20 November 2017

The Moments that Break your Heart

The past few days have been filled with highs and lows. Highs because we’ve had friends in town visiting, and our first holiday party of the year (which of course involved a taco truck!); lows because we had 3 kids scheduled to go home who just kept waiting and waiting for their dad to show up.

He said he would be there Friday. All day they waited. Would he come before school? After school? No doubt he would be there by 7 p.m. And then Saturday came. Would he come in the morning? Or wait until “visiting hours” from 3-5. The fish must really be biting if he still wasn’t there by 8. 

And then the call came. Late Sunday morning. He said he would come at 5 p.m. Every 15 minutes the kids asked me how much longer. Even throughout the folks visiting, gift giving, taco eating, they waited in anticipation for the real gift – going home for Christmas. 

But then another call came in. From the authorities. Who said the girls couldn’t go. The home wasn’t safe for them. Maybe in a few more weeks. The girls hugged and hugged their dad and little brother as the guys left and the girls remained.

Before bed the kids gathered round to pray together, to pray for one another. The other kids prayed for the boy who left, that he would be safe and cared for, and they prayed for the girls, that they too would get to go home soon. And the girls who had been dreaming of their own beds prayed for the other 14 kids who are here – that one day their parents would show up and take them home. The kids all nodded in agreement and hope. 

It doesn’t matter how long it has been – three months, a year, two years, five or eight years – each of these kids holds out in hope that one day their moms, their dads, will show up and they will finally have the family they have long been dreaming of.  


12 November 2017

A YEAR IN SAN FELIPE

Randy and I set off huge fireworks last week with the kids in honor of our one-year anniversary at Sonshine Hacienda. A year ago we were nervous and excited, expectant of all that our time here would bring.

It hasn’t been anything like we imagined.


The kids, obviously, bring us the most joy. There are 17 here now, but 18 others have come and gone in our time here — 35 opportunities to love and care, to provide a safe and nurturing environment. We’ve seen them arrive, dirty and hungry with intestines full of worms, arms covered in cigarette burns, eyes black and blue. And we’ve seen them leave with new clothes, new shoes, new spirits of hopefulness.


They’ve taught us so much about what is important in life.

And they’ve stretched our patience to the limits just like any other child.

Our teenagers lie and manipulate just like yours do. Our toddlers throw tantrums just like yours do. Our kids get the flu and throw up all over their beds just like yours do. Our kids have a Christmas list a mile long just like yours do.

And in the next minute they fill our hearts with gratitude.

They write us love notes just like yours do. They repeat phrases that they’ve heard us say over and over again at the perfect moment just like yours do. They fall asleep in their food just like yours do. They snuggle up against us and hug our knees and want us to kiss their boo-boos just like yours do.

We’ve seen a kid be adopted. We’ve celebrated a baby’s birth and another’s first birthday. We’ve taught kids to swim and ride bikes. We've wiggled a loose tooth and changed dirty diapers, removed splinters and played Santa. And eaten more beans and rice than most Americans will in a lifetime.


The love we have for these kids was completely expected. The heartache we have when they leave is something we have adjusted to. But the situations that many of them come out of I will never get used to.

And yet, even though we live and work here, our role at Sonshine Hacienda has become more “working parents” than “stay-at-home parents”. Randy is busy building a new dining room, repairing cars, and preparing to supervise the building of a new school. I am busy coordinating visitors, translating for groups, doing paperwork in the office, and organizing donations. Like any working parent, we long to spend more time with the kids, but instead have had to become more intentional with the time we do have — whether it is in the car on the way to school or at the dinner table, throwing water balloons at them from our apartment or buying donuts for their birthday breakfasts.


In the past year we have had many ups and downs. We often doubted that we would make it the entire year. We didn’t know if we would stay a day beyond that year-long commitment. But every “deal” we made with God — every stipulation we claimed we needed in order to stay — He has come through on, making it obvious in even our most stubborn moments that there is more work to be done, more love to be given, more lessons to be learned.

We haven’t been great at keeping in touch, via blog or otherwise, this year, but want each of you to know that you are appreciated. Your encouragement, your interest in our work, and your prayers have sustained us through some very dark times. And even though we have high hopes that the months ahead will be filled with more light than darkness, we continue to invite you to participate in our journey. Remember us in your thoughts. Come visit! Spread the word about the ministry of Sonshine Hacienda. Financially support our ministry. And pray that God will continue to guide our steps. You guys are our heroes!

