Sunday, March 9, 2014

A Homecoming for Adolfo, Sarahi, and Danny

About four years ago, we received siblings Adolfo, Sarahi, and Danny into our home here at Rivers of Mercy.  They had experienced neglect by their parents and had actually witnessed the accidental death of one of their siblings the day they were brought to us.  During their time with us over the next two years, we grew to love them so!  Here they heard the message of the hope of the gospel, accepted Christ as their Savior, and began to heal emotionally as they were transformed by God’s love and the love of our big family here at ROM.

After being with us for almost two years, we were suddenly informed that these three siblings were going to be transferred to a different orphanage.  The director of DIF had determined that all of the children who were on the path toward adoption were to be concentrated in one specific orphanage. We were devastated.  Heartbroken.  Distraught.  Danny was like my son’s brother and was his best friend.  Yet there was nothing we could do.  They left us, and ever since then, we’ve never stopped thinking about them, wondering about them, praying for them, and wishing that we could somehow have them back.

In January of this year, we attended an event here in Juarez, a breakfast and holiday celebration for the children of many of the different orphanages in the city.  To our surprise, we spotted Danny in a group of boys from another orphanage, much taller than years before but with the same adorable face.  A little while later we spotted Sarahi seated with a group of girls, and later we saw Adolfo as well!  We made our way over to each, hugged them, and chatted a bit with each.  It turns out that due to different issues, the three children had been moved around among different orphanages since leaving us, and they were currently separated at three different orphanages!  What a shame.  Still, it was a treat for us to get to see them.

Later on that day, just a couple of hours after we got home from the event, I received a phone call from DIF.  I couldn’t believe what she told me.  She was wondering if we'd like to have Adolfo, Sarahi, and Danny back with us again.  She told me that they really missed each other and that they also missed Rivers of Mercy and wanted to come back.  This was one of those occasions that I didn’t feel like I needed to consult with Emmis about the decision—I told her an adamant yes!  A few hours later, they were dropped off at our place!

I know that what I’m about to say sounds cliché, but it’s the truth.  As soon as Adolfo, Sarahi, and Danny were back with us—that very night—I felt like our family was complete.  I was overwhelmed with a sense of contentment and gratefulness to God for bringing them back to us.  This experience is testimony to the fact that our God can and does do miracles!  We would have never imagined that we’d be able to have all three of them here again, and here they were.  Who would have known?  God did.  So, when I feel discouraged, I think about this miracle that God did for us and for these three kids, and I’m reminded to not give up hope, because my all-knowing God is in control, and He is able to do immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine!  He has a perfect plan!

Sarahi, Danny, and Adolfo

Best friends - Danny and Joel

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Christmas Giving in Juarez and God's Perfect Provision

Many of you would probably agree with me that during Christmas time, it’s easy to get caught up in the materialistic parts of the season.  Our children here at Rivers of Mercy are truly blessed when it comes to Christmas gifts, so this year we tried to think of a way to teach them the great joy of giving and not just receiving.  Thus, we planned an event to enable our kids to experience being a blessing to others.

Moms and children learning about Jesus

One evening we had all of the children choose one of the many gifts they had received to give away to another child who quite possibly didn’t receive any gifts at all.  They were excited to do this and helped wrap the toys as well.  The next day, all of us, laden with wrapped toys and hot chocolate and cookies and full of eagerness to share the joy and message of the true meaning of the season, headed out in search of a very needy colonia in Juarez to share with that community.   We truly did not know where we were going to go to have this event; we were trusting God to guide us, just like He guided the wise men to baby Jesus.

God was faithful to guide us to a place, a very poor community where the homes are literally built on mountains of trash.  Our kids walked up and down the streets with us, inviting children to the gathering that we were going to have.  At first we were a little disappointed as it seemed that not many children lived in that neighborhood, but by the time we began, around 40 kids and 20 moms had gathered!  First we played a game, then sang songs together, and then I taught a lesson about the true meaning of the season--the birth of Jesus, our Savior.  All who were present heard the good news of the gospel that day.  After this, our kids helped pass out hot chocolate, cookies, and then the presents to all of the children that had attended.  I was worried that we wouldn’t have enough gifts, but God must have multiplied them, because we had exactly enough, not one lacking or one to spare!  That day our children got to experience the joy of being used by God to be a blessing to others...may this tiny seed that was planted of serving and giving to others grow into a way of life for them.

