14 September 2009

Beauty for Ashes

It’s Monday – our first full day of ministry in Guatemala. Our journey takes us to Cerecaif, an orphanage 20 miles from Xela. The orphanage was founded by a Mexican family, and serves children who have been removed from abusive environments. Seventy-two children, ranging in age from 2 to 16, live at Cerecaif, and receive very good care and education. Unlike the government orphanages, this “home” is staffed with volunteers who give their time 24 hours a day – their only payment is room and board. Nine workers, in addition to the orphanage director, serve the children. The cinderblock and stone building sits on sloped land in the shadow of tall mountains. There is no playground or park – the children play behind the orphanage on land also used to raise goats, chickens and sheep. It’s a very unassuming place on the outside. The kids wear hand-me-down clothing, play with donated toys, Inside the simple structure, though, there is evidence of “beauty for ashes;”

At first glance, a girls’ bedroom is a bouquet of pink flowers, ruffles and dolls. Look more closely, and the transformation reveals itself. Cabinets used for clothing are recycled cardboard boxes. Bedspreads are crafted from fabric remnants. Even the beautiful floors are designed from scrap tile. Things others would quickly discard have become treasure for boys and girls. And we would be given the opportunity of assisting in the very transformation process - as we paint walls and borders, letters and numbers and borders and butterflies. There are hearts and flowers and baseballs, soccer balls and footballs. And all the painting coordinates perfectly with those fabric remnant bedspreads and cardboard closets.

Our time at Cerecaif doesn’t end with painting. Time spent with the children singing, praying, studying the Bible, practicing their memory verse – “Fear not for I am with you” – and designing special t-shirts transform a cold, rainy afternoon into a joy-filled time for everyone. The children’s smiles and hugs, their willingness to accept us and embrace us, are true beauty. The transformation is within us now, our hearts at once crushed by the plight of the fatherless and filled to overflowing with love to share with each child. Watching our team minister, I’m reminded of a Shane & Shane song that seems right for this moment.

Beauty for ashes
A garment of praise for my heaviness
Beauty for ashes
Take this heart of stone and make it Yours

I delight myself in the richest of fair
Trading all that I've had for all that is better
A garment of praise for my heaviness
You are the greatest taste
You're the richest of fair

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