18 October 2011

It shouldn't happen...

It shouldn't occur in the darkest corners of the world, it shouldn't be done by the vilest of sinners, it shouldn't be even a fleeting thought in a corrupted mind. It just shouldn't happen.

But it does.

There are a lot of awful things in this fallen world. Pain, abuse, and corruption can seem so common that we grow numb to them. How many stories do we hear a week about such things? Too many.
I am often saddened but hardly ever shocked anymore. But Monday morning I was shocked. I've heard people talk of being so horrified by something they were sick to their stomachs, but this was the first time I've felt that. A wave of nausea swept in with the heartache as I read an email from a friend:

Dear Friends,
Most of you know of our involvement in Haiti and our desire to adopt two children from an orphanage there.  Over the past year of working with the orphanage we, along with several other organizations and church groups, have seen more and more disturbing things.  It started by realizing that after months of the orphanage receiving food and supplies, the conditions continued to get worse, the kids were still naked and continued to play in filth and excrement, they still ran out of food, and the stuff we donated disappeared.  We began to realize that the family in charge of the orphanage sold the food and clothes we donated so they could make money and the kids would continue to suffer. 
We then began to realize that there were much deeper problems.  The kids received very little love and attention.  The only caregivers for the babies were other 12 and 13 year old orphans.  The family that runs it had no interest in loving or caring for the children.  On several occasions we found kids sick to point of being near death, yet they were left alone by themselves in a dark room, often lying on a concrete floor.  When we asked the directors if we could take the kids to get medical attention, they refused saying would do it themselves.  Of course, they never took the kids to get medical attention.  Right now, we are very concerned about a 5 year old girl named Katia.  Last week when we were there, she weighed only 11 pounds and was near death due to infection and malnutrition.  Again, they refused to let us get her care so we informed some officials who went to find her and she was not there.  At this point we don’t know where she is, but fear the worst.   Here is another story:
We have also received reports from the children of both physical and sexual abuse and between August, 2010 and March 2011 more than 50 children have gone missing.  When we questioned the directors about the whereabouts of the kids we were told they went back with family in the countryside.  Of course we were concerned  for the children and the thought of child trafficking crossed our minds but we didn’t have any hard evidence and didn’t think we were dealing with anything that bad.  We were wrong. 
In July, the director of the orphanage was arrested after being set up in sting where he sold a child to an American.  We figured the orphanage would immediately be closed down at that point and the kids moved to safe locations.  Instead the orphanage remained open under the leadership of his family and we began working to get it closed by talking with police, social services, and the judicial system.   The police and judicial system have authorized it to be closed yet It remains open and kids are getting skinnier.   
Last Monday I went down to Haiti for a meeting at Social Services with large organizations like UNICEF, Save The Children, International Rescue Committee, International Organization for Migration, World Vision, and more.  Everyone was on our side and we thought the meeting was going well until we got some major pushback from 2 individuals within Social Services.  We were suspicious of these two before based on previous interactions related to the orphanage but we found it very strange that everyone wanted to help us except them. 
That night we returned to the house where we were staying feeling discouraged that we didn’t have more success.  Then before long the directors wife from the orphanage showed up at our house with a couple thugs and began threatening us saying if we ever come back to take the kids we better be fully prepared.  After reporting the threats we got a police escort to a safe location.  The only way they would have known about our meeting to shut down the orphanage was if someone in Social Services called them. 
Since then our allies in Haiti have done more investigating and have evidence that the 2 individuals in Social Services that gave us problems have been involved with the orphanage director in a large child and organ trafficking ring.  In fact, they have actually traced children and internal organs that have been trafficked to the United States back to this orphanage.  It is the deepest, darkest evil I can imagine. 
We knew Haiti was a corrupt country, but the investigators are saying we “have hit the jackpot of corruption.”  Now the only reason the orphanage is still in existence and the children are still in danger of malnutrition, starvation, infection, and trafficking is because of these 2 people in Social Services.  Unfortunately, the way the Haitian government is structured is that every governmental organization is on the same level and the only person with more authority is the President. 
We are now doing anything we can to expose this corruption and get President Martelly to end it.  A petition has been started to have CNN run a story.  The fact that American citizens have been threatened and kids have been trafficked to the US should be enough to get the US media and politicians to do something about it.  Please sign the petition below and share this story with everyone you can. PLEASE HELP!!! 
Thank you for caring and fighting for the least of these.
 Sickening, heartbreaking, horrifying. There are so many words to describe it and none that really express how terrible this situation is. How can someone have so little regard for the life of a child? For an orphan in a devastated country? How does someone get to the place where they can take such advantage of the helpless?

