness. Because him and a few others, I was able to not feel so lonely and feel as if my life did matter.

I wasn’t the only one who was dramatically touched by Dylan’s life. In high school countless others were touched by his small acts of kindness. Right now there are so many classmates reaching out to his family because of his impact on us. He was the homecoming king, but not because he was the most handsome or the best jock, but because he made everyone laugh and made everyone feel important. He was on student council, and dedicated himself to being one of our school’s strongest leaders, promoting school spirit and making sure every single person felt included.

He did this all while struggling with so much on his own. During high school he struggled while watching his father slowly die from cancer. He never let that bring him down. He always looked on the positive side, and he always made everyone laugh. You could tell that he found joy in making others smile. Dylan Slager was the guy that everyone wanted to be friends with. I’m proud to say I was ever his friend.

I can’t imagine why the Lord let him leave the earth so soon, with as big of impact he could make on people. I can’t imagine the pain that his family and close friends are going through, if his death makes me, a distant friend, so upset. I just wanted to write this because that’s all I can do. I ask for prayers for his family and friends, and I ask that all of you who knew him will never forget him. I pray we can all take what he gave us and show it to everyone we meet, that we can all bring smiles to strangers and care deeply enough to make an impact on everyone we meet.

I love you Dylan, thank you so much for making me feel loved all those years. You will never be forgotten.

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A Picture Paints a Thousand Works

As anybody knows, pictures are incredibly powerful. People are much more likely to stop and look at a picture than read a paragraph. Pictures catch attention, move hearts, inspire, and write a story all on their own. One of our biggest fundraising tools is pictures, with their ability to show the fruits of our labor in ways words could never quite describe. However, pictures also have their limitations. What I’d like to talk about today are the works that go behind every single picture, and how many different non-profits, christian business owners, and missionaries work together in order to show you that cute picture of a smiling kid.

There are hundreds of orphanages and non-profits in Honduras. They all have different missions and visions, but we all share one thing in common: to show God’s love to the people of Honduras. Through our commonality we are able to unite and share advice and resources. An organization that works with street kids could help out an orphanage who just received a child who used to live on the streets, just as medical mission teams can team up with organizations who work in the slums. The possibilities and combinations are endless, and powerful.

ROOM has been blessed by many of these organizations and medical teams. Operation Blessings has provided us with strollers and play pens for our transition home children. The Children’s Cancer Foundation gave one of our transition home children chemotherapy at a near-free cost. Friends of Barnabas gave sweet Deysi, the baby girl of Abba Padre transition home, a life-changing heart surgery.

But those connections don’t just happen between organizations and missionaries, it happens between simple business owners and organizations as well. We have been so blessed by random acts of kindness through many businesses. The Abba Padre transition home has been blessed by a store that sells baby and children’s items, gifting many necessities needed to properly take care of their many babies. A cafeteria owner gifted ROOM a special Christmas lunch for the Tia’s of Buen Samaritano at a discounted price. Many pediatricians and doctors have given us free and discounted care for both our missionaries and our foster children.

ROOM’s roots are implanted in networking and connecting with others. With every picture we deliver to you, a thousand works of all different people and organizations go behind it. Next time you see a picture of a child smiling or food being delivered, thank God for all the people that have put works into that child, home, or program. Take time to look into the partners we mention in the caption, and find out how you can pray for them or support them.

Thank you to every organization, missionary, and business owner that has helped us over the years and chosen to connect with us. Without the aid of all of you, ROOM could never prosper as much as it has. They say a picture paints a thousand words, but we say it paints a thousand works. Thank you Jesus for all the people you choose to unite in order to do your works on earth as it is in heaven.

 

Go Out and Grow Out

I love how it’s becoming popular to go out and travel the world. It is so amazing what you can discover apart from every day life, especially for young people who generally aren’t tied down by responsibilities. Travel gives you a chance to experience different cultures and grasp a new understanding of the world around you. It can be, and very often is, life-changing.

