Wednesday, January 16, 2013

On the other side...

For years now I have had the privilege of being on the ‘receiving side’ of adoption.

 I have seen children who were sick, children who were starving, and children who had no one be placed into a loving family where there they found hope, safety and love.

 I have heard story after story about the lengthy process the adoptive family has gone through to bring that child home to their forever family. I have been there myself. I have fundraised, prayed, and advocated for these families as well as for our own.

 I fell in love with adoption. And that will never change. The need is great- the need is real. Adoption changes lives.

 And yet what I learned yesterday was something I never let myself think much about before…how every adoption costs a great deal- not only monetarily, but in other ways as well.

In Guatemala, word of mouth travels quickly. People around here have begun to hear about Village of Hope. They have heard that people care here- heard that people are willing help-and for many, that is a first. And so it was yesterday, while our kids were out playing baseball, Addisyn came running inside asking me to come quickly. Out of breath she explained to me that there was a woman outside who needed help. As I ran up the driveway I saw her standing there. She seemed small, timid and afraid- a look of desperation masked her face. She had bruises up and down her arms and tears in her eyes. She quickly glanced around to see if anyone was watching and then she began to explain in a rushed voice. Her husband of 16 years had brought home a new woman. They were physically and verbally abusive to her and her three children. She had asked her husband for money to purchase school supplies for her children (the new school year here in Guatemala has just begun) and he became angry and beat her- once again. She explained her desired for her children to have an education but that her husband wanted her oldest son, age 13, to no longer attend school and instead to work collecting money on the bus route he drove every day.  She said she heard we might be able to help her with school supplies for her children.

We ushered her inside and began to talk more. We quickly learned how severe the abuse has been and we realized how desperately she needed help- help that looked a whole lot different than just handing over some pencils, crayons and notebooks.

Down deep inside I wanted to scream, I wanted to cry, and I wanted to run. I wanted to run from the pain this woman if facing. I wanted to scream and ask God why there are people whose biggest worries in this world are if their nail polish matches their shirt, people who throw a fit if their steak is not cooked just right at their favorite restaurant, people who complain if they have to wait at a red light too long. I wanted to cry for justice. But more than anything, I wanted to be able to understand. 

As we sat and talked, Dora began to share more of her story. She explained that she had worked really hard last year hoping for a better life and how she could now read letters and numbers and we both smiled. She told us she knew how to cook tamales and tortillas and was sometimes able to make those to sell- when she had the money to buy the supplies to do so. Yet having the money to buy the supplies meant having to ask her husband for help- who would then beat her. Her mother was elderly and not in good health, her father had passed away some years ago. She did have a brother who was kind to her and helped as he could- but he was having a hard time right now taking care of his own wife and children. The tiny tin home she lived in belonged to her father in law and she and her three children were surrounded by her husband’s family who were verbally and physically abusive. No one cared and there was no one to help her find a way out. She had been given few choices in life- she could stay and continue to be abused, leave and end up on the dangerous streets of Guatemala begging or who knows what else to try to get enough money to eat, or put her children in an orphanage where they would at least be safe and fed.

It was then that she looked me in the eyes and asked if we would allow her children to live at Village of Hope.  Her beloved treasures. The children she brought into this world and loved more than anything in this world. The only things she was living for- and the thing she was willing to die for.

 As a mommy this was something I couldn’t fathom. Something that had never even crossed my mind. Because you see, this wasn’t what my world looked like. I didn’t give children away- I took them in. I celebrated when children were placed in their new families. We make banners that read “WELCOME HOME” and we cry at the airport when the child arrives. We have baby showers and parties. We celebrate Gotcha Days and we cry when watching video from the day our children arrived. We wear t-shirts that said “Adoption Rocks.”

And what I suddenly realized was I had become so focused on the fund raising, so focused on waiting for our I171H to come in the mail, so focused on making sure there wasn’t a mistake on our dossier, and so focused on the $$ signs we needed to bring our child home- that I forgot about the greatest cost of all.

And I couldn’t help but to stop and ask myself, “Would I have put that much effort, that much work, given that much money, and advocated as much- to help that child stay in the family they were born into?”

  As I watched the tears once again slide down Dora’s face, as I watched her children cling to her side- God opened my eyes in a way that will forever change me.

 And I am thankful.

 Here in front of me, sat a family with literally nothing to their name. They had no idea where their next meal would come from or where they would lay their heads down to sleep that night. The only thing that really mattered to them was each other and so they sat clinging to the hope that God would someone allow them to still be a together.
I fought so hard to bring our adopted children home- but this time I fought even harder for this woman to be able to keep hers.