Waiting in line for gifts

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A 'Homecoming' for Blas

Several years ago, we were blessed to receive here at Rivers of Mercy a sweet little boy about 5 years old named Blas.  Since Blas had had no prior schooling, Patty began to tutor Blas every day.  It seemed that Blas had a learning problem, as his progress was very slow, but eventually, he began to make strides.  To his surprise (and ours), Blas’s six siblings ended up at our orphanage as well--four sisters and two brothers.  The seven siblings were with us for quite a while and we have many fond memories of them.  Blas’s older sisters had never been to school before either and did not know how to read or write upon arrival. Here at the orphanage, through much time and effort spent working with them, they learned how to read and write.  Then, sadly, DIF made the decision to move Blas and his siblings to a different orphanage where supposedly all of the children awaiting adoption were being placed.  We were so sad--we had grown to love these kids so much.

Fast forward three years.  It turns out that Blas and his siblings were never adopted and were still at the same orphanage they had been transferred to.  A DIF car shows up at our place a couple of months ago, and out of the car steps….Blas!  Didn’t look any different, just taller.  The social worker explained to us that Blas had escaped from the school he attended and the decision had been made to have him transferred to another orphanage, so they brought him to Rivers of Mercy.  Of course, we welcomed Blas back.  But it was very hard this time for Blas to accept the circumstances.  Because he so desperately wanted to be with his siblings, during the first two days he was here, he tried to escape three times.  After the very rough week or two, Blas began to adapt to living here again.  Unfortunately, we quickly discovered that all of the academic advances that he had made during his time here several years ago had vanished.  Not only had he not progressed, but he had regressed.  Come to find out, Blas was technically in third grade this school year and he had not even mastered numbers 1-10 or letters, let alone knowing how to read or write.  

So, once again, we’re working hard with Blas.  The good thing is that he has a good attitude and wants to learn, so he puts forth his best effort.  Also, he was recently one of the children who prayed to receive Jesus in his heart and become one of God’s children.  Blas is a sweetheart and we love dearly.   Only God knows why He allowed the circumstances that have happened in Blas’ life, but we’re certainly blessed to have him back as part of our family.

Original posting about Blas and his siblings

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Instituto Emmanuel

More than 6 years ago, when we were just making plans to begin the orphanage, starting a school for the children here was just a dream--a vision that we believed God had placed in our hearts and minds for future fulfillment.  Today, that dream, that vision, has become a reality!  Just a couple of weeks ago we traveled to Chihuahua to attend the ceremony where we were formally recognized as a certified school, were given our license, and received some training!  (We were certified as a kindergarten; we hope to become certified for elementary by next school year).  This was a HUGE accomplishment that was only possible because of God’s divine help!  To God be the glory!  The name of our school is Instituto Emmanuel, reminding us of God’s constant presence with us.  Please pray for us as we work on putting in order all of the paperwork to seek certification for elementary (grades 1-6), which we will be submitting in Chihuahua before the end of November this year.

Kristin, Ismael, Eduardo and Emmis at the ceremony in Chihuahua where we were given certification for our school at Rivers of Mercy!  Eduardo was a huge help with the administrative tasks involved with starting a school.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Creel Vacation

A couple of weeks ago, the kids here at Rivers of Mercy were able to have an amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience! Thanks to a friend of ours here in Mexico who sponsored our trip, all our kids and staff (40 kids + 9 adults) went on a vacation to Creel, Mexico (about 8 hours from Juarez).  We spent the first night at a cabin, where the kids had a blast tramping around in the swampy grass and roads catching tadpoles in plastic water bottles.  Joel (my 5-year-old son) explained to me that these little creatures magically turn into frogs!  :)

We ended up staying the next couple of nights in six side-by-side suites at a very nice hotel, with one to two adults and a group of about seven children in each suite.  It was truly enjoyable being able to relax and spend time with one’s little group of kids in the hotel room.  The kids loved that they could watch tv first thing in the morning from their beds!  For breakfast we would purchase cereal or instant oatmeal and distribute it to each room, where each suite family would eat together around the table.  Then we were off to spend the afternoon at some tourist attractions there in Creel.

The first afternoon we spent at the lake.  We adults took turns taking the kids out on the pedal boats until everyone had gone out.  The kids also enjoyed playing in the water until we realized that some of them were covered in leeches!  Needless to say, we didn’t get back in the water but instead grilled hot dogs on the shore.  The next day we were to swim in some hot springs…what we did not know is that we were going to have to travel down the somewhat narrow path of a very steep mountain to get there!  Some of us were able to ride down in a heavy-duty golf-cart-looking vehicle, while others hiked.  Then of course we got to have that same fear-provoking experience on our way back up! On our last day in Creel we went to see the homes that the Indigenous people live in---they actually live in caves in the rocks.  They make and sell beautiful handcrafted items for the tourists who come to see their homes and way of life.

Each day we would eat a late lunch/dinner at a restaurant.  It’s funny to see people’s reactions when you suddenly march 40 children into a small restaurant--one restaurant even turned the sign on their door to “closed” once they had us all seated!  We decided to stay the night at a hotel in Chihuahua on our way back.  The kids enjoyed swimming in the hotel pool, and the hotel even lent us its restaurant area that evening for us to enjoy pizza and cake together in celebration of one of our girl’s birthday!  Jennifer turned 13 years old—lookout, we have a 13-year-old in the house!

