“This Child Stole Our Heart”

safe-haven-village_01Join us on this amazing journey of how this child stole our heart. Raquel came to the orphanage at Hope of Life in 2006 because she was neglected by her parents. They thought she suffered from mental problems and just left her in the back yard. She was treated like a dog and forced to eat off the ground. After she was examined by doctors, it was discovered that she did not have a mental condition. Raquel is an average student who likes language classes and would like to be a teacher one day. She is cheerful, likes soccer and playing with dolls. Her favorite color is pink. She loves to eat fried chicken and French fries.

When my husband and I first met her at the orphanage we noticed her big brown eyes and beautiful smile. She was very shy at first. We noticed her looking and observing us from a far. Eventually, she gained enough confidence to sit down next to us. From that moment on, our lives where changed forever. I remember trying to make conversation by asking her what her name was. I immediately became aware of her inability to freely express herself through speech. I felt like she could understand everything that I was saying, but could not speak adequately. She would soon gain enough confidence by speaking very small broken down phrases like “Tu y el, esposo”. She would quietly spend time staring at my wedding ring.She would point at my husband and say “Tu esposo”. This means, “Your husband”. Soon after she was giving us big tight bear hugs that would almost take our breath away. Immediately, the Lord began to soften our heart towards this precious child. Towards the end of our trip, Raquel was calling us “amigos”, which means “friends”.

Several months later we had the privilege to return on another trip to Guatemala. I remember visiting the orphanage during this trip and seeing Raquel again. I was unsure if she still recognized us because she did not come and greet us right away. Once again, I noticed her observing us from a far. I said, “Hola Raquel”. She looked at my husband and me with a sweet grin and said, “Tu esposo”. I said, “Si Raquel, mi esposo”. After getting to know her, we knew that her favorite color was pink and that she loved playing with dolls. Here is a picture of Raquel as we gave her a small gift for her birthday that contained some of her favorite things.

We got to spend time with her during various trips while we served at the orphanage. Raquel was a very quiet spoken girl but full of love. She enjoyed walking around the orphanage and spending time at the playground. At times she would love to play the shy part. She would sometimes pretend that she didn’t know me just so that I would eagerly search for her. It was her way of being funny and trying to desperately seek my attention.

That same year we had another opportunity to return to Guatemala, but this time it would be during Thanksgiving week. It safe-haven-village_02was such a difficult decision for my husband and I to make. This time it would mean only one of us going and the other one having to stay home to take care of our children. It would have been much easier for my husband to go as I don’t handle traveling very well. We both prayed about it and knew that the Lord would ask me to go and my husband to stay. It was such a huge sacrifice for us to make. It would mean not having our family together for Thanksgiving. This would stretch us both out of our own comfort zones. I would have to travel without the help of my husband and my husband would have to spend an entire week by himself with the children. At first, I was going because I knew it was God’s will but not because my heart was fully in it. I prayed for months and asked the Lord to break my heart for what breaks His. He immediately reminded me of sweet Raquel and her excruciatingly endless bear hugs. My heart started fluttering quickly as I began to think of her and that I would have another opportunity to visit her. During this visit, I learned
that Raquel had a hidden talent. I knew she struggled communicating because of a speech impediment, which was probably a result of her being abused as a child and abandoned by her parents. However, now I knew that she could make these beautiful hair braids. Not only could she braid, but she would craft these braids with very artistic letters and symbols. I remember trying to learn years ago how to French braid my own hair and how difficult it was to master this by myself. I immediately told her how talented she was. She would shyly brush away and say “No”. I said, “Raquel, tu tienes mucho talento”, which means “You are very talented”. I tried explaining to her that not everyone, including me, could braid as beautifully as she could. Her braids will out do any professional hair stylist in the US. I told her that what she had was a gift from God. I encouraged her not to be shy with her gifts. By the time I was done explaining this to her she was eager to braid my hair and my friend’s hair. She would say “Amiga de Tanya”. She would only braid your hair if
safe-haven-village_03she understood that you were my friend. Here is a picture of a beautifully finished braid.

I was so impressed by her beautiful work that I asked her to teach me. I tried my best to pay attention and learn but Raquel’s technique was too difficult for me to grasp during this teacher/student session.

During this visit, Raquel was allowed to spend Thanksgiving dinner with me. Here is a picture of that Thanksgiving dinner celebration.

This was by far the best Thanksgiving Day I have ever experienced. Every doubt or fear that I had about going on this mission trip was but a distant memory now. All because my heart was full of joy from the love I felt through this special child.

The last time that I saw her she wrote me a letter asking me if I would be her mother and my husband her father. How do you respond to such an impossible request? We were left speechless not knowing what to say. I said, “Raquel, Dios te ama mucho”, “God loves you very much”. I expressed God’s love for her and that He would always be with her. I knew she would receive it with love because her favorite bible verse is “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want” – Psalm 23:1. I pray every day that the Lord will fulfill this child’s desire to have a mother and father. I pray that perhaps I would have the opportunity to be the mother that she desires to have. As a Safe Haven Host Family we are not given a choice of the children that get placed in our home. However, this does not keep me from believing God for the impossible. I pray that the Lord will fulfill the desire of this child’s heart, to have a family she can call her own. I pray that one day we will get to be that family.

Translation: From: Raquel

For: Tania
Hello Tania I love you very much. Thank you for the love you have given me and thank you for everything. God bless you and I’m praying for you every night. I want to be with you.

This child stole our heart.





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