Today our group set out to each of our service sites. Some went to anorphanage while others went to assist in the building of a small house. Ijoined in service at the orphanage. We arrived early in the morning to learnabout the history of the orphanage and found out that the orphanage is statefunded, but relies greatly on the generosity of donations. There are currentlyaround 139 children in the orphanage, and to our shock, there was at one point600 children. We were anxious to meet the children and get started. Immediatelythe faces of all the children lit up upon seeing us. To them we were notstrange faces or foreign voices but rather new-found friends.
We were split into three groups to assist in different parts of theorphanage. Raegan had a fantastic time with the young babies, many under theage of one. Mama Ginny and Papa Tim, as they are now called, had a blast whileworking with the special needs children.Melissa, Anna, and myself were kept busy with the two-year-olds all day.Working, or rather playing, with these children was a blessing to all of us;not once did it feel like work or a burden. We continually found ourselvessaying 'gracias' to the Sisters and caretakers for allowing us to come. Thisday turned out to mean so much to us, and we found ourselves surrounded withinstances of God's grace again and again.
These children who have no homes to call their own, no families, and noparents were still filled with happiness and joy. They had smiles on theirfaces all day, and those smiles were not just because a few strangers came toplay with them. Those smiles were from their sincere happiness and contentmentwith their lives. Those smiles were from the love they have for those who carefor them day in and day out. It is hard to imagine a life without family,without a home, without our own possessions, or without parents. I now see howblessed I am to live each day with family, health, and education. I do not knowif I would have the strength to see the joy and beauty in life if I were anorphan. Those children have so little yet find so much to be happy about. Inever thought I would find myself to be so inspired by children who can hardlytalk, but here in El Salvador the grace of God has done so.
Another instance of God that we were fortunate to encounter today wasthrough our bus driver. This man was hired to drive us to and from theorphanage, yet he took it one step farther - he gave of himself. When wearrived we filed into the orphanage, and our bus driver followed us. All day,for over six hours, this unselfish man came with us and played with thechildren. He chased the two-year-olds, rocked the infants, and played catchwith the special needs children. This was not in his job description yet hewilling helped. Not once did he complain, and not once did he seem unhappy tobe there. His help was greatly appreciated, and his positive attitude and smilemeant so much.
The women who worked in the orphanage also gave a glimpse of the beauty oflife and the grace of God. These women work everyday with children for 12 hourshifts, yet they have endless love and care for these children who are nottheir own. One woman in charge of the two-year-olds works with the entire groupeveryday and then goes home to three children of her own. Each moment sheshared with the children, however, appeared that each one of them belonged toher. She clearly had a special place in her heart for them all and gave themhugs, kisses, and kind words all day long. She, like the rest of the workers,not once complained, looked tired, or sought alone time from these children;she was genuinely happy to spend each and every day with them.
Seeing the grace of God shine through the children and those who helped atthe orphanage today was imspirational and made my heart smile. These childrenare the sweetest little things looking for love, 'bebos' (kisses), and hugs.They only cry when you stop holding them, and they smile when you speak to them(even in English). We all quickly formed bonds with the children, and I cannotwait to be reunited with them tomorrow. While I worry about what their futuremay hold when they leave the orphanage, I know that God will hold them in thepalm of his hand, and they will forever remain in my thoughts and prayers.
(Kelly is a sophomore at Ohio Dominican University studying history. Thisis her first trip to El Salvador).