Thursday, March 6, 2014

Love is always worth it

By Karis Pumphrey, GBH Intern

This morning I read a blog about foster care. It was written from the perspective of a new foster mom who was answering the infamous question of “how do you do it?!”. Because the most common response to the call to foster is “I don’t think I could do it. I couldn’t love someone so much for an amount of time that I do not know and then let him or her go. I couldn’t do it.” Her answer spoke to me in ways that I wouldn’t have fully understood two months ago.

“Love is always worth it”

I work at an orphanage that functions more like a foster home, but is just placed in a country that doesn’t have a foster care system. We see babies come into this home, love them with everything we have, and release them into God’s care - wherever He chooses to place them. When I worked here last summer I saw two babies come into the home, but I never saw anyone leave. While I was home in the fall, I knew of two that went to their forever families. It was sad to see them go, but I was so overcome with joy to know they had a mom and a dad to raise and love them. Since I wasn’t part of the process here, I didn’t fully go through the emotions.

On January 15 and February 8 my perspective was completely changed. On these two days I actually got to be part of the going home process of two precious pieces of my heart. Amelia arrived at Grace Babies’ Home this summer when I was here, and Daniela has been a part of the GBH family longer than I have. Ever since they entered these doors we have prayed for their forever families. I prayed completely in faith, but my reaction on the days they left made me question if I fully believed they would ever leave because of how much shock I was in. We got the call on January 14 that Amelia would be adopted back into her biological family the next day. On February 7 we got the call that Daniela would be adopted into her forever family the next day. Those were two moments that time stood still and my heart sank. If this is something I’ve prayed for, why am I so surprised, and honestly, so upset that God answered my prayers? You see, God does answer prayers. He always does. Sometimes it isn’t what we asked, and sometimes it’s exactly what we asked. Those two days God answered our prayers exactly, even down to the puppy we prayed for Daniela to have.

If someone would have asked me on February 8 after recently saying goodbye to the second baby in only a few weeks if foster care was worth it, honestly, I would’ve said no. My heart was so incredibly broken and I’m tearing up even now as I type this thinking back to the pain I experienced that day. Saying goodbye is hard. Actually, it sucks. But after grieving the loss of these precious girls, God opened my eyes. If these babies weren’t here, where would they be? If I didn’t love them, who would? God has a bigger ability to love than we could ever imagine. And I promise you that even after having my heart broken on those days, God has loved on me. I’m reminded of the passage in Matthew where Jesus tells us to care for the “least of these”. These unwanted and forgotten babies ARE the least of these. They’re the ones Jesus was talking about! By being obedient to the call to care for the fatherless, God WILL bless you and He WILL carry you through it. God would not call us to do something and leave us to figure it out alone. Because I let myself love with my whole heart knowing that my time with these babies was limited, God has given me the ability to love even more. My heart is even more full of joy because of the goodbyes. So even though it would seem like constant goodbyes would cause a heart to be calloused, if you let God work through you, it becomes quite the opposite.

Love is always worth it.

I’m so blessed to be part of this ministry right now. God is breaking me apart in the best ways and teaching me what He meant when He called His people to care for the fatherless. And let me tell you, I think the fatherless are the cutest kids I’ve ever met.
Posted by Juan Strutton at 8:09 AM

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

How Are The New Babies Doing?

One month ago Coral Arely and "unnamed baby boy" joined our GBH family. Within the first hour we named our baby boy, Mateo Andrés, meaning strong gift from God. Weighing in at just over nine pounds we knew this two-month-old must have a deep inner strength in order to have persevered through his first turbulent weeks of life.

Having both arrived sick, Coral improved with care and medication in the first week. Mateo got worse before he got better. Struggling with reflux, and a bad cold that came with a horrible cough, he had our team busy nursing him to health while remaining fervent in prayer. Just in the last few days he has turned a corner and is beginning to look, sound, and act like a healthy baby boy.

Coral and Mateo are now very comfortable with their new surroundings, routines, and caregivers.

18-month-old Coral is thriving in an environment that includes constant attention, eye-contact, and communication. Once she learned that we were listening, she started communicating back to us. Though we know her babbling has definite meaning, we gave her the tools of sign language to communicate some basic needs. She is so excited to get a reaction from her signs that sometimes she will do two or three at once.

Mateo is in a rapid growth spurt. Once he started feeling better and keeping his food down, it is as if he is trying to catch up to his 4 weeks of being premature all at once. He smiles, coos, makes eye contact, and is easily soothed by a warm embrace and tender care. These are all excellent milestones.

Please continue to keep these two new little ones in your prayers. Though their road to physical and emotional healing has begun, we realize that it is a long one, and only possible with God.

Posted by Juan Strutton at 8:22 PM

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Saying Good-bye

How do you emotionally let go of the babies after you have loved and cared for them with your whole heart? This is one of our most frequently asked questions.

The short answer is... God's Grace. It is only by His grace that we are able to cuddle them tightly while holding on to them loosely. But as our staff was studying 1 Samuel this past week, we were able to make some parallels between Hannah saying good-bye to Samuel, and ourselves saying good-bye to our babies. The timing of this study was divinely fitting as we had to say good-bye to our precious Dani just a few days later.