In all, we had a very eventful and fun time.  This was also a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our staff.  One of them commented after the trip that she never would have imagined that such a beautiful place existed in her country!  Thanks to God and to our friend here in Juarez who made this unforgettable experience possible!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Family Reunion

Brothers Francisco (11), Carlos (9), and Saul (6) have been with us at Rivers of Mercy since February 2012.   The three brothers have always talked about their little sisters, and their constant prayer request has been that they could be with their sisters again.  Well, recently they got to experience first-hand that the God in whom they’ve trusted is a God who hears and answers prayers!  Last Thursday, DIF (the Mexican social services) brought us their 4-year old sister Jenny!  The boys were delighted and have stayed close by her side since she arrived.  Jenny had been at a different orphanage but DIF is working to unite sibling groups.  Two days later, on Saturday, without any prior knowledge on our part, DIF brought Maya (5), the other little sister of the three boys to stay here at Rivers of Mercy!  It’s not likely that these five children will ever be returned to their family, but they are thankful to be together.   Thank you, God, for reuniting these little ones!

Carlos (8), Jenny (4), Saul (6), Maya (5), and Francisco (10)

Friday, April 5, 2013

Easter Community Outreach

On Monday we had an Easter outreach event for the children in our community.  Each staff member at ROM invited several different families with children to the event; specifically, needy or impoverished children from the neighborhood.  Martha and I told the Biblical story of Jesus’ death and resurrection using “Resurrection eggs”, a set of twelve colorful eggs with each one containing a different memory-grabbing object from the story (coins to represent Judas’ betrayal, a cross made of nails to represent his crucifixion, a rock to represent the stone that was placed at the entrance of the tomb, etc.)  Afterward, we adults performed a skit about Jesus’ resurrection that we had created for the kids.  We had practiced for several days, and Martha had made the soldiers some really neat, authentic costumes!  After singing praise songs and praying with the children who desired to receive Christ as their Savior, the kids made a craft to take home to remember the Bible story that they had heard, and made the “empty-tomb” snack as well.  We also had an Easter egg hunt for them!  The older children got to hunt eggs out front and the younger kids out back.  Most of these children never get the opportunity to do this anything like this; so it was great fun.  Glory to God for giving us this opportunity to share the message of hope of the gospel!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Pizza Time and Remembering Raul

Yesterday, our children were able to go on a special field trip to Peter Piper Pizza here in Juarez!  This was organized by the family of our late friend Raul.  Raul was a friend and supporter of Rivers of Mercy who lost his life tragically in 2010.  His family has continued in his steps by bringing donations of needed items and organizing special events for the children on a regular basis.  At Peter Piper Pizza, the kids were first given a tour of the kitchen part of the restaurant.  They got to see the walk-in refrigerator, the large ovens with revolving conveyor belts, the long stretches of pizza dough being cut into circles, and the station with all of the pizza toppings.  Then the kids had a blast playing all of the arcade games and turning in their tickets for small prizes.  After this, they got to make and eat their own personal pizzas!  They were each given a small circle of dough and individual cups of sauce, cheese, and pepperoni to create their pizzas.  Finally, after working up an appetite, the kids were able to enjoy eating their personal pizzas and guzzling down soda!  Some of the children were absolutely fascinated with the self-serve soft drink machines.  They must have never seen or used them before.  What a special occasion for our kids!


Monday, February 18, 2013

"True Love" Valentine's Day Outreach

Saturday, we held our third annual “True Love” Valentine’s Outreach here at Rivers of Mercy.  We had each of our workers invite children from several needy families that they knew, so we had about 65 children in attendance, 30 of ours and 35 from the surrounding neighborhoods.  We have held this outreach each year to share the message of what true love really is with the children of our community.  We began the event with songs and with an evangelistic story.  This is a story that many children here can identify with--in the story, a young boy named Thomas is desperate for his parents to be happy and together again after their separation.  He begins a quest to discover what true love is and where it comes from.  Thomas eventually learns that true love is that God first loved us and sent His Son Jesus to die for us so that our sins could be forgiven and we could live in heaven forever with Him.  We gave the invitation for the children to receive Christ, and many prayed to ask God to be their Savior. 

