Good Tidings for Christmas

You have heard of the Nativity Story, the birth of Jesus in the New Testament. It was one perfect and miraculous event told in four narratives by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Each of these authors, which were inspired by the Holy Spirit, approached their story with great care. They communicated a powerful message in great detail that would impact the hearts of many worldwide. Their stories are different, but in no way do they contradict each other. In the end, each story binds together beautifully! Sort of like a puzzle piece snapping together in place in order to display the images for all to see.

zacapa-orphanage-kidsThis past weekend the three Safe Haven Village families had the opportunity to visit another temporary children’s home located right in the center of Zacapa, Guatemala. Just like the different Gospel writers, each of our stories are told with special detail and care. Each story gives a unique perspective of the experiences we had when visiting this orphanage. The first perspective will be told by my son David, followed by my own personal account, and ending with Gabriela’s. You see, I’m a baker at heart. I like to view our stories like different ingredients you have to separate and mix together. You have to mix the sugar with the butter until you create this light textured buttery cream so you can make the perfect crispy, but chewy Christmas Cookie. I believe that all three of our stories are expressed differently, but in the end they come together making Christmas harmony. As I like to put it, “The perfect Christmas Cookie.”

The entrance to this orphanage looked like a prison.

From David: “One day my mom said that we were going to visit an orphanage in Zacapa to give gifts to the children for Christmas. We were also going to play music for the kids. We heard that these kids were seldom visited by American Mission Teams. So the Holts, Monks, and the Rules decided to go and bless them. After all, it was a week before Christmas! Mrs. Jessica’s family worked really hard organizing this special visit. They even bought Christmas presents for all 103 of the children. Right before we traveled to the orphanage, our families practiced all of the Christmas songs we were going to share with the kids. The songs were; Jingle Bells, Joy to the World, Silent Night, Feliz Navidad, and Mi Burrito Sabanero. Mr. Phil played guitar, I played piano, Phil’s son, Caleb, played cajon (basically a drum box), and my sister Gabby helped my mom sing lead. After we packed all the presents and the instruments in two separate cars we drove to the orphanage. Well, we thought it was an orphanage. In reality it was a temporary home for children, because most of the kids there are not orphans. They are just there because their parents have been negligent and cannot take care of them. They are to remain in the custody of this temporary home and are unable to return to live with their families until the judge says otherwise.”

Singing and laughing with the children and orphanage workers.

“When we all arrived, the outside of the orphanage looked like a prison. There was a huge concrete wall with barbed-wire on top that surrounded the smaller buildings; keeping them concealed from the public. I found out it was required by the Guatemalan Government to build this tall prison like wall; with the intention to keep the children living inside safe. I remember feeling a little freaked out when I first saw the place. In a joking manner I said, “Mom, if the kids are being kept in prison cells we are going to leave!” Surprisingly, when we entered the orphanage it did not look like a prison at all! In fact it was absolutely beautiful. All the houses were painted with bright colors and it looked like a rainbow!”

“Our small group of 10 began to quickly set up our music gear with instruments and sound system. After everything was ready for the kids, the nannies helped organize the children in two small groups. They were seated in and orderly fashion on stadium like bleachers. Now they were ready and could enjoy the Christmas Presentation. Unfortunately, not all of the kids could come over and participate in the festivities. Some of them had the Chicken Pox and were still recovering from being sick. Soon after, my mom shared with them the story of Jesus Christ’s birth, “The Nativity Story.” We want it to be fun and interactive for the children.”

Some of the boys getting in line to receive a present.
Some of the boys getting in line to receive a present.

“My mom thought it would be a great idea to have some kids come down to act out the story! The nanny in charge helped us pull aside smart and willing children who would volunteer to be Mary, Joseph, Angel Gabriel, Shepherds and a Choir of Angels. Throughout the bible story they were thrilled to have an opportunity to participate. Immediately after, our small band played the Christmas songs for them. I felt a little nervous at first when I played my piano part, but was able to quickly adapt and have fun. My nerves didn’t seem to matter anymore, because all of the kids looked happy as they danced and sang along with us. Finally, the moment that they were all waiting for had arrived. The children were all patient, anxious, and excited to receive their Christmas presents. I noticed that if a child was not there to receive their present the nannies would give it to them later.”

“I saw one of the nannies graciously give my mom a tour of the orphanage. However, I did not go with her; I stayed behind to interact and play with the kids. I will never forget how, despite these kids not having the love of a mom and dad, they were well behaved, loving, kind, and very polite.”

Patiently waiting to open up their Christmas present.

From Tanya:¬†“We were finished with our Christmas Presentation and passing out the presents. What a relief and joy to see all the children playing with their new toys. However, these children did not appear as I imagined prior to our visit. I was expecting to see dirty children, with run down clothes and tangled up hair locks perhaps even covered with lice. I thought after sharing the Christmas Story, singing and dancing; they would run desperately towards me in order to receive some much needed love and affection. Except, there was something different about these little children…”

