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OCMC News - How the Hogar Changed Our Lives

by Betty McDonald (Posted 8/27/2009)

OCMC News - How the Hogar Changed Our Lives
2009 OCMC Mission Team members with the children of the Hogar Rafael Ayau Orphanage in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

When we volunteered for our first mission trip to Guatemala this year, it was something we had thought about many times in the past, but the timing in our busy lives was never right.   As it turned out, the timing couldn't have been worse.  As the mission trip approached in July 2009, our house was still on the market to sell, and three of our four rental properties were not rented.   We chose Guatemala because I speak Spanish and my husband is very handy..he can fix or do anything.  We knew the Hogar Rafael Ayau was an orphanage, and we had been trying to start a family since we were married six years ago, but we had no interest in older children, and we knew Guatemala was closed to adoptions due to corruption in the past. 

After years of failure with IVF (the curse of marrying later in life), we wanted newborn babies like everyone else.  The thought of adopting older children who did not look anything like us was not even a consideration.  We were older and we knew we were not up for 'damaged' children; we wanted to have the most impact on our children from the start.  I was angry, tired, and had lost complete faith that I would ever be a mother.  I deeply resented the advice of others who had genetic children or, for that matter, those who had succeeded with IVF.

Neither of us had any expectations of bonding with the children at the Hogar.  We were there to do a job and fulfill a tenet of our faith.  Though my husband wanted a family, he had never been around children or showed an interest in them.

We arrived at the Hogar exhausted, and no one was particularly thrilled with the spartan accommodations.  A transformation, however, started happening in our hearts the first time we saw the children at Vespers and heard them sing, the girls in their little scarves occasionally glancing back at us shyly. 

My husband and I were assigned nine children between the ages of six and fourteen for summer camp activities.  We had five girls and four boys, including three siblings.  I envisioned that we would be lucky to just herd the kids to each activity on time, but by the second day they had somehow become “our kids” in every way.  We were putting Superman band-aids on their injured toes, hugging them all day, reading them stories while they listened attentively, helping them do their projects, and throwing Nerf balls at them in the pool.  We were amazed to see that they knew how to spike an American football and how to engage in 'chicken fights' on our shoulders in the pool without instruction.  Of course, we also had to take the knives out of their hands in the bakery, remove the ping pong balls (and hands) from the fish tank, run down Josue (the youngest), and preach sharing, sharing, sharing all day.

Mother Ivonne and the other nuns, whom we did not meet because they were away, have worked miracles with the children and have helped them heal through God's grace.  The children are loved and loving.  They are trusting of us, though some of the adults in their lives have betrayed that trust.  Many have parents who cannot or will not care for them.
Well, now we want THESE children, and approximately ten are adoptable.  Bad timing again.  The country is closed to adoptions by those outside Guatemala.  Even if the country were to reopen to international adoptions, which it eventually will, the children at the Hogar are not in the government system.  Three of the children at the Hogar have been adopted by families here, but they are awaiting the lengthy process and government delays in Guatemala.  We'll continue to pray that someday, somehow we will be able to adopt some of the beautiful children at the Hogar.



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God of truth and love: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Hear our prayer for those who do not know You. That they may come to a saving knowledge of the truth, and that Your Name may be praised among all peoples of the world. Sustain, inspire, and enlighten Your servants who bring them the Gospel. Bring fresh vigor to wavering faith; sustain our faith when it is still fragile. Continually renew missionary zeal in ourselves and in the Church, and raise up new missionaries who will follow You to the ends of the world. Make us witnesses to Your goodness full of love, full of strength, and full of faith for Your glory and the salvation of the entire world. Through the prayers of all the missionary saints, Have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
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