With love, Randy and Katie 

 

P.S. Interested in making a year-end donation to support our ministry? Most of your donation will go to buy our gas and groceries, but we do use 10% of every donation to spoil the children, whether it is buying fireworks for their birthdays or a gallon of milk for dinner, so that when you love on us you love on them too! There are 2 ways to donate: 

(1) Donate via PayPal. After entering in the amount you wish to donate, be sure to include "For Randy and Katie" in the "purpose" or "special instructions" box as you give through Marketplace Missions. (Note: you can now donate thru PayPal via credit card, even if you don't have a PayPal account!) 


(2) Mail a check to: Randy and Katie Ubry-Terrell, PMB 525, PO Box 9005, Calexico, CA 92232. And be sure to include a Christmas card or little love note. We love hearing from you! 

THANK YOU!

12 September 2017

Sharing Responsibility: Delegate, Delegate, Delegate

This past Saturday we had visitors, who brought a truck-load of gifts for the children. The kids absolutely loved it. We all get a little bogged down by visitors and gifts at Christmas-time, when it’s nearly a daily occurrence. But visitors and presents in September are a special treat!

The only problem is: where are we going to put all these new toys?


On Saturdays, I’m in charge of devotions for the kids. Knowing that we needed to do something with all these new items, but not wanting to be solely responsible for deciding what stays and what goes, I had them read Exodus 18:13-27.

In Exodus 18, Moses is serving as judge over all the people. From sun-up to sun-down, he is listening to their complaints and ruling according to what he thinks is God’s will. His father-in-law, Jethro, tells him that this is no good. He’ll burn out for sure. Who wouldn’t, listening to people complain all the time? Jethro says, “The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.” He then instructs Moses to appoint judges to help him – delegate, delegate, delegate! Then Moses is only left with the most serious matters to decide. (Hence our current judicial system.)

I explained to the kids that I, too, have lots of decisions to make. For example, what are we going to do with all these toys? And since the Bible says it’s not good for one person to carry the weight of all that responsibility alone, I chose 4 of the kids to serve as judges. The other 15 were tasked with finding old toys they thought we should get rid of. But it would be up to the judges to make the final ruling.


The judges sat on the facing bench, and each of the kids approached them, describing the toy and why they thought it should be donated (“donar”), thrown away (“tirar”), or saved (“guardar”).

We started out pretty simple. Alberto presented half of a plastic horse, and said he thought we should throw it away. The judges were in unanimous agreement. (Later we found the other half, but the judges still ruled to throw the horse away.)

Martha had chosen a large floor puzzle that had just been gifted to us by our visitors that morning. It was a well-used floor puzzle, taken out of the bottom of someone else’s toy box. Martha told the judges it was old and she wanted to give it away. They asked if it had all its pieces. She said yes. The judges talked it over, and even though it wasn’t new, it was new to us, so they decided to keep it, at least for the time being.

Jordan was next. He brought an ambulance before the judges and said that every time the kids play with it they get in trouble and the ambulance ends up on top of the shelf, out of reach. The staff all chimed in that the ambulance was quite loud and annoying. The judges agreed that it would save everyone a lot of trouble if we just got rid of it. So into the donation box it went.


Next, things got a little trickier. Brayan presented a space ship, but when asked why he wanted to get rid of it he said, “Because it’s my brother’s.” The judges deliberated, and decided that it wasn’t right to donate a toy that didn’t belong to you. His brother was relieved.

(Halfway through this exercise, 4-year-old Nidia asked if she could step down from her role as judge. She decided it looked way more fun on the other side of the bench. Responsibility can be heavy!)

Adriana, one of our favorite kids (I know, you’re not supposed to have favorites, but…), brought before the judges an Anna doll from the movie Frozen. When asked why she wanted to donate it, she said, “Because it’s pretty, and some other kid will like it.” (Do you see why she’s our favorite???) The judges went into conference. It was a nice doll. Clean. New. Everyone loves Frozen. But in the end, they agreed with Adriana, that it would be nice to bless another child with this perfectly good toy instead of solely our scraps.

By the end of our half-hour devotional period, we ended up with a large box of donations, a small pile of trash, and still plenty of toys to fill the room. I have to say, some of the items they decided to donate were surprising. Things I would have kept for sure, they easily put into the donation box. And after Adriana was praised for donating something nice, the donation box got fuller and fuller with nicer and nicer things. 

Did the job get done the way I would have done it? No. But did it get done? Yes. Did it lighten my load? Yes. And did we have fun doing it together? Absolutely.

Letting go of control in order to share our work load may not be easy. But it is biblical, it will lighten your load, and it can be fun!

31 August 2017

First Day of Kindergarten

"Mama, no quiero ir. No quiero ir, mama. Mama, no!" 