 It's terrible to think about children being mistreated like that...it's worse when you've met them. It's much worse when you've played with them, and laughed with them, and held them and know their faces.
That's what I realized as I read: I know their faces.

Many of you have heard me talk about my brief time in Haiti last year after the earthquake. It was overwhelming, heartbreaking, and still oddly encouraging. I still keep in touch with a few Haitian friends.

While reading this email, the name of the orphanage played in my mind. Hadn't I been there? But then, we had been so many places in those couple of weeks and much was fogged by dehydration, heat exhaustion, and sheer fatigue. Yet, I had a sinking feeling that I had been to this place, been around these people responsible for so much evil, and seen the faces of these children. I clicked through my facebook albums from Haiti. There they were:

Pictures of the day we delivered trucks full of mattresses to the Son of God orphanage. They were so thrilled that they wouldn't have to sleep on the floor any more! We danced and played with the kids.

They joked around and hammed it up for the camera. 
We held precious babies and hugged adorable children.

But we didn't know. 

I'd like to think that maybe it wasn't going on back then. Maybe there was nothing to know. Because if I think that then I don't have to wonder how I missed it, or if there was something I could have done. 

 Realistically I know that there wasn't anything I could have done. I was only there for a few minutes one evening. I was just tagging along for a donation delivery determined by someone else. 
But I still feel guilty. 
We thought we were helping. 

And now I can't help but look at their faces and wonder where they are now, hope that their lives have been spared, and pray for a swift resolution for the situation. 

A place that bears a name of Jesus, the Son of God, has become the embodiment of everything Christ is not. The Bible says in Psalm 68:5, 

"A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling." 

Maybe it's just a coincidence that these photos were found in an album I had titled "God is good..." from the common practice of the speaker/congregation statement and response, "God is good..." "...All the time!" that they used quite a bit in Haiti. To a cynical observer it could almost be ironic.

God is good. 
God is good? 
Is God good? 

Sexual abuse, neglect, starvation, organ harvesting, and child trafficking. 
And God is good? 
All the time? 


God is good. ALL the time. In the face of inexplicable evil, God is still good. 

I could launch into a long theological discussion about how a loving God could allow the horrors that we see in this world, but that's more than I have the energy for at this point. If it's a question you struggle with, check out C.S. Lewis's The Problem of Pain, or this discussion on the topic by the Answers in Genesis folks. Despite how the situation may appear from my limited perspective, I know this to be true about our Heavenly Father:

"Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will hear, for I am compassionate." - Exodus 22:22-24

This story can also raise debates about unintended consequences of aid, Haiti's nation of NGOs, social justice, etc. And I'd be interested in discussing all of those things at another time. But today it's just about these kids trapped in a deadly situation and those trying to do something about it. Please be in prayer for this situation! Intercede for these children, for the individuals involved in trying to end it, and for the government officials that need to act. Pray for miraculous intervention for these precious lives. And remember that this is just one small example of what takes place around the world every day.

"You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed, in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more." 
-Psalm 10:17-18

*To sign the petition follow this link.*

**Please keep Brittany, me, and our coworkers in your prayers as we travel to Argentina tomorrow for work.

14 October 2011

And the winner is...

