As I begin to summarize this past year I am challenged because we always seem so focused on what lies ahead. The year 2015 included growth, change, challenges, hope, and thanksgiving!
“All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God”. 2 Corinthians 4:15 (NIV)
We began the year with 3 children living in the 850 sq ft. children’s home located in EL Limon, Samana and 8 children in the community care program. We ended the year with 9 children living in the newly purchased 4,000 sq ft. children’s home located in Los Corrales, Samana and 11 children in the community care program.
We always planned on growing by 1 child at a time until like many other plans God redirected our steps with the arrival of a sibling group of 5! This coupled with the rapid decline within the area the children’s home was located in created the need to relocate. During that time, we also received placement from the government of a 3-year-old Haitian boy that had been abandoned by the death of his mother and had been without supervision for 3 months! Part of our mission is to reach those at the end of the line, those children with the greatest need but who have no help in receiving it. Orlando has truly taught us the harsh reality of this mission. After 3 months of living unsupervised in the grueling streets of Samana, being ignored because as a Haitian it did not matter that he was 3 years old and completely helpless, the government received media pressure and placed him in the care of AOL. He arrived with his feet badly burned from the hot pavement with no last name or date of birth. He had just a cautious smile, a heart that is dying to trust, and a childlike spirit waiting to pursue its life in Christ. Orlando’s arrival was evidence that the ministry of AOL is truly working. At the time Orlando arrived, we were at max capacity and had no additional beds. On the day of his arrival, Derling, the first child we received when the children’s home opened in December 2013, stepped forward and told Orlando, “you can have my bed and you can use my clothes and toys. You are my best friend”. What greater outcome could we hope for the children living out the love of Christ they received and becoming His love in action! These are the quiet but enormous milestones we celebrate as they occur. These are the moments each volunteer involved in the ministry is reminded that our efforts through our Lord’s mercies are making an eternal impact in the lives of these children.
With the new children’s home being located in close proximity to the city of Samana, it is much safer and more resources are available. The children now are able attend the only Christian school in the province. There is a beautiful beach within walking distance from the home. Our vehicle expenses have increased as it’s a more rural area and requires us to drive to bring the children to school.
In January 2015, we opened 2 additional children’s churches. One is located in the village where 7 of our community care children live is doing very well with as many as 50 children attending on a weekly basis. Unfortunately, the church we started in Nagua in partnership with a Haitian church was shut down due to the unrest that is ongoing within the country. With the move to Los Corrales, we have moved the children’s church from El Limon and have already begun to experience interest and growth. The children’s churches provide a unique opportunity for children whose parents may not attend church to have the ability to attend themselves. The standard model we follow is to share the simplicity of the Gospel, and those children that receive it have the opportunity to complete a discipleship program. We rejoiced in September as 2 of our boys were baptized.
On December 6, 2015, we held our first bowling fundraiser at Pin Chasers in Tampa. The family friendly event was a huge success with approximately 150 people in attendance. Through this event, we were able to raise $21,000 which was the exact amount needed for the January payment of the new children’s home.
Our plans for 2016 as we await His direct steps…
As the amount of children God entrusts with us grows, we are challenged with the financial demands the ministry requires to function. It is our goal to grow the child sponsorship program this year. We believe this will not only be the most efficient means to allow many to join us in support but also to connect the children with those that are supporting them. We currently have 17 child sponsors and we need 200 more to complete the total provisions of $310 per child per month. Please share this need with others as $30 per month does make a tremendous difference in this ministry and the lives of these children.
With 2 of our boys quickly approaching 16 years of age, we are challenged this year to put together plans and a program for them to transition out of the children’s home successfully. We will be working with local leaders in the country to develop a plan that fits the culture and existing systems.
This March we will be having our 1st women’s short term missions trip! This is exciting as it demonstrates the growing awareness of the ministry and those willing to step out of their comfort and GO. During this trip, part of the agenda will include a shoe drive where shoes will be provided to children in need within our area of reach.
Now that we have the space to facilitate the proper care of additional children, we will be able to resume accepting new placements starting Feb 1st. We are trusting God every step of the way for His provisions and guidance. One of our greatest needs currently is a full time missionary or missionary couple to manage the daily operations in the country. Please PRAY for this vital need and share with anyone you may feel would have this calling.
Lastly, I want to publicly praise God for each of you that continue to PRAY, GO, and GIVE. We are such a small ministry when it comes to our resources and size, but our needs sometimes seem so vast and never ending. During so many challenging times your prayers and support carry us through to the next mountain to be climbed. As our faith grows through these experiences so does our confidence to press on. We are so grateful to each of you and continue to pray that God’s blessings be upon you for your faithfulness, love, and support!
All for His glory,