Things I Cannot Reconcile (Chronicles of Belizean Adventures)

9:12 AMHeather

When I had pulled up from the airport to my house at 1 am that Thursday morning, I saw it through new eyes.  Huge.  Palatial.  Fancy.  It felt strange when I stepped inside, seeing it through a fresh perspective.  Imagining how the kids in Belize might see it. 

Everything the same.  Yet everything different.  I was in a very down mood that first day home.  Tired.  And mopey.  Heavy hearted. Sorta struggling to reconcile what I had just experienced in those six days in Belize.  Angry at the injustice the kids had experienced...orphans who aren't orphans.  Frustrated with how I'd never gotten it before.  Because, as a recent David Platt quote says, it's easy to ignore the orphan issue when it doesn't have a name. (Even when you've worked in adoption for twenty years!)

I felt a new thankfulness for all I have and yet felt guilty too.  Very conflicted.  I was glad that my husband had sat the kids down and told them to be gentle and to have grace on me because it may be a tough transition back. He warned them I may be teary or sad or just plain tired. 

Somehow this gave me permission to allow all of the above.

So, I felt rather down that first day home. But somewhere in my funk, it hit me.  

What good does it do for me to wallow in negative feelings?  How is that honoring the Hopewell kids and the work there?  If I am indeed inspired by the kids then I need to choose the contentment that they embody.  So I worked to turn my thoughts and feelings toward the awe of answered prayers throughout the trip and the euphoria of facing fears and slaying some giants personally.  As well as the inexplicable gratitude I felt to be able to know these children.

I want to tell these children's stories.  They deserve for me to make Hopewell an epicenter of hope and education in my life with ripple effects that move people to action.  

In that vein...along those lines...let me express some things that I cannot reconcile after visiting Belize.

My house size.  By American standards, I don't live in a huge house.  In fact, I find it rather average around here, and it is the exact floor plan of many of my neighbors.  Although "around here" is quite relative considering some of the unusual wealth in our general area.  But, after visiting Belize, I see my house as palatial.  In fact, when my best friend texted to check on me that first day home, I told her I feel guilty because "why should I get to live in this palace over here?"  Her response, bless her, was that she loves my palace and how we use it to bless others.  She encouraged me by saying she sees us steward this gift well. But still...I hear the echo of the Hopewell girls' awe and amazement when they asked if my children really each have a room ALL. TO. THEMSELVES.

My wardrobe.  Um, yes.  I walked into my walk-in closet as I unpacked my suitcases and realized that I have more clothes than all six of the girls at Hopewell combined.  These girls have school uniforms, a small section of hanging space on a rod that stretches across their shared bedroom, a small locker, and a two drawer caddy.  To hold all their worldly goods.  Miss Eleanor does their laundry and hang dries it, and these kids couldn't go a week without doing laundry like I can. In fact, I'm not too sure how many days they can go without doing laundry.  And they certainly can't let their laundry baskets sit around for days on end waiting for the Folding Fairy like at my house.  I don't think it would never cross their minds to make a run to the store to purchase a shirt or outfit for one particular occasion.  

My intact family.  I've been married for nearly twenty years and have three healthy children.  We have countless cousins, aunts, uncles and other extended family with whom we enjoy good relationships.  I know that the divorce rates in America are high and many families have had to readjust due to divorce.  That's not what I'm talking about here.  What I'm talking about is the hard reality of children who cannot live with their biological family due to neglect, abuse or poverty.  I'm talking about families that disintegrate because they don't have the resources to break generational cycles.  I'm talking about children who lose all contact with all biological family due to various crises. 

By the way, THAT doesn't just happen in Belize.  It's happening in our own backyard. 

My heart physically hurt as my daughter asked me to climb in her bed the day I got back and tell her all about the children.  Because how many children around the world don't have this?  They don't have an ability to be raised with their biological families and feel loved, safe and secure.  How many mamas or daddies wish they knew how to do differently so they could parent?  Or wish they had the money to care for their children?  How many children will never be adopted and never have the security of forever families? 

Why should I get to tuck my girl in nightly?  Why should I enjoy the health of a family and extended family and all that I consider normal? I've never really stepped into the life of a child who has been denied this.  And it shakes me.  The mere fact that because of where I was born and to whom I was born, I've been able to get an education, build a healthy marriage, and parent my children with opportunities and security so many other kids don't know.