Clearly there’s enough push to travel and experience life outside of your own community that there is no need for me to blog about that. However, as much as travel becomes popular, missions seemingly doesn’t grow. That’s where my problem with modern-day culture lies. As great as I believe travel can be, missions is greater. It is so important to learn to be a servant, and it is one of the most, if not the most, life-changing experience you can have.

Too often I see friends and family go into college with so many expectations of what they want to study, and end up changing direction later in life, drowning in the student debts of something they will never use and never truly wanted. If I had my way, I’d make a gap year required before entering college. There are so many ministries out there – ministries of every religion, ministries of every type of work – that make possibilities endless no matter who you are, what you’re interested in, or where you live.

There is no doubt about it – a year on the mission field will change your life, and for the better. It can make or break your conception of what you’d like to study, as well as deliver you a security in what God has gifted you in and called you to in your life. Ministry does not just mean working in an orphanage. It doesn’t even need to be international! All you need to do is type “ministries in [your hometown here]” into google and countless opportunities will unfold before your eyes.

Even if you are 100% sure of what you want to do with your life, I still recommend coming to the mission field. Becoming a servant and being fully dependent financially, emotionally, and spiritually, on God prepares you better than any class or training program ever could. The miracles I have seen here, the dependence and deep relationship I have developed with My Father, the responsibility and maturity that’s grown inside me, is something irreplaceable and unexplainably transformational.

The time I’ve spent here in Honduras I’ve met many people, from those who’ve stay a few days to those who’ve stay for years. I can say with complete transparency that I have not meant even one that hasn’t been changed in some way or shape by their time on the mission field. Some are changed greatly and change the direction of their lives, while some just start tithing more or praying more. Some just learn about a new culture and never return, while some become moved and continue to return over and over again. The majority, however, are changed significantly in an indescribable way – a way they can’t shake, a way they can never lose. They become connected to the place and the people so deeply it pushes them to stay connected for the rest of their lives. 

Those who have known me most of my life can see the change in me. I’m not the person I used to be, and that’s not just because I live in a different country. One mission trip three and half years ago completely changed my life, my personality, my beliefs, and my view on the world. It wasn’t an overnight thing, but over time it shook my soul and awakened me to a life of peace, joy, and immense passion. To this day I am changing and transforming, and I am so grateful for it.

If there is no other advice I can give to – young people especially – anyone in general, it would be to get your butt down to the mission field and take a year to be a servant. You will not regret it.

“Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.”

– 1 Corinthians 7:17 (ESV)



What $50 Can Do On the Mission Field

Missionaries and Non-profits are almost always in a state of constant fundraising. As soon as we start to get comfortable with the needs we’re fulfilling, a new problem arises. My good friend once stated this the best I’ve ever heard it: “[The mission field] is a place where serving others is like drinking water; you have no other option.” I touched on this subject a bit in one of my last blog posts – but now I’d like to elaborate exactly why fundraising is so important, and what even the smallest funds can do on the mission field.

So, without further ado, here’s what your $50 donation can do, solely based on things I and other ROOM missionaries have actually done with $50 on the mission field. Your $50 can:

  1. Supply fruits and veggies of an entire family of 10 (Hogar Santidad) for a month
  2. Supply gas for trips to Peña Blanca for either Johana (who goes there for Brigitte’s doctors appointments and to buy her medicine) and Wendy (who goes there for Deysi’s doctor visits)
  3. Buy diapers for two babies in the transition home for a month
  4. Pay for a hospital visit and medicine for a sick baby in the transition home
  5. Pay almost entirely for a month of electricity for a missionary family
  6. Feed entire community’s dinner for an evening
  7. One full month of cancer treatment at the cancer foundation in the public hospital of San Pedro
  8. Supply diapers, wipes, and formula for the special needs kids at Senderos for one week
  9. Buy 25 bibles for children in ROOM: India’s daycare program
  10. Pay a generous salary for a part-time staff at Bethel Daycare Center for one month (India)
  11. Supply check-ups and medicine for Bethel Children’s Home for one month (India)
  12. Supply fruit twice a week for a month for 70 children (India)
  13. Supply educational supplies for an entire school year for 5 children (India)
  14. Pay one of the Tia’s at Senderos an entire day’s wage
  15. Pay for formula for a baby in the transition home for two weeks.

