Sunday, September 27, 2015

We're Going Back!

We are in the planning phases for our 2016 trip - hooray! The trip is scheduled for April 2-9, 2016 and is open to adults and families with children aged 9 and up.

If you'd like more info on the trip, just leave a comment here. You can also check out previous years' reflections and photos on past trips tab.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Reflections on Serving - Dan

This is the third time my son and I have gone to Colima, Mexico to work in an orphanage for a week. I am amazed, each time, with how much the workers care for each of the children there. These are people that work and work and work every day to care for children that have lost so much. These are people that love these kids and care for them day after day. They see the kids hurt, they see the kids hope, they see the successes as well as their failures. They are true heroes. They feed, clothe, encourage, teach, discipline and love. They do it all every day, day after day and year after year. I’m grateful that God made so many that love and care for so many others.

You can tell that the kids know how much they are loved. The natural playfulness of a child is alive and well in the vast majority of the kids. They have been freed from the burden of life’s circumstances and have a very structured environment where they don’t have to worry about clothes, food or if someone will be there for them or not. This frees them to play like a kid should play. It encourages them to learn like a kid should learn. It allows them to see God’s goodness in so much of life. These kids have the ability to love like no others. They have the ability to overcome their fear of strangers and in an amazingly short period of time they can hug you so tight that you feel as if you have known them for a lifetime.

I get so busy in life and so caught up in email, work projects, church responsibilities or running our boy to baseball that sometimes I forget the human element. I am so task oriented that something as basic as pure unadulterated love is somehow lost. How can that be? How can life be about things and not people? How is it that life gets in the way of what it means to live? I am again reminded, on this trip, that the way that I should judge if my life is successful or not is less about what I did and more about how I loved.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Reflections on Serving - Marcia

Our 2015 trip to Mexico was the best ever. I usually team up with daughter Jamie and work on sewing projects. This year we altered a gazillion pairs of girls' jeans. It was so much fun seeing the young ladies try on their newly tailored “skinny jeans”, beaming from ear to ear. Self-image is so important to teenagers.

One evening, After a lovely dinner with the Matriz house. The games began. I pulled up a chair and sat down to watch, feeling a little timid about not speaking Spanish and being older - but was pulled up by several kids. Sitting was not an option. They were having fun and wanted everyone to enjoy the evening with them. After musical chairs, I sat again, only to be coaxed up for more games. Hugs, smiles, and laughter are great ways to communicate.

Another treat was visiting the Golondrinas household which we painted last year. Angela (whose picture now shares refrigerator space with my grandchildren) was so excited to show me her new room. She is a freshman in high school, plays goalie for the soccer team and has blossomed now that she is in a family style household.

NOTE - Going to Hogar De Amor will mean you leave a piece of your heart there.

Another FYI - the food is so exceptional, eating at Taco Bell is lost forever.

I got a super thrill by seeing the volcano. We drove to within 4 miles of the mountain in an open bus (thankfully it had a roof). When we arrived, it was raining ash – it felt like walking in a light sprinkle, but we did not get wet. After dark, we heard rumblings, then lightening went from the volcano into the sky, followed by a loud clap of thunder. A whole storm without water.

Everyone on the team is so helpful and kind. I don’t attend CenterPoint, and each year I am working with different people on the team, but everyone is so helpful and kind I love making new American as well as Mexican friends.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Reflections on Serving - Sam

I think that my favorite thing about mexico was interacting with the kids. Pretty much everybody on the team it will say the same thing, but that doesn’t make it untrue. The kids are just so fun and resilient. They could fall down and scrape their knees and still get right back up. You just don’t see that in american children. That was my favorite thing about Mexico by far.

Of course, there is something to be learned from their attitude in that example. If these tiny kids can get up after a fall like that, well, lets say I could not, especially at their ages. I think I learned that I need to be stronger at times like that, be they big or small.

My Mom asked me if I thought that they don’t cry because they think that nobody’s coming to help them, but I don’t think that’s true. I think that they just know not to worry about the small things and save the crying for the big stuff.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Reflections on Serving - Julie

Lindsey and I were privileged to travel to Colima this year with the CenterPoint Mexico mission group.

We have been thinking how to put to paper our collective thoughts about our experiences but feel this a very difficult task.

We were well prepared before leaving for Colima on what to expect. There were no big surprises with the who, what and where aspects but there were big surprises on the impact this trip would have on our heart.

Lindsey and I felt so well taken care of. Jamie Morningstar arranged every detail so perfectly that we needed only to show up. She made a difficult trip so smooth and easy for such a large group. I am grateful to have her as a friend and for her deep love for this orphanage. We also felt taken care of by Dan and Shane ensuring we were always safe in the streets and helping us with our heavy luggage. We loved spending a week with such good people from our church and making new friends with people from North Carolina.

