Mission trips can take on so many different forms with a wide myriad of goals based on the needs of the destination. Within the past few months, we saw a group go to Louisiana to help clear out the flood ravaged homes of residents. Sometimes they take on health concerns in disease-ravaged areas; other times it’s to deliver the Word of God to those who have no access to a God about whom they’ve only heard whispers.
In September a group of about 15 went to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico to accomplish perhaps the most important task that we as Christ-followers could ever hope to devote ourselves to: loving on children who haven’t known the love of an earthly father and showing them the love of a heavenly Father.
The team went to Casa Hogar Elim, an orphanage in Nuevo Laredo, to help with the daily life of caring for the nearly 80 orphans that live there.
“Our mission for this trip was not to ‘fix’ anything but to come alongside these children, help them and show compassion,” shared Karen Bannis, whose family went on the trip. “Mama Lupita runs the orphanage, but there are older kids (late teens and 20s) who have many responsibilities (cooking, cleaning, dorm parents, overseeing school work, etc). When our group gets there, it is a chance for this group to take a break from their many daily responsibilities. And we take over cooking and watching the children for a few days.”
While the orphanage does have a bakery and jewelry business that bring in a very small amount of the money, it for the most part relys on donations for its day-to-day operation.
The teenage boys live at another location where they raise chickens and are building a Tilapia farm as a way to generate income. The girls run a jewelry business which was started with a $100 micro-loan, teaching them how to keep track of inventory, design, quality control and accounting; all skills that will roll into their adult lives outside of Casa Hogar. A baker who is on-site supplies bread and pastries to over 70 nearby convenience stores.
There are several trips done each year to the orphanage by Chase Oakers, and every trip they bring boxes of toothbrushes for the children. Without any sort of storage for the kids to place their personal belongings, everything inevitably gets lost. Upon hearing this, Elliya Bannis (12) came up with the wonderful idea of collecting shoe boxes to take on this trip, so that they could have a place to store their personal items. The Bannis Family managed to collect 80 shoe boxes and break them all down for easy travel and bring the orphanage both a fun project but also the ability to hold on to the important things.
Using stickers, markers, and everything else imaginable to craft, the residents of Casa Hogar were all given an opportunity to decorate a box, filled with joy at knowing that they had something to call their own and a place to store what other precious belongings they had. For Xavier Bannis, this was a moment that really stuck with him, getting to see their excitement as they decorated and shared their creations with one another.
One member of the Bannis Family, Evie (8), was able to learn just how powerfully love can transcend language and background. For this little girl who naturally makes friends so easily, she suddenly found herself in a situation where she could not communicate with the children around her due to the language barrier. What she learned from the trip was that sometimes just being with someone, whether coloring or playing a game, is all the communication that is needed. As she put it:
“God helped me find a way to make a new friend even though I didn’t speak Spanish.”
The name of the facility, Casa Hogar Elim, stands for “house home refuge,” an apt name for what it represents.
“Casa Hogar truly is a refuge for these children,” says Karen. “Many children live here because they have no family to take care of them. There are some children who live here part-time because their family can’t afford to take care of them on a daily basis. Others live here because their family does not live in a safe area. As long as a child needs a home, Mama Lupita, the Director, will not send them away.”