It's hard to believe we've already been here almost a week. But, the good news is I extended by trip by 8 days, so I'll be here for almost a month total. Thank you, Jesus, for working that out and allowing me this opportunity. (And, thanks to Victor for figuring out the details.)
This morning we took the older kids from Rehab (an orphanage for children with disabilities-although there's not actually much or any rehab that occurs) to McDonalds and the park. Needless to say, they loved it. They don't get out of the orphanage unless the CTL staff takes them, so it's always an exciting time for them when they get to go. They devoured their food, we participated in a few rounds of arm wrestling, and we capped it off with ice cream cones.
After McDonalds, we walked to the park. I absolutely love the parks here as they are generally covered in trees and have beautiful fountains scattered around. The older kids played soccer and basketball, while Bailey and I hung out with the youngest little dude on the playground. You've probably seen his picture by now on FB or Instagram, but if not, go check it out. His smile will seriously brighten your day. However, when he wasn't in the air swinging and smiling, his face was basically enough to crush you. Just thinking about what he lives with on a daily basis and all he has gone through in his short life absolutely breaks my heart.
These kids are living in impossible conditions, yet they somehow manage to continue on. It can be absolutely overwhelming, depressing, and crushing to carry the entire burden of what we can't do to help them, but we must continue to love them as well as we can, pray for them earnestly, and entrust them to our Heavenly Father who loves them far more than we ever could.
After lunch we headed to St. Joseph, an orphanage with boys and girls of all ages. I was so excited to go because I pretty much fell head over heals for a sweet little boy there last year, Stefan. Just thinking about his sweet smile is enough to melt my heart. However, when we got to St. Joseph, we found out that he is no longer there. His dad recently took him back. Incredible news for him, but sad for us at the same time (especially Marc who Stefan ADORED last year when he was here). You just never know. Like I wrote in the paragraph prior, we just have to pour all of our love into these kids and entrust them to God. Sometimes that means we won't get to see them again, and that has to be ok, although it hurts.
Even though Stefan wasn't there, we had a good time at St. Joseph. We sang a bit with Ana, Marc gave a great lesson on respect and love, and we played some games (including 5,278 rounds of Dutch Blitz). These kids are definitely the most challenging that we work with, so we pray that some of the lessons and things we teach are getting through.
After our program, the staff and interns parted ways, and Marc, Bailey, and I headed to Old Town for some Shoarma and adventures. I love the culture of walking around in a downtown, sitting outside a cafe to eat, and people watching for any given period of time. It's just so very different here than back at home. Not necessarily better or worse--just different. :)
Thank you for your continued prayers. Tomorrow we'll work with the little girls from the Home of Hope as well as the kids from Tei in the morning while in the afternoon we'll be with the kids from the #7 apartments. In the middle of the night tomorrow night, our first team arrives, so please be praying for that as well. I'm sure there will be many more adventures to follow...