(Mama, I don’t want to go. I don’t want to go, Mama. Mama, no!)

Luis looked up at me with his big, brown eyes, pleading to stay home from kindergarten.

After several failed attempts, I finally scooped him up and said, "Yo puedo ir con usted." 

(I’ll go with you.)

He sat calmly on my lap for the entire drive, six other kindergarteners in the back. But as soon as we pulled up to the school he cried again, "Mama, no quiero ir!"

"Voy a regresar en dos horas," I said to Luis. And to the others, "Quien quiere ayudar Luis?"

(I’ll be back for you in two hours... Who wants to help Luis?)

All six kids surrounded Luis, taking his hands. He continued to cry as he walked to class, looking back at me over his shoulder, mouthing "Mama, no! No quiero ir!"

My mama’s heart went out to him, though I knew he had nothing to be afraid of, and I knew he would come home happy. (And he did!)


Just like a child’s first week of kindergarten, we inevitably deal with tears the first week a kid comes to live with us at the orphanage. Cries for "mama" and "home" are part of the routine. Even if they were taken from these people and these places because of abuse, the children still long to be with the familiar, and have a hard time believing that anywhere else could be safer or better than where they were before.


How many times have I done the same in my Christian walk? How many times do I want to remain where I’m comfortable, struggling to trust that the new and different places that God is calling me to are better for me than where I am now? How many times have I dug in my heels and cried, "No quiero ir! I don’t want to go!"

What if, instead, I started to picture myself in Luis’s new shiny black shoes, standing outside the gate for my first day of kindergarten, with God beside me saying, “I’ll go with you” and “I’ll be here waiting for you” and “Here is a friend to walk alongside you” and “Don’t forget your lunch.” 

28 August 2017

Adventures in Spanish

I was sitting on the floor playing with 9-month-old Milly when our handyman Pablo walked into the room holding a toilet flapper.

Assuming Pablo's task for the day was to repair the flush valve I asked, “Which toilet broke?”

He knelt down beside me and replied, “Do you have gasoline?”

“Gasoline?” I said. “You mean like an extra gallon?”

“Gasoline,” he repeated.

“We used to,” I said. Everyone seems to run out of gas in San Felipe, so we are constantly loaning out our gas can. “Ask Randy.”

“Randy told me to ask you,” he said.

“Me?” I couldn’t fathom why Randy would tell him to ask me for gas, unless he needed gas money and Randy didn’t have any money on him. So I asked, “Do you need money to buy gasoline?”

“No,” Pablo said. “Randy said you have gasoline.”

“Randy is crazy. I don’t have any gasoline.”

Pablo shrugged his shoulders. “I will use a hose and syphon some from the boogie,” he said, referring to the dune buggy with flat tires sitting in our parking area.

“Do you want me to call Randy?” I asked.

“No, he is outside.”

Why the heck would Randy send Pablo inside to ask me for gas if he was already outside? And why was Pablo holding toilet parts if he needed gasoline?

Pablo left and I tried to call Randy. He didn’t answer so I went back to playing with the baby.

A little while later I bumped into Randy and asked, “Why did you tell Pablo to ask me for gasoline?”

“Vasoline,” Randy said. “For the toilet plunger.”

Just then, Pablo walked by with the flapper in his hand, all lubed up with gasoline he had syphoned from the boogie.

“Vasoline, Pablo,” Randy said.

“Gasoline,” Pablo replied.

“No, vas-o-line,” Randy repeated, emphasizing the "V". “Vas-o-line.”

“Oh.”

These kinds of misunderstandings happen to us nearly every day. Because whether it is Spanish or English, one letter can make a huge difference. But we're learning! One letter, one mistake, and one success at a time.


24 August 2017

Serving "Here" is just as important as Serving "There"

While hanging out at Loomis Basin Brewery on a Friday night a few weeks back, a friend of Randy’s daughter said to me: “You guys restore my faith in humanity.”

It felt odd.

Because to us we aren’t doing anything spectacular.

We simply went where God told us to go.

And frankly it hasn’t felt like we’re even serving anyone here in Baja these 10 months. More often than not it feels like we're just waiting to be useful. 