After several phone calls we finally heard about a facility that was about an hour away. We packed a backpack for each of them with a pair of shoes, a couple changes of clothes and a toothbrush. Dora packed up all she owned in this world, a few pieces of clothing, some important papers, a picture of her mother- and we headed out the door.

 The drive was long. Pollution filled the air and cars whizzed by as Dora and her children sat quietly in the back seat without a clue what was ahead. I kept my eyes on the dusty, bumpy road ahead of me and I silently prayed…

It was then from the back seat I heard my 16 year old son, Kallan, whisper to Dora’s oldest son, “Here buddy- this is for you… you are going to need this more than I do now”.

You see, when Kallan turned 13 – the same age as Dora’s oldest son, I had taken him on a mommy/son date. That day I had given him a ring I purchased from the local Christian store that had the word 'STRENGTH' engraved on it. I had explained to him that with all of the things young men face now a day he would have to remain strong in the Lord. He would have to stand on the word and trust that when he didn’t have the answers, when He couldn’t do it on his own- that God would be right by his side. I explained that life was hard, that things would be thrown at him, temptations, hardships, and loss- and when those times came-the Lord would carry Him through.

As the tears slide down my face, I realized how wise our God is. I had no idea this ring would one day end up on the hand of a little boy across the world who would need it even more than my son- but I have no doubt in my mind that the Lord did.

As we pulled up in front of a huge black gate, a security guard peered out a tiny window on the door and then opened it and stepped out. We quickly explained Doras situation. Without a word he disappeared and several minutes later a woman who appeared to be in her mid-50’s and dressed in typical Mayan clothing opened the door and began talking in Spanish. Without showing much emotion she asked how many children Dora had and what their ages and sex were while Dora and her 3 kids clung to each other in the backseat. It took over and hour to get to our destination, it took less than 5 seconds for us to find out they would not be allowed into the program. The woman explained that it was over a month long process for them to accept a new family and besides, they would never take in a 13 year old child.

Needless to say, we were all crushed.

  Back on the road again, we made a stop for some food when I realized Dora and her children hadn’t eaten yet that day. You see, in my spoiled rotten world it was 3:30 in the afternoon- I had already fed my family two meals and somewhere in between a snack. Sometimes I forget, and most of the time- I take the simple things in life for granted.

As we headed down the highway making phone call after phone call asking for help from practically everyone we knew, Dora and her children eagerly ate their sandwiches and drank their bottled water in the back seat. Each lead- ended up a dead end. The few ministries we did find that helped woman like Dora were either full, had lengthy processes to be accepted, or else wouldn’t take in a 13 year old child (even though he was the size of most 8 year olds). By the time we arrived back at Village of Hope we were weary and felt completely defeated. More phone calls- all dead ends, more prayers-all seeming to go unanswered. We quickly busied the children putting together puzzles while Dora clung to the little hope she had left that lay between the four walls of Village of Hope. I wanted more than anything in this world to take them in here, to keep them safe and sound. The problem is, Village of Hope has no security what so ever yet. No security wall and no guard. Dora explained that her husband would be looking for them, he would come after them- and he lived just over the side of the hill. Having them stay with us would put our family in danger and the ministry in danger- because her husband was an evil, evil man.

 I realized like never before how large the gap was between ministries. There are orphanages for child to go, there are educational programs and even health programs around- all good, all needed and all important stuff. But there were few emergency programs for abused and desperate woman with children who needed a fresh start.

What are you trying to tell me Lord? What are we to do now?

With no more options left, we began to pray. Dora suddenly lifted her head and said, “There is a lady who attended our church, she may have room for us to sleep tonight, and perhaps we could try there?” One last phone call and the woman agreed. We quickly helped Dora and her children put on an extra layer of clothing, hugged them all tightly and watched helplessly as they headed out into the dark of the night and up the side of the mountain.

And then, I wept like never before.

I wept for the brokenness of this world. I wept for the children. I wept for the moms who were given no choice. I wept for the gaps in the systems we have created. I wanted to scream and I wanted to beg God to intervene- and then I realized he had. In a single woman. In the eyes of the world she didn't appear to have much to offer. And yet in the eyes of God, she was His hands and feet. She gave the little she had- an extra bed and an open door.

The next morning Dora and her children came back. We hugged and cried once again. We praised God for keeping them safe and keeping them together one more day. She was smiling as explained to me that she and this woman talked long into the night. The woman agreed to let them come and live there. Dora said she just knew God had this planned all along. She was beaming with joy- because she had found hope. We both knew she would still needed to find work, she would still need school supplies,  and beds - yet it all seemed so minimal in comparison to keeping her children.

