Hogar Del Niño
Menacing clouds whispered hints of rain as the team approached the Hogar Del Niño, or the House for Children, of Chichi Guatemala. Samaritan Hands founded the Hogar nearly twenty years ago, and since that time has successfully housed orphans and provided them with education, shelter, love, and most importantly has shown them Jesus. Meanwhile the residences surrounding the orphanage almost seemed asleep; the clothes hung outside the shabby houses to dry while the cows hunted for fresh grass. The black door that now stood in front of the team firmly guarded the precious lives inside, and didn’t budge when they knocked. Smiling faces greeted the team as the barrier opened.
The inside of the orphanage welcomed the team. A mural of Winnie the Pooh, grasping colorful balloons in his hand and resting on a small hill with a honey pot by his side, stood to the right of the door. Dancing to the left of him were the words, “Bienvenidos al Hogar Del Niño!” which translated means “Welcome to the House for Children!” Twenty pink, blue, yellow, and red handprints of the orphans surrounded the greeting.
The team rested in the small entryway for a moment, and then strolled down the small walkway that ended in the outdoor area. Portraits of the animals at creation – giraffes, gorillas, geese, and lions pranced about on the sides of the walkway. Mountains surrounding the beautiful city acted as a fence, and eagerly greeted the guests as they reached the end of the hallway. Once outside, they proceeded down another walkway that led to an empty playground.
Finally the time arrived to meet the children. In a classroom to the left sat five of the younger children doing their schoolwork. Working in the corner sat children who squirmed in their seats, some with their brows bent in frustration, others in determination. The woman that tutored the children smiled and introduced the group to the youngest children: Geovani, Letti, and Albertina. Geovani and Letti completed their work and eagerly sat waiting to meet the strangers. Geovani and Letti rested on a rainbow colored blanket near the back corner of the room, Geovani, with a stuffed giraffe gripped in his hand, as Letti toyed with her brown teddy bear. One of the more outgoing girls on the team quickly took a seat near Letti and began to play with her. Another mission team member picked up Albertina and began to play with her. However, one girl on the team stood at the door and surveyed the room, breathing in the scent of children and musty walls and allowing every detail to etch itself into her memory. Bookshelves lined the far left wall and stretched from floor to ceiling, the toys scattered everywhere. Her eyes drifted right to Geovani on the blanket and she finally strolled over to him and sat down. Immediately she spotted his skin condition, perhaps skin tags, which clung to his neck like leeches. His brown eyes soothed like chocolate chip cookies, his smile made them warmer as if just removed from the oven. As they played, she discovered that underneath his sweet smile lived a mischievous personality. She also learned that he was ticklish, and soon his laughter filled the room like a sweet perfume. Another team member pulled green and blue balloons out of his pocket, and created swords for the kids to play with. Pop! Pop! Most of them disappeared within the first ten minutes; they decided to move the party outside.
The mission team opened the door that led straight to the playground. Below and to the left of the play area, a soccer field stood alone and waited for players to arrive. The chilling breeze forced the team members to zip up their windbreakers in attempt to keep it out. A rusted tin roof to the right acted as a small sitting area in case of rain. Beside the sitting area sat a blue play set with a yellow slide that shone like the sun against a blue cloudless sky. The walls that bordered the playground matched the play set, but contrasted the cream walls that lined the stairwell. Walkway walls stood covered with colorful handprints lying like sprinkles on a vanilla cupcake. Geovani’s warm hand tugged at his new friend’s hand and they walked over to the play set. He scrambled up the ladder and lingered at the top of the yellow slide, waiting to see if she would catch him at the bottom. She sat at the end of the yellow slide and stretched out her arms, signaling him to take a leap of faith. He glided down, and she scooped him up into a hug and swung him around like an airplane. She thought her heart would surely explode from all the joy that filled it! As the children finished their work, they scampered out of their classroom to join them. Geovani soon found other people to wrestle with, and she stood and soaked up the laughter. Suddenly, she again felt a tugging at her arm. A little boy stared up at her with a big smile, his front teeth missing. “Como té llama?” she asked him. “Noe.” He responded with a grin. He held his hands up to her and signaled he wanted to be picked up. She snatched him up and gave him a piggyback ride, his happiness mirrored her own. They pranced around, his balloon sword in hand, like a knight and his horse. Finally, tired and sweaty, they sat down on the rusty metal swing. The swing creaked and the Guatemalan breeze brushed against her skin reminding her of reality, but still it seemed like a dream. Time seemed to stand still for those few hours, but soon the van returned, and the time to leave came. She hugged each of the children goodbye, and finally reached Noe. As she bent down to hug him, he boldly gave her a kiss on the cheek. The group stood amazed that a child could genuinely love people he didn’t know. Though this little boy might forget their names and faces, they would never forget his loving, generous heart. Geovani, wild in spirit with a hint of rebellion, taught them to think about God’s forgiving love that never stops even when His children are unfaithful. Each of the children radiated selfless love and affection the group never experienced before. As they closed the door to the Hogar and drove away, they realized that though they might not return, their hearts forever remained there, hugging, laughing, and swinging with the most wonderful treasures on Earth.
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