Over this past weekend, Lauren Shirley, Sharon Roelke and I went to Honduras to check out an orphanage there called New Life Children’s Home to see what kind of ministry we can do there going forward. NLCH was started about ten years ago by Jim and Georgia Lamont, a retired couple from near Fort Worth. They had 35 children up until a couple of months ago, when the closing of another orphanage suddenly brought them 16 more. The kids range from about two years old to 17, a near-equal split between boys and girls. Most of them are sibling groups of 3 or 4.
We arrived on Friday around lunchtime and went to lunch at a mall in Tegucigalpa before doing some shopping for the orphanage. Then we headed up the mountain to Jalaca, where it is.
At the orphanage, they had a number of Honduran college-aged “interns”. They had one guy named Hector who came on a short trip once about a year ago, and essentially never left. He has become invaluable to them as an all-purpose helper and has also brought a lot of his friends from the city. Ron and Annette Thiesen, who are the directors of the orphanage, are really excited to see Hondurans ministering to their children instead of only Americans being the ones that come to help.
After that was dinner at Ron and Annette’s house with one of the sibling groups of kids. Apparently each Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and sometimes Saturdays they have one kid or sibling group come down to the house and eat with the family so that they get some more one-on-one time and a real sense of family.
Saturday we helped to sand and prime the dining hall for a small work team that was coming in just for the afternoon from Tegucigalpa to paint it, and then we took a tour of the whole facility. They have a number of acres of land, two boys’ dorms with about a dozen kids in each, and one girls’ dorm (which should hold about a dozen but has 25). They really need another girls’ dorm. The 16 new kids came suddenly and they really aren’t quite equipped yet. They also have a semi-finished church building down near the road, the building where we stayed which is classrooms, kitchen and dining hall downstairs and dorms for about 26 (for work teams) upstairs. They also have a small laundry room, a very small area with pig pens in it, a chicken yard (with no chickens yet), some tilapia ponds that are dug but need to be lined, and need to have pipes bringing water down the mountain from a waterfall, and an orchard property with a house on it that needs some work. The orchard is not being tended at the moment because they don’t have the personnel or the funds to do it. It yields some fruit that mostly is picked by villagers.
They also have corn fields that are being farmed now, as well as two machines that were donated that can make concrete bricks. These fit together like legos and do not need mortar, so they are very handy to make and could be a great source of revenue for the farm. It is difficult to get them to be consistent, so they are still working out the kinks of that.
After the tour of the property, a couple of families of the kids came to bring lunch and other treats. Most of these kids are not actual orphans but have been permanently removed from their homes by Honduras’s version of CPS. Some, however, particularly more of the new kids, are true orphans. One of the girls doesn’t even have a known birthday or birth certificate.
I could go on with the itinerary of the trip, but I’d much rather tell you about the orphanage itself… Ron and Annette have been in ministry most of their lives. They took a river boat up and down the Amazon in Peru for many years with an organization called AFCM before coming to Jalaca. They planted churches and evangelized in some truly remote villages.
Their vision for the orphanage is to really train up leaders. The older kids at the orphanage have a real sense of responsibility and ownership in the ministry that they do there. The older kids help keep the grounds nice, help care for, bathe, feed, and dress the younger kids and make sure that they are taken care of. Ron and Annette seem to do all they can to break the group into smaller groups, like the “girls night” we had with the older girls Sunday night where we hung out and watched a chick flick at the Thiesens’ house, or the family dinners.
It seemed to me like Ron and Annette are training up leaders by honoring and trusting the kids with more and more responsibility as they get older. The kids, rather than seeming to resent having “work to do” helping out, seem instead to grow into the role of mature, trustworthy adults.
Their education also clearly includes a solid Christian foundation. A group came to lead church on Sunday in the absence of their usual pastor, and the kids provided some great answers, like once when asked “Do you know what sin is?” one kid raised his hand and said “Death!” Another adult asked “And do you know what the way of Jesus Christ is?” (I think she meant for the answer to be “salvation,”) and one kid said “Skinny!”.
Keep an eye out for future First Church trips to Jalaca. It is a little rustic (no hot water for showers, and at a towering 5′ 9″ my feet hung off the end of the bunk…) but it is so worth it! The kids were extremely affectionate, largely well-behaved, and respectful. The facility has a ton of potential but really needs some labor to help it get into fully running order. I hope that we can continue to support them in ministry.