The day had almost arrived. We’d spent months planning for this, and even longer debating whether it was something we should even do in the first place. But 4 home makeovers, a couple new bank accounts, 2 extra employees and countless hours of legal document revisions later, we were finally ready.
Following the inevitable 11th hour flurry of activity, which included small repairs, painting, expanding activity space and reorganization of supplies, the first wave of DINAF (Honduras child services) employees came from the capital city to tour our facilities. One worker noted the difference in the children who are cared for here. “In most places the children run to me and hug my leg. They beg me to take them with me. But here the children are happy, content and attached to their caregivers. They know that they are safe. It is a beautiful thing.” The next day was going to be specifically about our short term crisis care program, but noting the difference that family-style long-term care makes was no small victory. It’s something we’ve been tactfully, yet consistently, trying educating DINAF about since we took in our first child almost 4 years ago.
Shortly after nightfall (yes, one downside to living near the equator is early summer sunsets), a caravan of the First Lady’s secret service entered the neighborhood. Other than their signature white Toyota Prado SUVs, they were fairly nondescript; which made Matt and Tyler feel a little less out of place as they scrambled in paint-spattered clothing to wrap up a last minute project. The security team began touring the buildings the First Lady would visit and marked strategic locations for positioning team members the next day. They also commandeered a bathroom in our school building, which would be exclusively for the First Lady’s use as needed… they think of everything.
Wednesday, July 26
A steady stream of trucks began arriving with the tents, chairs and tables for the event, as well as another pickup full of donated clothing, supplies and food. While clearly a big reason for the day was to generate good PR for a government that often struggles to gain the trust of its constituents, they really went above and beyond in ways we had not witnessed before.
The real fun began as the military arrived with canine teams to sweep the area and all the rooms in each of our ministry buildings. Honduras is a small country of only about 8 million people and significantly fewer resources than the United States, so it wasn’t quite the same spectacle as say Melanie Trump coming to visit, but they took it quite seriously. Many neighbors attempted to peak past the fenced off areas to catch a better glimpse of all the hubbub as military and secret service personnel stood by with guest lists like bouncers at a VIP night club. I’m sure they chuckled watching the intermittent parade of staff and children moving from one house to the next as we were asked to vacate each building so the dogs and their handlers could do their job without interference.
This was the moment that all the preparation, practice and pressure had been leading up to. Technically, it was leading up to about an hour and half prior, but late starts are pretty fashionable here. We had about 3 minutes notice as we saw the First Lady’s entourage following their police escort down the main highway leading to the subdivision where we live and work. Upon her arrival, the festivities kicked off immediately. It was a well organized event comprised mainly of speeches: the First Lady, National Director of DINAF, the mayor of Santa Rosa, the director of another nonprofit in town and myself. We were also treated to a couple of traditional Honduran dances from one of the local public schools, and our preschool girls were invited to perform their recital routine they learned in their ballet class earlier in the year.
All of this was to celebrate a very simple action that took no more than a minute or 2… On Wednesday, July 26 Legacy of Hope officially signed a contract with DINAF to continue providing emergency short-term care for children ages 0-18 who are experiencing a crisis. Since opening our “Centro de Paso” over 18 months ago, Legacy of Hope has provided care for over 220 abused, neglected, abandoned and vulnerable children and adolescents. The First Lady’s attendance at the event and participation in the signing as the Witness of Honor made what had been well-honed, yet unofficial, program now an official partnership. This contract was the culmination of months of planning and hard work and we pray that God will continue to use Legacy of Hope to plant seeds of hope in every child we serve.
Our work here is so much more than providing a safe place to stay and sleep. It is our mission to help children begin to heal from their trauma and loss. Our integrated programs are aimed at addressing not only the immediate physical needs of the children we serve, but also their educational, emotional, social and spiritual needs.
This work is often heartbreaking, but it is also one of our greatest blessings, as we see children begin to heal from their loss and trauma and achieve their right to a safe and loving family. They leave our care knowing that they are a valuable prince or a princess of God, that their hearts have begun to be filled with hope, and that they are taking steps to be a victor over their circumstances instead of a victim.
We are committed to continual implementing of the best research-based practices and to be a voice for vulnerable and abandoned children. Everyday we strive to improve our ability to meet the diverse needs of children and adolescents who have experienced great loss and trauma until every child is a valuable member of a safe and loving family.
We are thankful for our successful partnership with the DINAF office in this region and look forward to expanding this program to respond to the needs of children and adolescents in crisis. We thank God for His favor. With God before us, we will continue to pursue justice and mercy and declare Psalm 82:3-4, “Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”