I’m home, in my own comfortable bed in my own comfortable home, drinking Starbucks and snuggling with my pup. For the first time in a week, I’ve slept more than 4 hours. For the first time in a week, I’ve not bounded out of bed to travel to do work with orphans. And I must admit – it’s awkward, like the feeling you get after being on the water for a while. Being here, in this comfortable life, feels like anything but that right now. Last night, as I wept, I asked my husband, Brad, if it would ever get easier. He smiled and responded, “I pray it doesn’t.” So this morning, as I rest, I close my eyes and think about dancing with orphans.
Yes, dancing. You don’t have to be around me very long to know how difficult it is for me to be still. Dancing for absolutely no reason at all is natural. Dancing for any good reason at all is complete joy. And in Guatemala, there was dancing. Oh yes, there was dancing.
Looking back at my blogs, my story from Manchen is a bit incomplete. You see, as the team left our makeshift prayer room and turned right to walk to the girls behind bars, I turned left. It wasn’t that I wanted to be by myself – one of the girls we had prayed for was leading me. Holding my hand, she walked over to the concrete ledge surrounding the courtyard, motioned for me to sit, and then snuggled in beside me. She spoke no English, but her desire was clear – she wanted to be held. We sat for a few minutes, my arms wrapped around her, singing to her softly in my very broken Spanish. Two girls who had heard my testimony and received prayer walked over and asked to join us. Then two more girls came and sat on the ledge. We hugged and smiled – and the questions started.
“What does your husband look like?”
“Is your son handsome? Is he single?”
“Where is Texas?”
“What do you do in the United States?”
“Where have you been in Guatemala?”
We sat together, huddled around my iPhone, looking at photos of my family, our pets, our home. I showed them pictures of the foster care kids we took waterskiing earlier in the summer – and though I stumbled through my explanation that the girls in the picture were orphans from the United States, all the girls understood. We looked at pictures of sunny days and snow and friends. And they saw pictures of Cerecaif and Cabecitas. We stumbled through the conversation, with so many “how do you say/como dice” moments mixed in. And then, the question was asked “What music do you like?”
And the dancing began. My small group of beautiful girls and I laughed and danced together to “Jai Ho,” the theme song from Slumdog Millionaire.
Fast forward 24 hours. The team has traveled back to Guatemala City, and has delivered Happy Meals and humanitarian aid to the 13 children at the Buckner Baby Home. We’ve seen Danny, a precious boy who wants so much to have a forever family – his two friends are being adopted and he now asks if anyone will love him enough to take him home. There’s Milagro, a tiny girl who wasn’t expected to live – now walking around with a huge smile on her face. There’s Crystal, dumped at a hospital with severe medical conditions. She’s laughing and speaking in English and Spanish. The children at the home are well cared for, receiving medical treatment and lots of love. We’ve gone to the grocery store to purchase everything we need to have a cookout and bake cupcakes for the teens and house parents at the Buckner Transition Homes. And the “host” home is now filled with the fragrance of chocolate in the oven and burgers on the grill.
Our special guests arrive – each one an orphan who has “aged out” of the system and given an opportunity to go to university or trade school while living in a safe and loving environment. I recognize at least a half-dozen girls from our visit to Manchen last year. They are literally “glowing,” so grateful for a home and friends and support and freedom. The kitchen fills with teens, and with Brynn and Stacey’s help, frost and decorate the cupcakes – a new treat for many of them. We set up the buffet for hamburgers and hotdogs while “Grillmaster Jim” works busily outside with his assistants, Christi and Mandy. Phyllis and Denny Scheminske, friends who live in Guatemala City and are helping our team, bring plates of tomatoes, onions, guacamole and cheese to the table. More than 60 people – teens, young moms, house parents – are being served. Courtney prepares bouquets of roses for all the house moms, talking to our interpreter, Melissa, and Oscar, one of the young men who is now in trade school. Patrick tries to capture every moment on camera while Ryan plays soccer with the guys. This is a party.
The house is filled with that wonderful blend of talking and laughter and sports on the television– and soon, a new sound is added. Music. This isn’t a party – this is a HOUSE party. On the patio, the girls are showing everyone their dance routine to “Single Ladies” by Beyonce. The music is an invitation – a bridge that crosses language and culture and age. I look around, and there is dancing everywhere. Joyful, unfettered dancing. From toe-tapping to full-out spins and twirls, we are all dancing with orphans.
So again, here I am now, resting in my uncomfortable comfort as I reflect on our time in Guatemala. And I laugh a bit as the tears flow – my foot is moving to the sound of the music in my mind. There’s such sweet liberty in the dance. It’s in that dance I feel truly free. Thank You Lord for that freedom.
Thank you to my amazing team: Patrick Lockerman, Mandy Cortina, Christi Uckerek, Courtney Nowakowski, Jim Shields, Brynn Paine, Ryan Nowakowski, and Stacey Yellen. Thank you Phyllis and Denny for joining us on the journey. Thank you Victor and Andrea for interpreting in Xela. Thank you Berta and Melissa for your tireless care for us. Thank you Buckner for your work in Guatemala. Thank you to those who contributed through prayer and donations. And thank you Guatemala, for opening your arms so we could serve.