Before Dora left for the day I asked her how I could be specifically praying. She looked down, staring at her hands for what seemed like hours, then she quietly whispered, “May I have a piece of paper?” Struggling to form the letters she had just recently learned to write, she wrote down the names of those who had been unkind to her....

Her husband, his new girlfriend, his extended family- and she asked us to please pray for them.

Our eyes met and in that instant, my entire world changed.

I love adoption. I am thankful for adoption. Adoption saves lives. I believe adoption is the heart of God. But I am also thankful that God allowed us to walk along with journey with Dora so that we could understand in a way we didn’t before. There are 160,000+ orphans in this world. I have no idea how many Dora’s there are out there. My prayer is that the church rises up and does what she was meant to do. Whether that is adopting an orphan, coming alongside a birthmother who needs a little help, raising our sons to be Godly men, giving, advocating, or living our life with a purpose greater than the American dream. Because when we do- people like Dora and her children have hope. People like Dora have a chance. And maybe, just maybe, there would be orphans no more.

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woosterweester said...

Amy, I need to be praying more for you, for your family, for the Dora's of the world and her children. I need to be doing more and walking about my day in expectance for God to show me people to love, for Him get a hold of all of our hearts more deeply that we might be changed. Every time I read one of your posts I am thankful that each one is breaking me a little more for the kingdom of God and putting a YES in my mouth when it comes to going the distance for another in need. God continues to use you and I don't want to be a spectator to that, but an active participant. Love you. Hug Dora for me.

Renee said...

Oh my heart...thank you for sharing. May we never be the same.

Michele said...

Keeping children with their Mama. . . this is my heart!!! Beautifully written!! I was in Uganda last year and met a dear lady who was in the group of women I was teaching. She had been diagnosed with HIV and her husband left she and her 2 boys in the slums of Uganda. I was visiting with her in her home one day and she started telling me of her fears of dying, her fears of leaving her boys with no one. Then she asked me if I would take care of them. At that moment conviction overcame me like never before. No woman should EVER have to ask me to take care of her children when I have the money to buy her medicine, supplements, food that will extend her life. I've started an organization. . . "Margret's Voice" . . . the purpose? Sharing the love of Jesus by keeping families together!!! This is my heart. Scripture tells me to love my neighbor as myself. Myself is a mama, and I'd never, ever, ever want to have to have someone else take care of my children b/c I couldn't afford to feed them. This is where the American church MUST step up.

I love reading your blog, especially THIS one. I'm so thankful God opened your eyes to the other side!! Thank YOU for helping this precious lady.

Love and hugs!


Rachel Goode said...

This story is incredible and eye opening! I am linking it on Facebook right now. Thank you for sharing!!

Andrea said...

Beautiful Amy. God is so good to remind us that this world is not everything and our peace can not be found here without him.
The sacrifice is so great for birthmothers and fathers. So many struggling just to keep their children and themselves alive. I applaud, love, and pray for ministries that are both orphan and family advocates.
Prayers for you and your family, Dan and Christi's, and for Dora and hers.

tonya said...

Yes. Yes. Yes.

jenna harrison said...

I have read your blog for quite awhile and have followed your faithful journey to Guatemala. I never comment but always read and this one has me with tears streaming down my face. Thanks for writing and reminding us of the other side and sharing Dora's story so beautifully. I will be praying for them

God's Story said...

Some of the greatest lessons God teaches us come from those we strive to help in His name. God Bless You!

Selina said...


Brought to tears.....This, too, along with orphan care, and special needs care is an invaluable need, and one I had not meditated on until you blogged about it so beautifully. My husband and I about to begin raising support to move overseas as missionaries to the orphan---and I will share this post with him. We need to make a way for families to remain intact whenever possible! I don't post much, but I read, I think of you and yours often, and I'm praying. Love, Selina

Anonymous said...

Thank you for making ME aware of something I did not realize was right in front of my face, a world I couldn't see. My lfe is forever changed by this story and I too am involved with adoptions and yes aware of abuse here and centers we have in the US, may God lead us all on a path to address this issue everywhere and keep us informed. Praying for guidance and a way to help.

acceptance with joy said...

Incredibly sad


so beautiful, also!

Thank you for caring!!

thesleepyknitter said...

"Breath-taking and heart-breaking" is how I described this post when I shared it with friends. Thank you for showing us this deep pain, deep wrong in the world. What can we do, Amy? I'm praying regularly for Rosa and her family because of your earlier posts over the last month, and now I will pray for Dora, too.


Myra said...

How tragically beautiful heart aches for this family and all those like it....

noneya said...

