The people at Dulce Refugio are wonderful. The name Dulce Refugio in Spanish means Sweet Refuge. There is no doubt in my mind that this place is a sweet refuge. This orphanage is very different than ones I have entered into before. Three differences I noticed- the children, the staff, and the orphanage grounds.
Keep in mind the four orphanages we have been to adopt our children were government run. Dulce Refugio is a Christian run orphanage. Two of our children were young enough when we adopted them they were still at a Baby House; for children under the age of 5, mixed with typical and special needs children. One of our children were at an Intranaut, which is a orphanage and school on one campus for children ages 6-18, only for children without disabilities.Our daughter who is from a different country was in a orphanage for younger children and would have been sent to a institution (much like our other two children with disabilities from another country) at the age of 5. Once the children moved to the institution, there was no schooling for them. They would live the rest of their lives there, confined to a bed if they were not mobile.
Dulce Refugio orphanage is very colorful. No drab and falling apart
buildings here. The concept of the buildings is to resemble a Rubik's
cube. Many different people/backgrounds come together to make an
amazing masterpiece. How awesome! The rooms are bright and colorful and well taken care of. The rooms have 6 beds in them. Each bed has a concrete base so that a child can not hide items in/under his/her bed and so that beds can not be pushed next to another or rooms become overcrowded with children. The buildings and orphanage grounds are clean. Daily the hallways and rooms are cleaned and there is a scent of freshness.
This is a drastic difference from the other orphanages we have been in. I can remember the scent walking into two of four orphanages in Eastern Europe, and fighting back gagging. (Odd food smells, dirty mop water, shoes that have been worn for days on end in the rain with no socks. Get the idea?!?) Kids dropped trash on the ground as the walked. One of our sons has had a major learnign curve since being home because the kids bathed once or twice a week.
The children at Dulce Refugio are wonderful. Don't get me wrong...they are still kids. Kids that try to work the system, push the limits, and act out. They are very typical in that respect. What was very obvious was the structure they are use to, the respect they are expected to give to the adults, and the strict limits that have been set and should be followed. Most obvious- the kids are truly cared about and LOVED by all of the staff. One day as we were pouring concrete, two young boys were arguing over a soccer ball. A warning was given by an adult, and the scuffle over the ball continued. A few minutes later, I noticed both boys against the wall in Castigado.
(time out). The children are all polite and respectful to the adults. The older girls in each room take time each mornign and do the younger girls hair. I'm not talking a single, quick ponytail. These girls has all kinds of neat designs and tiny little rubber bands in the hair each day. And there weren't two days that it looked alike. Every child at Dulce Refugio is dressed nicely. I didn't notice shoes that were falling apart. No one wore pajamas during the day. (Both common at other orphanages I have been to.)
In Ukraine, the location that housed the older children (where we adopted our older son from) you could sense evil. Children/teens hid behind the building to smoke, they left the orphanage grounds though they knew they were told not to. Their caretakers, teachers, and orphanage workers were not treated with respect. They were merely a tool. It was common to talk back to a teacher or argue with her. I remember sending our son (who we hosted several times before adopting) back to Ukraine with clothes we had bought for him. Once he had to take back a pair of Nemo pajamas. The next summer, I saw pictures of his friends wearing those pajamas as an outfit.
At Dulce Refugio, everyone is there because they want to be there. For the staff, they are not there because it's a job. Each one of them is there because it's a calling. Each person wants to be there.
The director; Marce, (Marcela) is a wonderful woman. You can read about her here
. She cooked for us all week. Some days she made us three meals a day. The food was delicious! Marce' has an awesome testimony. Her testimony is of one who was broken, body full of cancer, and changed and saved by the father/husband who never left her side. Jesus Christ. Read Isaiah 54
. This is Marce's life story. In Isaiah 54:13 it says: All your children will be disciples of the Lord— I will make peace abound for your children. Casar Dulce Refugio is like no other place I have been.
My favorite part of the week was Wednesday evening when the kids all came together and had a praise and worship night. This happens once a week. Marce leads the evening. She has so much energy and you can see the Lord shine through her. She leads the kids in singing and leads them in motions that go along with the songs!