And many more! 

Right now you have an amazing opportunity to put that $50 (or however much you are willing to give) to use! ROOM is having its annual ROOM 2 Come and See matching gift fundraiser. Every dollar donation is being matched up to $50,000. There is no worse feeling than seeing need and having no way to aid it. Please consider equipping our team down here in Honduras and out in India to do the best job we can.

Why Becoming a Foster Parent is the Best Thing You Could Do For Your Biological Children

Clearly, everyone knows where I stand on fostering – but, do you know why? My whole story with Lizzi has come about because of the way I was raised as a child. My parents made the choice to be foster parents when I was starting kindergarten. I was the last of four girls at the time. My mother was originally the one who wanted to foster, being brought up into a family that fostered as well. My parents made the choice to foster, and in my mind, it was the greatest decision they could’ve made in relation to our family’s well-being.

There’s often a lot of doubt and fear with parents considering fostering, in concerns to the biological children. There’s fear of the biological children becoming too attached to the foster children, and thus bringing heartbreak when the foster child leaves. There’s also fear that the preoccupation of the foster child will create jealousy and drive a wedge between the relationship of the parents and biological children. Not to mention the fear of the foster child hurting the biological children. While there are many more fears that could be listed up here, I would like to focus on those three most common fears.

Since I was so young when they began fostering, I cannot remember a time without foster children in our family. It has become something so normal and ingrained in my being, it’s hard for me to remember that it’s not quite the most common upbringing. I cannot stress enough how big of a blessing it has been on my life to grow up in a family that fosters. Quite possibly the biggest blessing of fostering was gaining my brother – but we’ll get to that later.

First, the fear of becoming too attached to the foster children. This part was probably the easiest for me out of the rest of my family considering my age, however losing ANY brother of sister at ANY age is saddening. My mother did a great job of preparing my heart, stressing that all of this was temporary care, and we would eventually have to let go. More than anything else I can remember the good times. Watching some good ol’ Veggietales with Bobby* and his sister Beth*, playing in the sprinkler with Keisha*, riding bikes around the block with Donald*, and going on family visits with Cash (my brother) and his siblings. While there were meltdowns and rough nights, the only thing that comes to my mind when I think of it all are these beautiful memories of smiles and laughter.

I can’t remember when the children left. I don’t know why, but the goodbyes just didn’t stick. I remember meeting the children, I remember playing and helping out with them, but I don’t remember their goodbyes. The one who probably remembers all of the goodbyes would be my mother, because she’s the one that it hurt the most. In my experience now with Lizzi and Brianna, I can see the same thing coming true as when I was a child – it doesn’t affect Lizzi nearly as much as it affects me to say goodbye to foster children. In summary, the attachments I’ve made with the foster children in my family were nothing but good attachments that haven’t even truly ended. I still care for them, and I still love them as my brothers and sisters, even if we’ve gone different paths. The pain of saying goodbye had no power over the immense happiness they brought when they were with us.

Next, my favorite fear: the fear that the preoccupation of the foster child will create jealousy and drive a wedge between the relationship of the parents and biological children. Why is this my favorite? Because, honestly, it’s the silliest thing I have ever heard. Fostering brought my family closer than we had ever and would ever be. Fostering was and is an entire family ordeal. As much as you may believe this a job just for the parents, it isn’t. Every single one of our foster children was my brother or sister, even for just a few days. I was so young, yet I cared deeply for them and did everything in my little six-year-old body to help out. One of my older sisters in particular was basically a second mom to the children. It was just as exciting and emotional for us as it was for my parents. This experience of a being foster family is so unique that its something we can really only relate to and bond over with each other. Foster care is so much more inclusive than exclusive.

