By Dr. Cari Burck-
They say mission trips are life-changing.
You’ve probably seen it, too — the giddy smiles on their faces after their return from that faraway land. They tell the story of their all-too-brief time and speak about the trip with such an enthusiasm and such an awe-inspired demeanor that you either cynically wonder how they could have left their brains behind, or you start planning how you can go with them next year.
If you are the cynic, it turns out that the emotional stories really are true. That brand of excitement you saw after they came home really was authentic, and the only thing your typically-rational friends left behind at their mission field was what they now know as Real Life.
If you are the one who is already planning to be on the plane with the team next year, then you have been fortunate enough to understand this concept of Real Life earlier than others.
Real life in the USA is not the real life that much of the world’s population knows.
Five out of six Americans never have to worry when their next meal is coming … but for those in poverty, real life is hard, hard work, often with seemingly small benefits. Real life is frightening, seldom — if ever — having two coins to rub together. It is oftentimes dirt floors, filthy water, illiteracy, sickness, malnutrition, crime. But it is also something sweet — looking out for each other, being grateful for the littlest of things. It is knowing, by experience, what is truly important and the profound ability to be happy in these circumstances.
While this is real life for over a billion people on our planet, the Real Life we bring home with us is even more precious. In these desperate places, on those desperate faces, through those eyes, we find peace. We see our sweet Jesus. We immediately, unknowingly block out all of the frivolous stress of our yesterdays and realize that we are in the presence of something true. It is simplicity, humility, priority. We are in a real place, looking with fresh eyes, hearing with fresh ears, touching with new fingertips what it means to have clear priorities and serious needs. But all the while, we are sensing a joy that we don’t really understand. “How can these people be so happy?” you wonder as you take in these deplorable conditions.
And then it dawns on you: “This is what it means to be sought out by a Savior and what it means to be loved by our God! This is Real Life.”
When you visit Forever Changed International, you experience Real Life, too. Yes, these children are living in a lovely, clean home. They have a delicious breakfast to wake up to and cozy beds to hop out of every day.
But it wasn’t always this way for them. Some of these sweet faces have seen their parents murdered, or watched one die of disease when they couldn’t afford a doctor. Some of these tender hearts have been beaten or sold into prostitution. Some of these fragile bodies have been walked out on, left on doorsteps or on curbs or in trash heaps. Most of us cannot even imagine it, especially when we watch them run and play in their nice, clean clothes with their plump little cheeks.
While their stories vary in how they came to this home, the underlying themes are the same. They may not have a blood mama or papa anymore, but the sparkles in their eyes and the smiles on their faces tell you everything you need to know …
… These children are at home! They have Special Mothers now, and if they didn’t have a sibling with them when they came, they sure have siblings now! Their hearts are mending. Their bodies are not only healing, they are also growing strong. They are being educated. They are safe. They are nurtured. They are developing trust. They dare to dream. They are family now.
… They are getting to know Real Life — the love of the Lord our God who is in our midst, a mighty One who will save, who will rejoice over us with gladness, who quiets us by His love, who exults over us with loud singing (Zeph 3:17) — and so will you.
Here is what you can expect a trip to be like:
The mission starts on Saturday when your team arrives. No need to worry about transportation from the airport, or at any time during your trip — we’ve got you covered. When our driver pulls you up to the houses, you will likely be greeted with some of the cutest young faces you have ever seen. That first moment with the kids is unforgettable.
We will get you settled in your rooms and acquaint you with our place.
On Sunday, your day begins just like ours by going to church with all the kids and then playing at a park close to the orphanage. Sunday afternoon, we visit Juanita’s ghetto, where we get to bless some families with much-needed food baskets. They, in turn, bless us. You’ll see.
Monday, we visit the government orphanage. Here, sadly, you will see a dramatic contrast between the conditions of our home and theirs.
Monday afternoon, like nearly all the afternoons during your stay, we spend with the kids of our place. This is a special treat for the kids, and for you.
Tuesday, we spend at home doing what we call an internal project. This will give you the opportunity to see how the orphanage runs and what a typical day is like.
Wednesday, we do an external project at a ghetto next to the Guatemala City dump. Sometimes, for example, we install pilas (water sinks), or even do a cement floor.
Thursday is a long but exciting day. First we tour an area next to the dump. Then we get to eat lunch with the family where we worked the day before.
Thursday afternoon, we go out with our kids on a special outing (like to the zoo, or to get ice cream, or to the movies). Be prepared for the excitement! The kids really love Thursday afternoons!
Thursday night, we close our activities with a special dinner at a nice restaurant.
Friday is sightseeing in Antigua, a picturesque and historic city surrounded by volcanoes. This is a great place to buy all kinds of beautifully handcrafted souvenirs.
In all of our activities, our main goal is to show your team the importance of our little place — the blessing and great opportunity that our kids have here at Dorie’s Promise — the way we can go out and reach other kids and families if we can’t have them here — and that it all happens because of the grace of God.
This is our Real Life, and we would love to share it with you. We hope to see you soon! Click for more information on our trips.