Is there a way that we could raise funds for Dora specifically? Maybe for some skill/ job training and funds for the time that she is in such a program? Could we maybe do a family sponsorship thing where a few families pay $10-15 a month to help care for her family for a set time while we help enable her to care for herself? I am very interested in knowing more. I think you have my e-mail already.
Trina Scoda

Reba said...

Thank you so much for sharing. I have often pondered the cost of adoption (as someone who has adopted two beautiful children from Guatemala). I always hesitate when sharing our adoption story. It isn't that I don't believe in adoption. I obviously do. And I have no doubt God intended it for our family. My hesitation comes from the knowledge I didn't have before...that adoption costs. Hearts are broken. Mothers yearn to be with their babies and vice versa. And while adoption is ALWAYS an adoption, how many families could have remained together (minus the feelings of loss and hurt) if there had been other options? :(

Shanny said...

Amy, if you are able to set up some type of sponsorship program for Dora please count me in. Together we can make a difference for this beautiful family.

Gennaro said...

Aside from the physical abuse, my mother left my day when i was 12y/o; he had a whole other family we never know about until he wanted them to be part of us and my mother refused. We moved form Mexico to Texas where my mother found a place for us to stay no bigger then a average one car garage with an outhouse, yes in Texas. A few years later may day move back in but not by his choice, his past had caught up with him but he never left the other family; i can't say i am glad he did not but at least he provided for them. My dad was not horrible person he just lack a Godly father and a solid education. Both of my parents has only finished second grade and barely know had to read and wright. Why am i telling you this? perhaps to tell you thank you. I am sure there was an Amy Block in those days and a God that still keeps me around and has blessed me a with an amazing testimony. I love you all and when i tell you "i feel you, and i understand"; i truly do. God bless you and your family, I lover you guys.

Anonymous said...

Would it be possible for me to send $25 for Dora to buy supplies in order to make food items to sell?


Judee in Iowa

Kim said...

Thank you for sharing this, Amy. I am heartbroken. And it makes me want to move into action more than ever before. If there is a way to specifically help Dora and her family set up, please let me know. We want to help monetarily until we can help physically. With love, Kim

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this. Praying for this family and thanks for being such a blessing to this family. Its awesome the work you do for God.

God bless you

Anonymous said...

No words..... Beautiful, Amy.

Mattie Patterson

queen bee tracy said...

I'm usually a lurker but oh this post just hit home with me. Please know that I am praying, not only for those that have hurt Dora and her children, but for Dora and her children as well! Also for the kind woman who has given Dora a chance for a better life. And especially for you and your family as you are truly living hands and hearts. Thank you for helping keep the scales off of my eyes. <3

Teaching with TLC said...

I am so speechless right now and must have cried five times while reading this post. THANK YOU for sharing your journey in your blog. Every Monday my kids and I read your blog together and pray for you all. It is wonderful for us to see your walk and what real life is all about. Your reminders are so priceless and are teaching us to focus on what is really important. Huge hugs!

Annie said...

We are in the midst of fostering to adopt two girls, ages 14 and 10. Their story is one that both angers and saddens me. Your story reminded me that their biological family needs prayers - perhaps more than the girls do. Their story is one of neglect and abuse, and yet the Lord longs for the abuser to repent and turn to him. They need Him just as much as the girls do.

Thank you for reminding me.

Kendra said...


Karin said...

Thank you so much for sharing this story. My heart hurts for Dora--and many others like her. When we adopted our first two boys, we did open adoptions in the US. We saw the heartbreak of our boys' birth families up close and personal. We comforted them the best we could--but we were always acutely aware that our joy had come at a great price for them. Their situations were totally different (17 year old birth mom's), but the pain of birth mothers is probably universal. I love to watch what God is doing at Village of Hope. He is amazing and so are you! :)

the_blissful_mommy said...

YES YES YES YES YES YES, thank you, Amy. As always you resonate with me deeply and speak the same things in my own heart. Thank you, sister.

Cindy said...

I Hope some Ugandan PAP's take a good long,hard look in the mirror after reading this. So important. Thanks or sharing.

Courtney said...

So beautiful and genuine. Our world is so, so broken. Come Lord Jesus!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your journey so powerfully. Every time I read these posts, I want to jump on a plane and join you! My husband is not on that page yet though... We foster children here in Australia and I totally get what you are saying about the birth mothers love for their children. Most of us foster carers don't really want much to do with the birth parents due to their destructive lifestyle, yet their love for their children is just like this beautiful lady in your post. Bless you and your family Amy for continually challenging us, opening our eyes to see what Jesus implores us through His word and life. Shani