Our excess and waste.  For real.  Ever since I read Jen Hatmaker's book "7," I remember what she said about how American garbage disposals eat better than many children in the world.  Listen, the kids at Hopewell eat well.  They are not going without.  They may not have access 24/7 to snack to their heart's content or be choosy about what they want to eat when they want to eat it.  But, I still saw a reality in Belize. At Hopewell, things do not go to waste.  The farm animals provide food and income.  What they don't eat, they sell to help earn money to keep Hopewell going. The scraps from meals go to the dogs who patrol the perimeters at night, acting as guards against predators of the farm animals.  Clothes are worn until they don't fit and then they are passed down. Or until they are too plain worn out to wear any longer. Donated items for the children are held back until they are absolutely needed. The people at Hopewell, and from all I saw the people in Belize, are extremely good stewards of all that they have and take nothing for granted. 

Meanwhile, we throw out food gone bad, feed our garbage disposals feasts, and turn our nose up to something that doesn't sound good right now to eat or clothes that aren't exactly what we want to wear today.  We have issues with a need to simplify and purge.  Pinterest is full of ideas about how to pare down.  

These are concepts that I think would baffle most of the world.  Simple is all they know.  

Their contentment...and trauma.  This is what blows my mind about the children I got to know in Belize.  I've said it a few times in this blog series, but it bears repeating.  These Belizean beauties and incredible boys are contented, joyful, happy children.  They laugh and play on their little playground, sit on the floor for hours with Legos, play jokes on visiting team members, sing songs (and not just songs, but worship songs), and dance.  You could easily spend several days with them and never clue in to their histories based on what you see.  Oh, sure, there are the fights over toys, and some of these children seem pretty possessive.  

You could chalk that up to being a kid, or remember that they've had so little in their lives before Hopewell that they have a tendency to hoard. You could see one of the girls as moody and short tempered.  Perhaps consider it her nature.  Or, you can watch her at the dance party and know that children that age don't naturally move that way.  And you are heartbroken when it crosses your mind that some predator probably coached those moves.  You can enjoy their easy affection and hugs and how you are quickly embraced.  But, when you know their histories, you know that it is a miracle that some of these children should trust anyone or let anyone in.  Ever again.  You can see that boy's nearly permanent scowl and think he's just got a mean streak.  But then you learn that he was found begging on the streets to try to care for his family.  And he's still in elementary school. And still worried sick about who is caring for his mama. 

It's still hard for me to digest.  That these children, who by the way, cannot access the therapies and resources we so readily enjoy in the States, have survived brokenness and heartache and pain and wounds that thankfully many of us can't fathom. They have been literally rescued from horrendous government orphanages or abusive families or extreme poverty.  

And brought to Hopewell.  Where they heal, by the grace of God.  I'm not saying that all lasting effects are erased by any means.  But they seem to experience a grace and love at Hopewell that allows them to move forward.  That allows them to let in hope. Nothing is as awe inspiring to me than to consider the contentment I saw in these children.  Knowing the trauma in their histories.  All I can say is that I see faith like a child in them.  A faith that they can dare to dream and hope and live each day to the fullest.  

FWP.  First World Problems. If my kids were annoyed by my tendency to account their complaining as first world problems before Belize, they are going to hate this aspect of the trip's after effects.  Seriously.  Listen, America.  We gotta get over ourselves.  Myself at the front of that list.  Because how dare I feel so discontented or annoyed by things such as slow internet speed, a lack of wifi, a long line at Starbucks, traffic on the way to school (in my air conditioned minivan on paved roads), or the fact that nothing in the refrigerator looks appealing to me right now.  I'm sorry to sound harsh, but then again I'm not.  Because I never realized how pampered and wimpy and privileged Americans are until I left America for this trip.  We have opportunities every day that most of the world cannot fathom.  Education, resources, retail, disposable income, entertainment, blah blah blah.  More on this tomorrow.

I've heard it said that America is at the top of the food chain.  Now, I've seen and experienced it.  Just like I tell my kids about the nearby wealthy suburb--THIS AIN'T THE NORM.  All that we look around and see and take for granted AIN'T THE NORM for the majority of the world.  And where I was in Belize, I didn't actually see extreme poverty. There was electricity and running water and sewage systems and even wifi.  What I experienced was a people and a nation rich in culture and strength and resiliency and authentic faith.  






I've been home for two weeks and I'm no closer to being able to reconcile some things in my mind and my heart.  

I think it's supposed to be that way.  

I think I'm supposed to see some things, embrace some revelations and accept that they simply do not make sense.

I think it should never make sense.

And may it all prompt me to action.  To do something with all these gifts of insights that I gained.

So, who wants to go back to Belize with me? 

It will wreck you and move you and change you. 

And you'll never regret it.   

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