After this we divided the children into four groups and rotated the groups to each different game station.  Each game had a Valentines’ theme: "Hearts in Lava," a relay race to get across the room and back using large paper hearts to avoid falling in the "lava"; a "Minute To Win It" game in which the children try to move as many conversation heart candies as possible from the table into a cup using a straw; "Love Tower," in which they had to attempt to stack large conversation heart candies to build the highest tower they could in one minute; and “Steal my Heart,” in which they had to remove as many conversation hearts as possible from their bowl in 1 minute using chopsticks.  In each game, the children had the opportunity to win "tickets" which were cut-out paper hearts that they knew they needed to save in order to buy treats later on!  Finally, it was time for them to purchase delicious Valentines Day treats that Abuela Mary had prepared.  This year we had Valentines’ floats (Cherry 7-Up with vanilla ice cream and Red Vines for straws); cupcakes with Xs and Os; beautiful "window pane" heart-shaped cookies; and pink marshmallow pops!

The kids sure enjoyed getting to buy and eat the treats. To end the event, we gave a wrapped toy gift to each of our guests. At the end of the night, the guest children left very excited about the message they had heard and the wonderful time that they had, wondering when the next event was going to be held.  Praise the Lord for giving us this opportunity to share His gift of love—salvation through Jesus Christ--with the children of Juarez.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Welcome Ismael

Emmis and I (Kristin) are excited to announce the birth of their third child, baby boy Ismael Robles.  Ismael was born on Saturday, January 19th at 5:31 p.m.  He weighed 6 lbs. 6 oz. and was 19 ½ in. long and looks just like his older brother Joel!  Praise the Lord that this was a relatively quick labor and delivery and free of complications.  Myself and baby Ismael were released from the hospital on Sunday evening and are doing great.  When we arrived home at the orphanage on Sunday, the kids had hung strings of balloons and a “Welcome Ismael” banner that they had made in the living room.  I smiled as I read the comments that the kids had written on the banner—many of them wrote, “We hope you like living here!”  I’m sure he will—he won’t never be hard-pressed for a playmate! Thank you for your prayers!

Brothers! -- Joel and Ismael

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Birthday Table

Yesterday was my late grandfather's birthday.  He was affectionately known to all of us as "Umpa".  Umpa passed away last May after a long battle with cancer.  Among other things, we remember him as great cook, cracking corny jokes, making sure we all had flashlights when traveling, running down the sidewalk waving good-bye whenever we left Las Cruces after a visit, and just an all around fun guy.  But Umpa was also a great inspiration to all of us as he spent his life serving Jesus.

Yesterday as we were eating breakfast, I told Joel (my son who recently celebrated his 5th birthday) that it was Umpa's birthday.  Joel asked: "The Umpa that is in heaven?"  I told him yes, that I was talking about our Umpa in heaven.  I was moved to tears when Joel immediately responded "Who is going to sit at Umpa's table?"  Let me explain.  Here at the orphanage, when a child has a birthday, we set up a special table for him with a birthday tablecloth.  That child is able to choose what other children he wants to sit with him at the birthday table.  Here they get to enjoy the meal, birthday cake, and get a great view while the birthday child opens his gift.  Getting to sit at the birthday table is a very special privilege for the children chosen to sit there.

I told Joel that Jesus was going to sit at Umpa's birthday table, along with other family members with him in heaven.  It was a happy thought, and a joyous picture that I had in my mind all day long.  I'm sure that Umpa had a wonderful birthday in heaven with Jesus and family members at his birthday table.

Happy Birthday Umpa!  

Friday, January 4, 2013

Yari, Mari, and Raul with Us Again

Most likely many of you remember Yarisdi (Yari), Maria (Mari), and Raul, siblings who have lived at Rivers of Mercy several times (for extended periods of time) during the last several years.  Yari was actually one of our original eight kids brought to us by DIF (the Mexican Social Services) in May of 2007.  They are children of a single father who has always struggled with caring for them and meeting their basic needs.  The most recent time that Yari, Mari, and Raul returned to the care of their father (and to what we thought was a stable situation) was in the summer of 2011.

Well, late in the evening a couple of days before Christmas (about two weeks ago), we received a phone call.  Without going into a lot of detail, let's just say these children were not in a good situation and Emmis picked them up and brought them back to the orphanage with the approval of DIF.  The condition of Yari, Mari, and Raul upon arrival here was alarming, as they showed obvious signs of neglect.

They are now extremely relieved and happy to be here at the orphanage again.  Yari has expressed to multiple people that she hopes she never leaves here again.  We are remorseful about the situation they were apparently living in but glad that God brought them back to us where they are safe and sound again.  Yari still loves playing with and helping out with Joel and Itzel—the day after Yari’s arrival, Joel was already referring to her as “mi hermana” (my sister) again.  She is as sweet and good-natured and helpful as she always has been.  Raul seems to have aged and matured quite a bit during the time that he was not with us.  Before he was quite disobedient and hyperactive—all around, a handful—but he seems much calmer and more obedient now.  Mari is the same old Mari, except that she doesn’t have a bad attitude about being here like she sometimes did before.  She, along with her siblings, is super content to be here again.  Please pray for these three children and for God to work in this situation according to His will.

Raul, Mari, and Yari