It seemed like it took forever before we finally arrived at the orphanage. My heart melted when we laid eyes on the children and how beautiful each one was. The kids have very little personal possessions of their own. And yet they are happy and content. These are special and unique kids. They are well behaved, well taken care of and very loving. These characteristics are an attribute to the amazing care givers that daily display the love of Christ to these kiddos. We felt welcomed by everyone at each orphanage. There seemed to be a connection with everyone we came into contact with there even though we could not speak the same language.

There were so many amazing aspects of our trip. The food, fellowship, culture, and connection of those we served made for memories that will last a lifetime. It was just too short of a time there. We think about the children that stole our hearts We think about the Christians worshiping our Lord just as we do every Sunday. We think about the tears that flowed when we had to leave. We think about the hugs from the beautiful kids. We think about how we miss being there. We think about how great our God is!! Our hearts are full. Full of love and respect for a group of people in Colima Mexico.

We left Colima with much more than we brought or more than we gave. Thank you Hogar De Amor. You are in our hearts FOREVER!

Love in Christ,

Julie and Lindsey Poulton

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Reflections on Serving - Jamie

Hogar de Amor is a lot of things to me. It's a place I get to serve alongside my kids and my mom. It's a place I get to bring my church family and introduce them to the amazing joys of serving. It's a place where I am reminded of how very much I have to be grateful for. It's a place full of friends who mean a whole darn lot to me. It's a place of grace. It's a place that's doing institutional care right.

I have 2 kids by birth and 2 by adoption, so I've spent more than my fair share of time in orphanages (although nowhere near as long as my girls!). There is no substitute for a permanent home and a loving family, but if anything could come close, it's Hogar de Amor.

Grupo Amor (the church that runs Hogar de Amor) is committed to doing the very best they can for the kids in their care. These kids have food to eat and clothes to wear. They have houseparents and community who truly love them and are committed to them for the long haul. They have excellent education and are supported all the way through university. They have Jesus at every turn.

Somebody asked the very good question before this year's trip: If these kids have it so good, why don't we go to a really destitute place, a place where they really need us? My answer is two-fold:
  1. The kids and caregivers of Hogar de Amor, though better off than many, still sure do appreciate extra hands, extra supplies, and a few hours when they don't have to serve as parent to 12-30 small children. Let's not romanticize things too much here; life is not easy at the hogar.
  2. This is a chance for us to support a group who is trying to do things right. Hogar de Amor is a movement out of the community striving to care for its own. They are committed to best practices in orphan care. And by supporting them, we help them to spread and care for more kids following the same healthy model.
Hogar de Amor is not a perfect place - but it is a good place. And it is sheer joy to me that I get to be a small part of this very good place.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Reflections on Serving - Ben

What's special about Mexico to me is being there with the kids. I've been for three years and each year I've come back to see the kids again and help with things around their house, like painting and cleaning. The kids are so kind and they want to share what little they have. It feels like visiting a lot of friends I haven't seen in a year.

I would like to learn how to make the best of everything I have even if the everything is nothing.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Reflections on Serving - Kelsey

My Mexico experience was different than I expected. Everyone who had been before told me that I would get more out of the experience than I would put into it but it's hard to be in that mindset before you have experienced it.

We took down donations and did all kinds of work, but the things that I am going to remember in fifty years are the kids. I'm going to tell my kids and grandkids about playing hot potato and musical chairs, about Luis giving me one of his two pictures (he was sneaky and got two photos taken), searching for letter beads to make necklaces, and Fanny asking me to sit with her at lunch.

The work that I put in isn't going to matter. Everyone there has such a capacity for love and I don't remember the last time that I have been hugged so much. It was such an amazing experience and I can't wait to go back next year and see the kids and how much they've grown and to see God's love at work in the world.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Our Week in Review

We had an amazing week in Colima - it was a week that touched the hearts of every member of the team, produced countless smiles on little faces, and contributed about 500 hours of labor to jobs around the homes! In addition, the CenterPoint team was grateful to bring down full suitcases and take home empty ones as we donated gifts, supplies, and donations to Hogar de Amor:
  • $1700 in project supplies
  • $1100 in cash donations
  • A billion (give or take) Disney toys
  • 248 toothbrushes
  • 151 tubes of toothpaste
  • 90 pairs of socks
  • 126 packs of crayons and pencils
  • 101 coloring books
  • 160 pairs of underwear

Thanks again to everybody who was a part of this trip - those who supported the trip financially, with prayers, by keeping homes running while the team was away, and with donations for the kids of Hogar de Amor. Your support means so much to us and to them.