Lastly, the fear of the foster child hurting the biological children. Alright guys, I’ll give you this one. This can be a scary thing. Since my family mostly fostered babies and toddlers, we didn’t really have to deal with much on this subject. Safety precautions are important. Setting up cameras to protect your family as well as your foster children is a great idea suggested by one of the foster moms that I know. There are many different families that have blogged advice, as well as many guides you can find on taking precautions. Although – from my experiences, I will say no matter the hurt, I would never take back the experiences my family gave me by becoming a foster and adoptive family.

Becoming a foster family is the most beautiful heartbreak you and your children could ever experience. It gives you and your family an empathy and understanding of the pain foster children experience. It provides cultural and racial diversity (I’m looking at you, white foster families trying to manage African-American hair). Your children will champion the rights and protection of other children, and become foster care advocates in the process. It gives you and your children an outlook on the real world, a world outside of comfort, a world outside of heartbreak, a world outside of the bubble most of us grow up in, and prepares you and, your children especially, for every type of person you/they could encounter in the future.

Foster care can also lead to one of the most beautiful things I’ve witnessed on this earth – adoption. Such was the case for the second foster child my family ever received: Cash, my wonderful little brother. Adoption is an exact reflection of God’s love for us. An initial heartbreak, an event that shouldn’t have happened, separates the child from his/her family, and is consequentially countered by redemption through love, mercy, and a new start. Foster care is not the solution to abandonment and abuse, adoption is. However, with the long procedures and limited adoptive families, foster care is a necessary and extremely helpful step. I am so grateful my brother came into our lives and stayed. There is no different love I have for him than any of my other family members, which is a common misconception when it comes to adoption.

If none of this has moved you in any way to foster, then at least take God’s word for it.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27 (NIV)

There is nothing I am more thankful for than being a part of a family that fosters. There was no greater gift nor any greater lesson than the experience I gained from it. Thank you so much, mom and dad, for the immense blessing you’ve bestowed on me.

myfamily

My incredible family at my oldest sister’s wedding

*names changed to protect the privacy of the foster children

Things Missionaries Won’t Tell You About Fundraising

As the ROOM 2 Come and See matching gift fundraiser continues, we’re all trying to do our best to keep the fundraising spirit high! In honor of this great campaign, I’d love to share a missionary perspective on fundraising, in order to give you an outlook of what it’s like for us. Thank you, ROOM family, for all you do to support us and our beautiful kids everyday! Now, without further ado…

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Things missionaries won’t tell you about fundraising

1) We don’t know how to talk about ourselves.

– We tend to have no problem talking about the children we care for or the people we’re serving; but we have no idea how to talk about ourselves. We love talking about our programs, and even the other missionaries in our organization, but when asked about ourselves we go silent. Mission work is so outreach focused that it’s hard to think inwards. It’s not that we don’t appreciate ourselves, or think the work we do is unimportant, it’s just not the first thing that comes to mind when we’re so used to speaking about our organization and programs. It’s also hard because it feels like we’re “tooting our own horn.” We don’t want to come off as overly confident or prideful, especially when missionaries are expected to be humble. It’s a hard thing to try to balance.

2) Updating your donors can be a nightmare

– As missionaries we feel an overwhelming pressure to spin everything into a happy, inspirational story. It’s not that we think our donors won’t understand our struggles, but more because it’s another one of those false missionary expectations: Missionaries always succeed. I’ve definitely felt this type of pressure, being compared to Katie Davis (of the book “Kisses From Katie”) before. While I know the person who compared me intentions were good, it still put an immense pressure on me to be more like Katie Davis. I knew our thoughts, personalities and callings were different, but I still couldn’t shake the comparison and became discouraged as I saw myself as the underwhelming version Katie Davis instead of the awesome-in-my-own-way Kaylie Kuhn. When it came to Lizzi I didn’t “succeed” in the typical way, and it was hard to update those praying for my success. I struggled to spin Lizzi’s story into a happy ending. I didn’t know how to inspire others when I was lacking inspiration myself. We all get into that place of devastation in our lives, the only difference with missionaries is that we have to broadcast ours. So if you haven’t heard from the missionary you support in a while, just give them time. They may need a little while before they’re able to give you the full story.