Duane is an awesome guy with a heart for orphans. He is a building contractor by trade. He felt God's calling in his life and thought he could help expand God's kingdom through his work. We worked with Duane each day to pour concrete. Watching him finish concrete is like watching an artist! When work is done for the day, he spends time interacting with the kids. One night he played soccer with all of us. Duane and his wife; Marybelle, and their two daughters live on the grounds. Check out this video
I found of Duane. Though it is a few years old, as Duane speaks about his calling, I smiled. This is still truly the way he feels today, five years later!
|Duane and his wife Marybelle and daughters|
Aaron also works at the orphanage. He showed us which corner store to head to for the coldest Coke! He was the water guy in the concrete mixing process. He's a great guy to be around, and you can tell he LOVES the kids. He enjoyed joking with them and making them smile and laugh.
Martin shared his awesome testimony. It is one that reminds us that no matter what choices we make in life or how much we sin, God can turn our life around and make us new again. Martin lives in the boys dorm and helps oversee the boys. He has a great rapport with these young men and the boys respect him. My favorite memory during the week involved Martin, Jared, and a hose. Martin is dark skinned. I heard him speak Spanish to the children and adults at the orphanage. After a rainy evening that had covered all the wheelbarrow loads of dirt we carried to the field, we felt defeated. Trying to come up with a way to get rid of the pooled water, Jared and I talked about syphoning the water off the field into a nearby drain. Jared got the hose and began to suck on it, hoping to draw the water into the hose. After a few minutes and no progress (and Martin walking past several times), Martin said to Jared "as much fun as it is to watch, you're not going to get very far with that hose. It has several holes in it!"
And then there is the Beckett family--Jesse, Faith, Silas, Quinn, Ella, and Rowan. Jesse came on several mission trips. Little did he know on his last trip, his wife prayed for the Lord to stir his heart. And HE did--in a big way! Jesse came home and told Faith he wanted to do more. She agreed. This family sold their home and their belongings and moved to another country to be part of something bigger. I can't help but thinking about the story in the book of Matthew 19 (which was part of Jesse's testimony)-
16 A man approached him and said, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to have eternal life?”
17 Jesus said, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There’s only one who is good. If you want to enter eternal life, keep the commandments.”
18 The man said, “Which ones?”
Then Jesus said, “Don’t commit murder. Don’t commit adultery. Don’t steal. Don’t give false testimony. 19 Honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as you love yourself.”
20 The young man replied, “I’ve kept all these. What am I still missing?”
21 Jesus said, “If
you want to be complete, go, sell what you own, and give the money to
the poor. Then you will have treasure in heaven. And come follow me.”
Jesse and Faith's kiddos have adjusted well in the 11 months they have lived in Mexico. They are learnign the language and often served as interpreters when we didn't know what the kids were saying to us. They each have bonded with kiddos at the orphanage.
|Ella (on the left) with Jordan|
The people who work here, want to be here. It's not a job they come to. Each of them are at the orphanage because they each feel called by God to be there. It's their ministry, it's their passion.
Each time I'm around orphans, I get very emotional. I feel this great sense that God is leading me down a path of ministry. Many people lovingly comment that we have started our own orphan ministry in our home (via adoption). This is true, but I want to do more. Doug and I often talk about what we would do if we hit the lottery. It has always been a dream to help orphans more than what we already have. We would love to build/run an orphanage. A special needs orphanage would be even better. What better way to be God's hands and feet than to spend each day sharing HIS love to children without a father. Telling them that there is a heavenly father who will always love them and never leave them. I, many times am like the rich man in Matthew 19. It's not about the riches, it's more about the medical needs of our children. In Eastern European countries, my children would not be welcomed in society. There is no schooling, no support for families. In Mexico, I saw a young man in a wheelchair in the market with his family and a little girl with Down Syndrome out shopping with her parents. I could see our family in Mexico. I could see our family at Dulce Refugio. One day there will be a school for all children on the orphanage grounds. They will include the Bible in their schooling. One day, there is plans to build a building for children with Down Syndrome.
James 1:27 has been a favorite verse of mine for quite some time. It says: Pure
and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for
orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world
We know that God is stirring our hearts and preparing us for more. We know that we have love in our hearts for more children whether it be through adoption or orphan ministry. We know that our family dynamics make things more of a challenge. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy. We fought hard through paperwork and heartache for each of our children. They are loved. They are cherished. We pray that God continues to use us to do good in HIS name. If he says go, we will go.
Thank you Dulce Refugio for awakening my heart once again, fueling my passion for orphans, and reminding me that Jesus is my superhero and HE can do all things!