A couple weeks ago, the kids, Josh, and I embarked on a little trip south of the border with a group from our church. Our mission was to serve at , an organization that Camarillo Christian Church has partnered with for years. The main purpose of NdB is to provide care and housing for children who have been removed from their homes by the Mexican government, due to abuse, or exposure to other unsafe living conditions. Additionally, NdB has done wonderful things for the small community of El Porvenir, in Baja, including donating classroom and playground equipment to local schools, providing emergency vehicles and EMT training to its citizens, and offering safe daycare for other children in the community.
We were going to support the organization in the best way we could in the short time we had there: manual labor. How much labor can be done whilst caring for children of my own? Well, Cara (who brought her precious boys also), and I had our work cut out for us, keeping our little ones entertained. BUT, while it was an incredibly busy time for us (and at times frustrating that we couldn’t role up our sleeves to help), we were blessed abundantly with incredible lessons in humility, the value of community, and the sincere love of strangers.
Here’s our gang right before heading out.
Cara and I loaded our van down with toys, movies, snacks, tranquilizers (j/k), to keep our tiny travelers (and their mommas) happy on our day-long journey. Seriously, these kids were amazing.
We got to our "home", which was a house that NdB has set aside for short-term volunteers, rolled out our sleeping bags, and popped open the pack-in-plays. The first night was a little challenging, but from then on, the kids got the hang of "roughing it". Abby actually LOVED her sleeping bag, and at the end of a busy day, Zack would all but leap out of our arms to get into bed. My heart was full, seeing my little ones sleeping inches from one another, something they’ve never done before.
The next day, while the rest of the gang went to work, we visited to the kids at the orphanage. Our kiddos were a little shy at first, but once they got on the playground, they were as happy as they could be, playing with all the other kids.
Zack was all over the place, and he LOVED this mini Caterpiller. The little girls couldn’t get enough of the "bebe", and wanted to help him maneuver up the slide and around the playhouse. They were so sweet to him.
Once Abby got her sandbox-legs, she loosened up, and began introducing herself to, well, anyone who would listen. "Hola, mi llama Abby" and then when they or she would turn away to leave, "Abios!"
(I was pushing Abby and Sarai on the swings, when I stopped to take this pic. Then I realized I had totally left them to manage for themselves, and I had a little self-LOL 🙂 )
While we were meeting the kiddos, the rest of the team was erecting a playground for a local elementary school. This was a real boost in moral for the students and teachers, since they had had their electricity STOLEN from them a while back. Some members of our team also left these deserving educators with a much needed storage container.
The day after the playground was set up, the students presented the team with this beautiful poster. What an amazing gesture from a school with such limited resources.
The following day, the team laid a walkway for the NdB intern housing. It was back-breaking work . . . from what I hear 😉 .
To be honest, there were a few times on this trip when I would have welcomed the task of shoveling gravel. Turns out, Abby and her very best bud, Carter, act like quite the old married couple, while in close quarters. Feelings were being hurt all over the place and Cara and I were pretty exhausted with these two munchkins. Don’t let these adorable faces fool you . . .
But really, under the circumstances, all the kiddos did so well. It helped, too, that while we were at our "home", there were a whole lot of wonderful "sitters" around to lighten our load, and bless our little ones with hugs and giggles.
At the house, we ate really well (thank you Justin!), played hard (hard core games of Banana Grams, that is), and had some wonderful time of worship. Here’s Donald leading with Josh . . .
The most meaningful times on our whirlwind trip were our evenings with the kids at the orphanage. One evening, we brought dinner, and shared a meal. Abby, Zack, Carter, and Abbott made themselves at home with the rest of the kiddos.
Abby loved eating and socializing with the kids, and (I’m still in shock) ate an entire cheeseburger! This is NOT like her at all. Guess we all do some crazy things . . . when in Rome 🙂 .
We got to play and snuggle with some amazing children. Obviously, Jacky is one of the less camera-shy. Pretty certain we would have made her a Williams if we could have.
Had to steal a kiss from this guy . . .
We were SO BLESSED by our time in Baja. To all of you who were praying for our safety and sleep, THANK YOU! It could not have gone more smoothly. My kiddos have shown themselves to be incredible travelers. Even more incredible, is the joy I felt, watching my kiddos interact with the children of
(And back home we went. Tell me, is there research done on why it takes SO MUCH LONGER to return home, than it does to leave home? The long border wait was NOTHING compared to LA traffic . . .
. . . and had the kids looked like this most of the way, then we would have been just fine . . . but they slept just long enough to snap their adorable pictures. Well, such is life 🙂 )