3) There is no such thing as a budget on the mission field.

– While utility bills and rental costs usually stay the same, our budgets change constantly. On the mission field, you never know what you’re going to get. One month you’re in the green, raising three foster kids, and the next month you’ve accidentally taken on a family of three for emergency care and are one month in debt. Or your foster son needs a surgery. Or there’s a baby girl with a hole in her heart desperately in need of your care. As much as we’d love to have savings and emergency accounts we generally just don’t have enough to spare to prepare. As much as we can show you our budget, our lives change too often for us to really keep up with it. Which is exactly why we constantly need to fundraise, whether or not our not our needs are met at the moment.

4) We’re not always on the best terms with God.

– it’s a common misconception that missionaries are always happy and pleased with God. We have just as many struggles in our relationship with the Lord as anybody. Every time we lose a child, every time we’re taken out of comfort zone and put into a situation we weren’t prepared for, every time we lose hope seeing all the unquenchable need around us, it’s hard for us to stay inspired. Our incomes rely completely on God. Even those given salaries, the salaries come from donations. Our work is also dependent on God, whenever He wants to change it, He will. All too often He tests us by restraining the income and doubling the work. He puts us in a place totally reliant on Him. I know everyone in any job is put into these situations, it’s just so apparent on the mission field. I’ve had many moments where I’ve cried out to God in frustration and anger. I’ve taken His work into my own hands rather than depending on Him. I’ve been hopeless and refused to look for the lesson He was teaching at me at the moment. Just because we’re on the mission field doesn’t mean we know God better, or listen better, or even obey his calling. We struggle daily, sometimes even hourly, to listen to His words and depend on Him. Being a missionary does not make being a Christian easier. Like I mentioned before, it’s hard to talk about these times with our donors since the general expectation is to make all situations into inspiring stories; to have no doubts.  The reality is – missionaries struggle in their relationship with God just as much as any other Christian.

5) We’re not asking you to just support our jobs – we’re asking you to support our lives.

– A missionary’s work isn’t defined by hours in a day. For us, there is no nine-to-five. Our “job” is our lives. It takes up our nights as well as our days. We’re not just asking you to just support us when we’re working with the boys at Senderos, but also when we’re up at night with the babies of the Transition Home. There is no point in the day where the Transition Home gets to say, “Well, I’ve done enough today, you babies go take care of yourself,” or when Kacey gets to say, “Jesus, you’ve been to enough therapy appointments. Let’s just stop going,” or when Johana gets to say “That’s not a part of my job description, I’m not going to help with that.” Our lives surround the jobs we’re doing. It truly is a lifestyle for us. So when we ask for donations or prayers, it’s personal, and it means more than you could ever imagine to us.

6) Our supporters are family to us.

– Ok, so maybe you guys did know this one. Even with our updates lacking or our communications failing; we love you guys. We could never do what we do without you. We love to share our success stories with you because we know you feel the same joy as we do. We love your prayers. We love it when you “like” our stuff on Facebook, we love to receive messages from you to see how we’re doing. We know that every donation we get is God-inspired, and we love to see God working through you as He calls you to our mission. Although we may not have enough time or energy to express how much we love and appreciate you – please don’t doubt it. Juvencio talks more and more everyday because of you. Eda, and countless others, got a chance to find a forever family instead of growing up in an orphanage because of you. Lizzi and I get to laugh our days away because of you. Thank you so much for every donation and prayer you have ever sent our way – you are family to us, and we love you dearly.