Monday, March 4, 2013

Child Haven International

John met a man at the laundromat who excitedly told him about construction work he and his church back home (Illinois) had been doing on a children's home.  Currently he and his wife have been living here in the valley for the winter, and have continued their work at the home.  Yesterday, Saturday, the home was going to have its fortieth anniversary party and Eldon strongly encouraged us to attend it with him.  John had a previous commitment to participate in a men's choral workshop, but I decided to attend the party.
You probably can't read the words on the cake pictured above, and it does not help that they are in Spanish!  The home is located in Reynosa, Mexico.  In Mexico Child Haven is known as Refuguio Internacional De Ninos.  The haven had its beginnings when a child was left on the steps of a home owned by Shirley Mendosa.  She was a woman from the United States who came to work in Mexico and subsequently married a Mexican man.  More homeless children were dropped off at their house until it was necessary for them to build a larger home.  That home later burned and Mennonite Disaster Relief stepped in to help the Mendosa family.  That organization purchased 14 acres and built 6 separate homes for Shirley and her family to continue their work in Reynosa.  Over the ensuing years many church groups have stepped in to help out.  Joining our group, who crossed the border into Reynosa Saturday to attend the celebration, was Grace Community church from Kansas.  They have been coming to the home regularly for the past 15 years.  Church members will stay at the home for the week,  helping with various building needs.  They always bring their children.  Consequently, as we drove through the gates of the home, several of the home's residents were eying the vans closely to see if they could locate the children whom they played with in past years.  I guess if there was one word I had to use to sum up the day's festivities I would say it would be relationships.
In the picture above the couple are playing with one of the home's children, whom they sponsor.  I saw many similar scenes played out during the course of the day, children and their sponsors reconnecting in many meaningful ways. Some of the sponsors live and work in the border towns of Texas and are fortunate to meet with their children several times a year.
Other people attending at the gala were past and present board members (representing Canada,United States, and Mexico), also past and present staff members as well as alumni of the home.
In between the many speeches the children of the home and school performed with songs and dances.  The  home currently has 58 children, six of whom are attending college.  The school takes in children from the neighborhood and has 104 children, kindergarten to sixth grade.  And it has some success stories- one of the speakers was a pretty young woman, a lawyer, representing Mexico as a board member  She came to the home at four years of age.  Many of the speakers gave thanks to God for the blessings which the home has experienced over the past forty years.  Over the years the home has always witnessed to the children the love of Christ.  As part of its festivities for the day the home had an open house for its newest cottage.  It is the cottage which Eldon had said he had put in many hours of labor.  Unfortunately he was unable to attend the anniversary party because of a strep throat.  He certainly can be proud of his work, the cottage is a beautiful home for the little girls who will be living there!  Pictured below is the kitchen.
Winter Texans have been warned to stay away from Reynosa because it apparently is in the hands of many drug cartels.  It was a bit disconcerting to see the guards in military gear and carrying guns at the border. One soldier was also standing in what looked like a fox hole with two large metal barrels in front of it.  And as we drove through the streets of the city two young men, driving in a car next to our van, asked what we were doing in the city.  It was fortunate that the home had used their vans to shuttle us over- my those vans need replacing!.  We soon discovered that the words "Refugio Internacional " was all we needed to say and we were waved on with no questions asked.  With God's continued help Child Haven will make a difference for Mexico, one child at a time.

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