“Soon after the nanny in charge, also known as the “Charge Nanny,” expressed her desire to take me and Jessica on a tour of the orphanage. As we began to follow her I noticed the beautiful landscaping that surrounded the different colorful buildings that made up the orphanage. The first building was a bright rosy pink and had a beautiful porch. It had a secure small, iron, white gate to keep the babies from walking outside into the soccer field. There was an assigned nanny there playing with some of the older babies,

they were about 10 months old. I noticed the beautiful wooden high chairs that were so neatly placed against the back wall of the porch. They were kept very well and reminded me of the early 1950’s style wooden high chairs. It impressed me even more to think that something so antique was kept in such great condition. We continued to follow the Charge Nanny into the first room. As we stepped in, I immediately felt a cold breeze cool my body. To our amazement we noticed the room was being cooled by air conditioning. The temperature felt perfect, not too cold but just right to keep the environment pleasing and comfortable for the babies. I said to the Charge Nanny, “Wow, you have air conditioning in this room. What a much needed blessing!” Not only was this room cool, but you could feel a sense of peace and tranquility in the atmosphere. There must have been 15 white wooden cribs in this room all lined up in rows. In each crib lied a perfect and healthy baby. Most babies were sleeping, but the ones that were awake were alert, responsive, smiling, and content. My first thought was, “How can so many babies be in one room and it be this quiet?” There was only one nanny assigned to this room. She was in charge of all the babies from 0 to 6 months of age.”

Our team from Safe Haven Village. Ten of us were able to get into this orphanage.

“Not only had she taken good care of these babies, but she had taken the time to write their names carefully on a small index card. She then placed the cards on the side of each crib. Again, I said to the Charge Nanny, “I love how you have the names of each baby written on their bed.” She said, “This nanny took the time to carefully write each name.” As I took all of this in, I thought to myself, “Lord, I see so much love and proper attention in this place.” I immediately heard a soft still voice in my mind that said, “Tanya, I take good care of my children.” We continued on our tour of the rest of the buildings. The next building held the 6-12 month old babies. As we entered their¬†room, again it was a cool and peaceful climate. You could see some of the babies were awake, firmly standing in their cribs. They were smiling and content. I was expecting them to begin to cry loudly to get our attention to take them out of their cribs, but they didn’t. Next room lived the sick toddlers that were being cared for. It was a large room with around 20 white iron toddler beds. We saw around 10 little children who were being quarantined in this room and kept apart from the healthy ones, because they were recovering from various stages of the Chicken Pox. We were not allowed to enter this room, but could see from the outside. I could see several children playing under their soft blankets and running around the room with excitement. The Charge Nanny said, “This is the most difficult age

Showing off their Christmas presents. These girls were excited to have dolls.

group to care for.” I said, “Trust me; I know exactly what you mean.” Even though these children were sick with the Chicken Pox, they were bursting with energy, playing and doing all the normal things healthy toddlers do. As we continued with the tour I noticed the same pattern throughout each different age group of children. Each child lived together according to their age groups. The ages that were allowed to reside in this orphanage were from 0 to 12 years of age. Each building was maintained very well, brightly painted, beautiful landscaping, and brightly decorated with a different Christmas Tree. One thing was apparent, despite this being a temporary home for children, I got the sense that they were not lacking anything. Their physical needs were being met well beyond my expectations. Sure, the most important thing lacking was the fact that they could not live in the care of their beloved families. However, I have confidence and trust in the Lord that He will eventually restore and reunite each child with their loved ones. Perhaps even go beyond to introduce Family Style Care to these institutions. That would be ideal, but in the meantime; they were growing up in a healthy and loving environment. Only because of that small still voice that consistently whispered and spoke to my heart, ‘Tanya, I take care of my children.’ “

zacapa-orphanage-kids-worshipFrom Gabby: “One day, we got the opportunity to visit an orphanage near where we live, Rio Hondo, Zacapa. My brother, David, had been learning to play some Christmas songs on the piano, so we thought it would be a good idea to sing some Christmas Songs for the kids. When we got there, which took some time since we did not know where it was, the outside of the building had a tall concrete wall with barbed-wire around the top. Unlike the outside, the inside was beautiful! There was a basketball court in the middle, and around were houses of different colors. Together, this made them look like a rainbow of houses. Not long after we retrieved all the presents, which were stacked in Mrs. Jessica’s car, and set up all the music equipment, the children came and sat on the bleachers at the basketball court. When everyone was seated, my mom began to tell them the story of the First Christmas. After she finished, she asked them questions about the story and gave prizes to the ones that answered the question right. My mom taught them Luke 2:11, “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” After repeating the bible verse numerous times, she handed them a loud microphone, and the children would eagerly say the bible verse in Spanish.”

“Next, Elias, Jessica’s son, read Isaiah 9:6-7 which says, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over His kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”

zacapa-orphanage“Afterwards, we sang some Christmas Songs. With David playing the piano, Mr. Phil playing the guitar, and Caleb playing the cajon, which is basically a drum box, and mom and me singing. We sounded pretty good! We sang Silent Night, Jingle Bells, Joy to the World, Feliz Navidad, and Mi Burrito Sabanero. I remember seeing this sweet, little boy who stood out because he was having so much fun dancing to each Christmas tune. he reminded me so much of Herminio. Herminio is a little boy who lives here at Hope of Life’s St. Luke Hospital. he is recovering from hip surgery before he can return to live with his family. After we sang all the songs, Mrs. Jessica and her boys passed out all the presents.”

“A sweet little girl, Karen, asked me to color with her. While we were coloring she looked and saw David and asked in Spanish, “Is he Chinese?” I thought it was hilarious the way this little, six year old girl asked the question. When we finished taking pictures and playing with the kids, we set out for home. I had a wonderful time and I hope we can visit that orphanage again.”

Tanya, David and Gabby