I woke up to the blue Guatemalan sky and the sunshine pouring through our window Tuesday morning. It was a beautiful start to the day, but I was lonely for family. I tried to push them out of my mind, but their little faces and dimples and smiles kept intruding on my best attempts.
After breakfast, we went straight to work painting another two rooms in the school building. While we worked, we could hear the kids singing and chatting in the courtyard, and we wondered what they were up to so we leaned over the balcony to see. They were having a party! They were given bags of candy and a piece of cake that some of the workers had made for them. (We had smelt the lingering tendrils of baked chocolate at breakfast and now we knew why!) They were the happiest children on earth it seemed! It made my heart smile, but immediately I wondered at my own kids and their class parties and missed them all over again. I knew they were fine, figured they were happy, and I jerked my mind back to the task at hand.
With each brushstroke I found myself daydreaming about my girls. When out of the corner of my eye, I saw a girl from the home; it was Alicia (14) and she was smiling at me. I smiled back, and then I saw that she held something in her hand. It was a change purse like the one that I had been given the night before, and she was opening it up to hand me what was inside. She handed me a folded note. As I read it I stopped –“To my forever sister.” In the letter she wanted me to know that she was praying for me and my family and that she was pleased to meet me. I almost cried as I reached out to hug her. She was precious…and she was exactly right. I felt God speak to my heart, “Here is your forever family! You will go back home to your girls, but these are My girls, your sisters, and they are happy to spend today with you!” I folded the note up and put it in my pocket, thanking my sister for thinking of me. She handed me the change purse, “Here.” I didn’t want to take it. I had already been given something and these girls didn’t have much, but I accepted her eager gift. “Thank you.” She smiled, “I love you, sister.” I thought I would crumble, but the day was looking up.
Lured out to the balcony again later that morning, we were met with cake and juice. We smiled as we ate and watched the girls chattering and dancing and inspecting their bags of candy. My roommate Donna and I laughed and smiled and commented on how precious this day was for us. We saw Sarai, our little performer, and waved. She smiled and bounded up the stairs to us. She gave each one of us a piece of her candy. Donna was speechless, but as Sarai walked off she finally spoke, “Do you realize how big that is?” To be honest, at the moment, the significance of her treat had slipped by me. Donna explained, “She gave us her candy! It’s not like she gets that all the time, and she chose to give it away to us.” She looked at the wrapper in her hand, “I’m going to keep this.” (I love that lady… she shares the heart of Christ.) After day two of edging out walls and climbing up and down a ladder my back was hurting, and I knew that I needed to take a rest after lunch or I’d be no good for the rest of the week. I walked back to our room and pulled my “gifts” from my pocket with a smile. I turned the change purse with it’s love letter over in my hand. I now had two of them…two pink change purses with pirate skulls and the words, “Buried Treasure.” I was getting the message…He was pointing out His buried treasures. I was blessed to have discovered them. I picked up a book that Yolanda had given me and listened intently to the heartbeat of Daddy God as I rested.
During our rest time, two of the ladies had been plotting. Christine (the Yellow Rose of Texas) and Louanne were discussing something special they could do to show the girls our love and, more importantly, God’s love for them. Louanne wanted to “kidnap” them and take them to McDonalds in the city, but we convinced her that this would not be safe or possible on such short notice. She settled for ordering food into the compound. Christine took a more romantic approach and bought roses for each one of the girls and the workers. We would all pass them out at supper and were excited about our banquet!
I don’t think I can adequately describe the feeling in the dining hall that night. Kids were grabbing our hands, guiding us to tables, and calling out our names. I was led to a table by Alicia (my forever sister, or one of them) and Yeymie…I have to tell you about her. Yeymie is a precious little angel with dimples and a personality that goes on for days. She was abandoned by her mother when she was either an infant or a toddler. The woman that she was given to loved her and took care of her, and I believe that Yeymie really loves her and wants to be with her. Sadly, it was not an official adoption and years later after Yeymie’s mom had a couple more kids and needed some help taking care of them, she decided she needed her back. So, they went to court because the no one knew who was the real mother. The judge sent Yeymie, now 7, to the Prince of Peace Girls Home with the decision, “Whoever comes and sees her in the time specified, she is her mother.” Her biological mother has not visited her once. Her “adopted” mother comes as often as she can. Yeymie will most likely be going “home” soon.
That night I learned why God brought Yeymie there, no matter the short time. It was in the midst of Alicia and our leader, Karvin, teasing one another that she spoke. Alicia was telling Karvin her name was “Nada” meaning “nothing.” He pretended like he believed her, and then he asked, “Is that what is in your head?” She giggled and said, “Nooo.” Then he looked at her and smiled and asked, “Is that what is in your heart?” To which Yeymie in all seriousness piped up and said, “No. Jesus is in my heart.” She silenced Karvin, and she almost made me cry. I was reminded again, “These are My girls, Leslie… I AM rescuing them.” Right then and there I prayed for Yeymie and for Alicia, that they would always cling to their Savior.
After we had finished eating, Christine and Donna got up and sang with the girls, “Thank You” by Ray Boltz. Nothing can quite prepare you for hearing 50 kids and adults singing with a Spanish accent a song that says, “Thank you for giving to the Lord, I am a life that was changed. Thank you, for giving to the Lord, I am so glad you gave.” I was choking back tears as I tried to hold the video camera steady. I took the moment into my heart and soul as a forever memory with my forever sisters. Talk about your Valentine gift!
Donna, my beloved roommate on the trip, was the next to touch my heart. Slowly, so the girls could understand, she said to them, “There is no where else I would rather be and no one else I would rather be with than here with you on Valentine’s Day.” This was the heart of a woman that was still healing from a painful divorce and longing to be loved again. I looked at her, feeling the truth in every word that she spoke, and I felt God speak to me, “Tell her and Christine that I am loving on them as they love on my kids.” I started to cry. I never doubt the Father’s heart, but when I feel His desire so deeply and the delight He feels, it never ceases to take my breath away.
We ended the night as the girls made a line, and we handed out a rose to each one of them. I wish I had spoken Spanish because I wanted so badly to say, “This is how the Father sees you, as His perfect rose!” It’s probably good that I couldn’t. I have a feeling it would have come out sounding cheesy instead of passionate.
That evening, after group devotion time and as I pulled out my journal, my two change purses fell to the floor. They had been at the foot of my bed under my blanket. I smiled as I picked them up, “Buried Treasures and Perfect Roses what a Valentine’s Day it’s been.” I reached to put them in my suitcase when I felt a tug in my Spirit, the language of romance from the Lover of my Soul, “You, My Love, you, too, are a buried treasure, and I delight in you.” Sometimes in those moments of conversation, when His words seem too good to be true, I question if I am going crazy; after all, why would the Creator of the Universe speak such love to me? But, in the course of twenty four hours, two separate girls, at two separate times gave me the same gift with the same message. I don’t believe in coincidence, and like I said, I don’t doubt my Father’s heart. He is my Eternal Valentine, and He does delight in us and longs to lavish all of us with His love! Sadly, we don’t always let Him…nor do we realize that we are His Valentines.