But it did feel like we were serving when we were at a gas station in Lodi, California, and a woman and her daughter asked us for a dollar so they could get enough gas to get home. We didn’t have a single dollar. But we did have a credit card. So Randy pumped $6 worth of gas for them. They were embarrassed, humbled, and grateful.
And it did feel like serving when we arrived in Bishop, California, to discover that hotel after hotel was all full. And finally we landed at a hotel that had one vacancy. As I filled out the paperwork a woman came in behind me looking for a room. The desk clerk pointed at me and said I took the last one. “We’ve been driving and driving,” the woman said, near tears. The room that we’d been given was actually a two-bedroom apartment, so I said, “You are welcome to stay with us.” She looked at her husband who nodded, looked back at me and said, “Okay, thank you.”

These methods of serving came natural to us after being “home” for a week, where repeatedly friends and family loved and served and shared with us. Randy’s daughter provided us with a place to stay for the week, even though she was busy getting kids ready for school to start. We were invited into the homes (and backyards!) of friends Tony & Juli, Chris & Katie, Debbie & Chuck, Paul & Denise, Rick & Deena… into the work spaces of Popie Winery and Al’s metal shop and Dora’s RVs… out to lunch with Dave & Pam, Ed & Gail… to the wedding of James and Shawnna... given pounds of free coffee and a case of wine… free dog care… the list goes on and on. Our love tanks were full and they overflowed onto the strangers we met along the road “home.”

It might look like packing up your life and moving to an orphanage in Mexico is bigger or more important than meeting the needs in your own backyard. But more and more we are seeing that serving and sharing and faithfulness isn’t about what’s “over there”, it’s about what’s “here” in front of you, wherever you are.

So thank you. Thank you to all the friends and family who made time and space for us on our trip to California. You all loved us well.

31 July 2017

Camping With Kids

We took the kids camping for a week. 22 kids. 19 adults. 6 days. 5 nights. It was unlike any other camping trip I’ve ever been on.

Were there bugs? Tons.

Tarantulas as big as my fist? Yep.

Was the air fresh and the freedom to be outside all day exactly what my spirit was craving? Without a doubt.

Were the showers filthy and the water cold? Absolutely.

Did we question whether the swimming hole was sanitary enough to allow our children to jump in, mouths wide open like children do? You got it.

And did we still allow them to jump in anyway? It wouldn’t be camping if we didn’t.


But then there were a whole lot of unexpected moments.

Our cook brought a huge speaker system, and blasted dance music around the clock. You couldn't even hear the chirping of the locusts or the howling of the coyotes.

The camp was situated on a working farm, so every day the buses brought in a load of farm workers with their 5-gallon buckets for a day of picking chili peppers.

Mexicans seem to abhor making plans, and even more so sticking to them, so even though Randy brought and prepared everything we needed for every meal, each afternoon we ended up running to town for the fixings we needed to prepare the new menu for the day. We didn’t have hamburgers or hot dogs the entire week, instead having empanadas and carne asada and tostadas. Our entire staff was in the kitchen all afternoon every afternoon, because it wouldn’t be right to go a day without fresh tortillas. Someone even paid a guy to bring us popsicles on his motorcycle. Don't tell me our kids aren't spoiled!


While the mamas were making tortillas the first couple of afternoons, the kids were in their bunks watching movies on laptops. By day 3 I couldn’t take it anymore. I pleaded with the mamas, “No more movies! This is camping! It’s about being OUTSIDE and UNPLUGGED.”

They apologized. “We didn’t know.”

Didn't know? How could they not know? Doesn’t everyone know?

But immediately I felt convicted. Maybe they didn’t know. Or maybe I was the one who didn’t know. Who says my way of camping is the "right" way?


This has become a pretty standard question for me this year. Which on the surface feels like growth. Isn’t it a good thing to get to the place where you can open yourself to new perspectives and new ways of doing things? Isn’t it a good thing to accept that your way isn’t the only way… isn’t necessarily the right way or the best way?

The problem is, once you start asking that question, it can be easy to move from feeling like maybe your way isn't the only way to start assuming that your way is never the right way. Is never the best way. Is never even valid.


What if there isn’t anything wrong with watching movies all afternoon on a camping trip in the middle of 100 degree temperatures? What if there isn’t anything wrong with spending all afternoon in the kitchen instead of taking nature hikes and eating cold meat sandwiches because they get you back out playing quicker? What if there isn’t anything wrong with wearing dresses and high heels to camp, and having dance parties until 3 a.m.?



It’s hard to find balance. To know when to fight for “your way” and when to “let it go.” 

In the end, rather than condemning the ones who wanted to relax in the afternoons, I simply offered alternatives. Arts and crafts. Puzzles and coloring. Swimming with Jovi.


And on the last morning I woke them all up with a "Who wants to go for a hike before breakfast?" Which was met by "Is this an obligation?" To which I responded, "No, but I have chocolate!" Because bribery always helps.