Cat Lovetro! That's right. She won. She was the first person to come visit me since I left the good ol' USA. She arrived at about the 5 1/2 month mark bearing all sorts of goodies from persons in the states as well as some early birthday presents. But of course, her visit was the best gift. If I haven't told you before, she's kind of awesome. She's also kind of ridiculous, which is probably why we are friends. It was wonderful having her in Lima, even though it was only for a few days. Unfortunately I almost killed her by walking her to death. We were both hurting pretty bad after a few days of nonstop walking. But, we did see a lot of Lima!

The nice thing about people coming to visit is that it gives you a reason to do all the touristy sight-seeing stuff that you'd like to do in your own town but never make time to do. We toured the Huaca Pucllana, centuries old ruins in the middle of Miraflores that I walk by all the time. We checked out the Magical Fountains water park, enjoyed sunshine on the cliffs, toured the catacombs, walked around downtown, visited the inquisition museum, found some llamas, and shopping until we dropped at the Inca Market. We also had some down time watching the Gator game, cooking, and just generally enjoying hanging out. Of course it's never enough time, but I loved having her here. Here's a few shots of what we did:  

The best pack llama! Cat brought lots of goodies from the States. 
Huaca Pucllana- the ruins in Miraflores
Old and new. 
Cat met a new friend. Paco the llama.
The Peruvian Hairless dog. Yes, it really is that ugly.
Walking along the cliffs.

Walking to Larcomar.

Gator girls!

Laser/fountain show at the fountain park.
Fountain park. 

Rainbow fountain!

Interactive fountain.

Cat at the cat church. She is forlorn because I was abandoning her there, despite the warning on the sign.
Oh hey. I'm riding a llama.

Skulls in the crypt at the cathedral.
Inside the cathedral.

Archbishop's house.

In the Museum of the Inquisition and Congress. Yes, they put those two things together, and no they don't sell these snazzy heretic hats in the gift store, much to our disappointment. 

13 October 2011


Yesterday I remembered that I have a blog. ("Oh yeah! That thing!") Seriously, it had kind of slipped my mind in the busyness of the last few weeks. Like all things, it's easy to get out of the habit. But I'm back, at least for now, since things are about to hit extreme levels of busy again.

When last we left our intrepid adventurers they had just returned from Chile. That was September...I just finished editing and posting those photos this week.

In the official count, Chile was #23 of foreign countries visited. Well, at least as I count them. (For reference, I count Puerto Rico as a separate country, but not Vatican City. And I don't count any country where I only saw the airport.)

We enjoyed the sunshine in Santiago, the actual variation in temperature, and the bright blue skies. We spent some long hours working on children's mission materials, discussing media work with the team there, and getting a little better idea of what everyone does. But we were also able to enjoy the festivities for Chilean Independence Day. After enjoying the rodeo, big hunks of meat on stick, adorable children dressed like cowboys, and seeing Chilean flags everywhere I looked, I came to the conclusion that Chile is kind of like the Texas of South America. Their flags are even almost identical. There's even a strong German influence, just like Texas. Add that to the European/American feel to the city and stores, and it's easy to imagine you are back in the States.

And now for a photo recap of our time in Santiago. Enjoy!

Traditional Chilean folk dancing in the mall
Tops were EVERYWHERE. Impressive to watch. 
He had skills.
Kites were also everywhere. The holiday marks the beginning of Spring.
At the fair, posing in a mine tube.
Santiago is a big modern city.
Kids patriotic paintings.
Cowboy outfitting booth at the fair.
Hat making booth.
Cowboys watching the others compete.
Chilean rodeo. The goal is to pin the cow up against the padded part of the wall.
This is was the Father-Son rodeo...but this daughter got in on the action too.
Rodeo in action.
Watching the big boys.
All tuckered out from all the excitement. 
These talented riders and dancers performed the history of Chile.
Trick riding. Impressive!
I think they are proud of Chile.
Chi- chi-chi...le-le-le!
Many much meat. On a stick.

Yay Chile!
Santa Lucia

Chilean presidential palace.
Hiking outside of Santiago