Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Risks of Repeat Mission Trips

Believe me, I've gotten my fair share of strange looks and weird responses when I tell people about going to Guatemala.  Many cannot understand why I would ever want to go there.  They really got antsy when we decided to take our children (ages 3, 7, and 8).  It seems so reckless to many people.  Sure there are risks going to an underdeveloped country -- theft, kidnapping, assault of many kinds -- but these problems can be found in any major US city as well.  We try to be very vigilant during our travels -- no flashy jewelry, being aware of our surroundings, having someone with us who is knowledgeable.  We can't prevent all harm but we try our best.

The biggest risk for anyone that goes on any international short term mission trip is that You will come back changed and must reconcile your American life with what you experienced elsewhere.

Guatemala has become a place that I love -- the people, the food, the culture.  Since my first trip 2 years ago, our family's life has radically changed.  We are aware of global poverty, hunger, and the orphan crisis and we aren't comfortable ignoring the problems.  Through our trips and our lives we aim to raise awareness of the needs in other places and to be an example of love and change. 

What I didn't foresee as a risk was the attachment that has formed between us and 2 very special children.  I have now been to Dorie's Promise on 3 occasions, with Brandon joining me for 2 trips.  Last summer, Brandon had an immediate bond with a little girl named Alejandra.  Yire's cuteness won me over on our first trip.

As we walked down the street two Saturdays ago to where the little kids were playing Yire ran to me and Alejandra ran to Brandon.  To say that we were both overcome is an understatement.  More than I would have ever imagined, we feel a connection to these children, like they are our own.  My love for these children goes beyond admiration of their cuteness or pity for their circumstances.  We are watching these children grow.  These are children who we imagine in our home as members of our family.  As the week progressed it became clear to us that these children are a part of our family.  The question is how?

International adoptions have been closed in Guatemala since December 31, 2007.  We would have to think outside the box to look for answers.  I contacted friends who may know some answers but nothing looked promising.  I started brainstorming -- private adoption if we could find the birth parents, guardianship, wait for 2 more years and try for a student visa.  Unfortunately, after talking to a friend very knowledgeable about Guatemalan adoptions, none of these options will work.  The loopholes have been closed.  Even if we were able for one of us to move there and seek residency, we would hit yet another snag.  A law exists that states you cannot have a prior relationship with the adopted child.  Basically the government gets to match children with families.  We couldn't specifically request Yire and Alejandra.

Where does that leave us?  Waiting.  Waiting for God to reveal why our connection to these two children is so strong.  Waiting to see if He will open a door for us to bring our children home.  Waiting to see what His plan is for these two beautiful children.  Leaving us to trust that His plan is best, even when we don't understand.  For now, we have to be content to sponsor them and visit when we can.

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