I WANT TO START AN ORPHANAGE SOMEDAY!!!!!!
I said those words when I was a teenager. I said them again in college. I repeated them less-often as a young, busy mother but began to obsess on them after our first visit to The Philippines in 2005. Finally, after much praying and selling and planning, we started our orphanage.
I love it. I love the work. I adore the children. I have a sense of purpose and usefulness that can only be described as "REAL" but the flip side of this life as Mama-to-Many is not at all like most would imagine. Most days, I feel I am being buried alive. And it's ok.
The kids here are wounded by terrible histories of abuse, neglect and abandonment. They sometimes act out. They need a LOT more attention than the average, well-nurtured child. They will do pretty much anything to get it. But I love them. I get to kiss their scars. I get to remind them they are beautiful and valuable and accepted. Some of them have never felt that before and when they start to believe they are worthwhile, they almost appear to grow taller before our eyes. And bloom.
On top of the treasured work of helping the kids heal, there is paperwork. A LOT of paperwork. I am abundantly blessed to have an amazing social worker who is more than capable of doing the bulk of the paperwork but we all have to do our part. The processing of a child for international adoption is a succinct art. Every document must be properly executed, dated, submitted and updated. We have a strong commitment to making sure the children in our care are ready both legally and emotionally for a new family. This takes a whole"village". Professionals inside and outside Mercy House take part in the task and they take it seriously. They have to. It's precious human life. There is no room for error.
|Our precious social worker with some of the MH kids|
And aside from the children and the paperwork, I am a wife and a mother. That didn't stop when we decided to open an orphanage. Unlike some directors, we choose to live inside the orphanage with our own family and our Mercy House family. Why? Because we simply need to be close for the children in care to have continuity. Staff may come and go but it is our prayer that "Mommy Nikki" and "Daddy Anthony" offer a little peek at how it feels to have caring adults who stay. Our prayer is their only move from our care is into their FOREVER families. It does not always work that way but that is always our goal. Finding the balance between the roles of orphanage Mama, wife and mother-to-my-own is beyond challenging. Sometimes I have to put off the ones who deserve first place because there are emergencies of the melt-down kind. Okay, not "sometimes". "Often". I pray they understand.
The issues of handling birth families, staff problems, anyone getting sick and, of course, the fact that we just bought land and are fund raising to build a permanent structure - ALL OF THOSE and more are scoops of fresh earth that have me buried alive.
Do I want to quit? Sometimes. Do I miss my life as a happy American driving my own car to Taco Bell and strolling through Wal Mart whenever I want? For sure! Do I feel like I'm only 1/2 alive sometimes for the ache of missing my two oldest children who are in the US? Every day.
But I believe I will never leave. I assume that, someday, I will die here in The Philippines doing this work I love and helping children know their God and find their families. I will be serving with my husband and whichever of our own children feel called to be here. I wish they all did.
So, friends. When you say "I want to start an orphanage", I hope you are wiser than I was. I hope the sacrifices and pain don't take you by surprise. I pray you understand what you are REALLY saying when you utter those words is "Lord, I want to be buried alive". Because you will be. And you might even love it.