Here's a little montage of our favorite Colima 2015 memories. Hopefully it tides us over until 2016 :)

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Faces of Hogar de Amor

We said goodbye to some very special people today. I think Pilar said it best - we leave Colima with heavy and full hearts.

Our weeks in Colima are so short and come far too infrequently. And these smiles, these amazing little souls give us so much more than we could ever give back.

Please add the kids and caregivers of Hogar de Amor to your daily prayer list. Here are some specific things you can pray for:

  • Pray for the patience and wisdom of the caregivers. The houseparents and assistants here are simply amazing, caring for tens of children day in and day out. Please pray that their hearts and patience would always be full, that they would parent with wisdom, and that they would know how astounding the work they do every day truly is.
  • Pray for blessing on these houses: that budgets would be plentiful, that sponsorships would come through, that kids would stay safe, that equipment would work and not break.
  • The government is currently working to subdivide the land behind the main orphanage compound, which would mean that the orphanages would be surrounded by subdivisions instead of grass. Pray that Grupo Amor would be able to buy up enough land so that the orphanages don't get squished. Pray that new neighbors would see the orphanages with favor and be good neighbors to these kids. Pray for government favor in with the allotting of parcels and that any business zoning would be far away from the kids' bedrooms.
  • Pray for these kids. Pray that these kids who have already lost so much would know God as their perfect Father. Pray that they would grow up with healthy minds and hearts and spirits. Pray that they would grow into men and women of faith and grace and joy.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Thursday - Last full day of work

Thursday was a big day of finishing projects and organizing supplies and - our favorite! - giving our donations! Our church family and friends of the church were so kind and generous in their donations and we were thrilled to have a ton of donations to sort and bless the houses with.

The whole caboodle took us a full three suitcases to transport! Here are the totals:

  • 248 toothbrushes
  • 151 tubes of toothpaste
  • 160 underthings
  • 90 pairs of socks
  • 101 coloring books
  • 126 boxes of crayons and colored pencils
  • and a huge 
It was an amazing blessing to the houses - the houseparents were all smiles as they sorted everything into piles for each house.

Big smiles!
The house moms were pros at divvying up the donations for every house
And the Disney gifts were a huge hit! The houseparents are saving them to give out as birthday presents

We changed the schedule up on Thursday and started the day with projects. The crew working on the adolescent boys' home worked super hard and finished up their two-toned blue masterpiece before lunch. The house looks so good - a new coat of paint does wonders!

Hanging out in the newly painted rooms

On the sewing team we had a big old bag of boys' shorts from Casa Matriz whose elastic was simply not holding up on those very skinny, very active boys. We sewed until we were out of elastic and hopefully those shorts get a few more years of wear out of them before we have to replace the elastic again!

Rosa, the SeƱoritas' house mom, said Sam was a very good worker :)

We were treated to a fantastic carne asada lunch at Golondrinas, which was especially fun because we got to see the finished house we worked so hard on last year. Good food + good memories = one excellent lunch.

Checking out the view from the Golondrinas roof
The house looks so great all decorated and occupied!
And the green looks good in any light :)
The lunch was fantastic - the houseparents and kids of Golondrinas and Famoso worked so hard and put together an amazing meal
A few of us may have zonked out after lunch - when you're this tired, any surface is a pillow!

And after lunch it was time for our last set of activities! For sports, it was sidewalk chalk day. Good thing there's lots and lots of cement to decorate because the kids sure love to color it all!

One of the best parts of activities is that everybody, even the high school kids, like to get in on the action. The big kids help the little kids, the mid-sized kids make a big ruckus, and we all have a lot of fun.

In classroom games we played with stamp pads and made all sorts of fun art
We managed to keep most of the kids reasonably clean

And in crafts it was our very favorite day - crayon and coloring book day! Over the past weeks we collected over 100 coloring books and crayons and on Thursday we gave every kid and caregiver their very own set. It's amazing to see their joy at having a new box of crayons of their very own and it's so fun that the caregivers get in on the action, too! We love to bring a little color to everybody's day.

For dinner we went into the city center to stroll around the craft fair, hit the candy store, and eat (you'll note a theme, we do a lot of eating in Mexico!).
Like fresh Krispy Kremes, fresh churros outshine all others!

Health-wise we're doing much better. The sick in our crew are far from 100% but they're doing better and better. Thanks for all of your prayers and well wishes, for them and for all of us.

Here are some prayer requests for today:

  • Please continue to pray for everybody's health, that the sick would be whole and that the well would remain so!
  • Pray that the items we donated would bless the kids and caregivers of Hogar de Amor - that not only would they alleviate some budget pressure and help the kids be even better cared for, but that kids and caregivers alike would know that each donation comes with extra TLC and prayers.