I stood in front of Casa 36, my heart pounding so loud it drowned out the rhythmic chanting of the chicken bus drivers yelling, “Guate, Guate, Guate” just down the street, and the rumble of the tuk tuks racing by on the cobblestone road.
The heat of the day mixed with the smells wafting over the walls from the market, a combination of fresh produce, trash and urine started to make my stomach turn and my head spin.
I was trying to replay the past three weeks of Spanish classes (the whole reason I was here in Antigua, Guatemala anyway), but for some reason my brain had decided that now was a good time to take a siesta and with it went all the vocabulary, verbs and conjugations I had labored over day and night.
My new found friend, turned sister stood beside me, my only bit of comfort as we waited for the realtor to arrive. “I hope I understood them correctly and this is the right location”, “how did I end up in this position?”, “what if the other women hate this house?”….thoughts and fears tumbled through my head as I saw, who I assumed to be the realtor walking down the road towards us. I'm just a college student, I've never had to find a house...let alone a house in a foreign country for a group of people I have never met. All these fears jumbled with the over-all situation was enough to put me into a panic attack right then and there...luckily the fear and knowledge of Guatemala "hospitals" was enough to keep me just off the edge of the looming panic.
As we wandered through, what truly was a gorgeous Guatemalan house with a slight “USA” flair I could barely keep all the information straight…and wondered if I was even understanding the information correctly. I just remember nodding my head and responding, “si, si…muy bonita” dumbly as the responsibility of finding a last minute home for four new moms, the five kids and myself weighed heavily on my shoulders.
How did I end up in this position?
Casa 36. I shook the realtor's hand and the decision was made. We had a place to call “home” until the time came for us to head back to the states, whenever that may be. Later that day I would come face to face with these four women and the children that would be sharing this house with me.
But allow me to back up...
I came to spend the summer in Antigua in order to learn enough Spanish to test into a higher class back at college. I was determined to graduate on time. I, of course, told God that I didn’t want to simply spend my summer leisurely taking Spanish and waltzing around with the other tourists, partying my summer away. If I was going back to Guatemala, the country that had stolen my heart, I wanted to be used and have a purpose there. I should have known God would have an adventure laid out for me as soon as those words came out of my mouth.
Three weeks had gone by. In those first three weeks I had spent time at the orphanage I used to work at, then lived in a “room” by myself in some strange building (think scene from Law and Order), to then living with a host family in the outskirts of town at the base of the volcano. I spent those weeks feeling lonely and without purpose… I had no idea what God was preparing around the next turn.
How did I end up here?
That question was still floating through my head as I walked back down the road we had been on just a few hours earlier. This time a small gathering of “gringos” were waiting for me in front of that Casa 36.
As I approached I saw three families who at the very first sight…caprtured my heart (the fourth would join us later that week). The unknown future they were facing poured through the look on their faces as they put on smiles and we introduced ourselves…trying to laugh about the last minute rush to find a house.
Little did I know, that moment was the beginning of an incredible story that is still very much a part of my life today. Little did I know…that summer would become the most stretching, challenging, terrifying, rewarding summers of my life so far. Little did I know…I was about to see God reach down His mighty hand and work miracles in this little country of Guatemala.
You see, all these moms had come to foster the child/children they were adopting, until the process was finalized. They’re husbands were going to be leaving them there and heading back to the states, not sure when they would have their wife and child/children safely in their arms back in the states. The moms, all facing not only the fears that come with becoming a mom for the first time, but becoming a mom for the first time in a potentially dangerous city/country, without the comforts of home and the close support of family and friends.
Instead it was just this Casa 36.
A house full of strangers.
A group of people brought together for a common purpose.
A group of people who would soon be facing some of the hardest moments of their life.
How did I get here?
At that moment…I started to wonder if telling God I wanted a better reason than Spanish class to move to Guatemala for several months, was such a good idea. Even then, I had no idea what was about to unfold. I had no idea the impact it would have on my life. I had no idea I was about to walk through kidnapping threats, tuk tuk rides through unknown alleys to sketchy doctors, attachment disorders, screaming, sickness, translating, biting ant infestations, and lots of buy one get one free Dominos nights.
I could write a book on each families story, that is, if I was an author.
Each one is so unique and incredible and has so many details. Each detail of each story plays into the others, because when you share a home, you share life together. You see the trials and the triumphs in one’s life.
It’s been three years since that summer.
Three years and none of us have truly sat down and written out the details of what occurred. We have reminisced, sympathized with each other and looked back on pictures, but to write it out even now seems a daunting task, as so much was shoved into those months. So much pain, emotion, and also praise.
I want to share with you a little bit of each family’s story. The battles they fought to bring these precious babies home. The physical earthly picture of adoption. The parallel to God's fight for us. His open arms and our adoption into our heavenly family.
And to begin, I want to start with the story of this big guy...
…it’s an incredible story of adventure, fear, pain, struggle, trials, hopelessness at times and of course…triumphs. It’s really a story that should be made into a film.
To be continued......