Samuel was conceived after Hannah poured out her heart to God in prayer and made a promise that if He gave her a son she would give him to The Lord all the days of his life. After Samuel was weaned she fulfilled her vow and brought Samuel to the House of The Lord - not with tears and anguish, but with a huge sacrifice, worship, and an amazing prayer that begins with, "my heart rejoices in The Lord". It was through prayer that Samuel came into her life and through prayer that she left him at the temple.

From the moment our babies enter our doors, we begin praying for their forever family. We know that when we pray these prayers, we pray according to God’s will, as He is the creator of the family and His word states, “God sets the lonely in families.” Based on her recorded prayer life, Hannah's prayers were most certainly not limited to the ones we read in Scripture. She likely prayed for Samuel's future every time she nursed him. Just as her prayers prepared her heart to trust God with her son's future, our prayers prepare our hearts to trust God with our babies' futures.

Hannah is acutely aware that Samuel came to her by God's strong hand; The Lord had closed her womb and The Lord opened her womb. When she left her son at the temple she could confidently place him back into the strong hand from which he came. When our babies come through the door it is because God's strong hand has defended them and brought them to safety. When He asks for them back, we are confident that they go straight into that same hand.

When Hannah rejoices in The Lord it doesn't mean that she won't miss her son, or be sad to say good-bye. It just means that her desire to see God's will demonstrated in the future of her son is greater than any sadness she may feel. Similarly, whether He chooses to place them with biological family or adoptive family, we rejoice when one of our babies gets to go “home”. It doesn't mean that we aren't sad, won't miss them, or don't cry. It means that our desire to see them in a family is greater than our sadness.

I guess that's the long answer;)

Here are a few photos from Friday when we placed Dani back into the strong hand of her Defender and He carried her to her new family.
We pack a few bags including practical items and sentimental items. Some sentimental items include her dedication certificate, her blessing box, her God's Promises to Dani frame, her footprint, a photo album, her crib toy, artwork, and a few favorite toys. We also include an adult and a children's Bible with a personal inscription inside each one.

Dani ready to go and dragging her bags to the door.

Tio Juan carrying Dani out to the car of the DIF (social services).
And she is off to meet her new family!

As a side note: One of the things we told the DIF is that Dani would do well with siblings. Also based on her love for dogs, we started praying that her new home would have a dog. The social worker informed us that her new family included a big brother AND a dog. God is good.
Posted by Juan Strutton at 11:29 AM

Friday, November 15, 2013

Home For Christmas?

Families are God's idea and His design. At GBH we understand God's plan is best. Though we can pour all of our love, time and resources into caring for our babies, we cannot give them the sense of belonging that comes with having a mommy and daddy. For this reason, we pray for "forever families" EVERYDAY for our babies.

Psalm 68:6 says that God sets the lonely in families. True to His word, God has heard and is answering our prayers. Currently Maria, Daniela, and Jesus are in the adoption process with the social services. It is our prayer that these precious little ones celebrate this Christmas in their new homes.

Still to be completed are the selection of families, many appointments, and much paperwork. But we know that if it is God's timing and His will, nothing is impossible for Him. Please join us in this prayer; that Maria, Daniela and Jesus would be Home For Christmas.

Posted by Juan Strutton at 8:20 PM

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Baby Dream Dinners

All our babies come with a history of early trauma of some sort. One very important component to their healing is nutrition. Appropriate quantities of vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, proteins, complex carbohydrates, and fiber are essential to the healing process and brain development.

One of our missionaries, Donna Werdenie, has spent time researching and understanding this relationship between nutrition, brain growth, and healing - particularly in relation to early trauma. She has carefully planned and constructed meal plans for optimal brain development.

Using recipes that are both delicious and baby-friendly, Donna spends her Saturdays cooking and preparing meals for the following week. Her ingredients are fresh and organic (when possible). Baby-sized portions are dished into containers, labeled, and placed in the freezer. The weekly meal plan is posted on the fridge where our GBH team can easily read and follow it.

Someone commented that our system was a lot like “Dream Dinners”. I guess you could call it “Baby Dream Dinners”:)

Posted by Juan Strutton at 11:34 AM

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


Many ask about immunizations and what that process looks like for our babies here in Mexico. First of all, health care in general is very different to what we are accustomed to in the States. This is one of many areas we are still navigating through, learning as we go. However, out of necessity we have walked through the immunization process many times and feel like we understand the protocol.

In the States we schedule our "well baby visits" around a vaccination schedule. Every month to two months during the first years of our babies' lives we pack up the diaper bag and head to the pediatrician's office. There our babies' progress and growth are measured, the doctor addresses any concerns, and nervous moms are reassured. On the way out the door our babies receive their vaccinations, often with a dose of Tylenol so as not to experience any discomfort in the next few hours. Those visits are followed up by a phone call from the nurse or doctor himself, checking in to see how our babies are doing after their shots. 

At Grace Babies' Home, when we get a new baby we work with our Mexican Director, Martin Castro, to obtain the baby's Seguro Social (social security/public health ID number). With that number, we are able to take the baby to the Centro de Salud (public health center), which is located next to the general hospital. 

Once inside the Centro de Salud we poke our heads into the small room where the vaccinations take place to let them know we are there. They immediately recognize us and move us to the front of the list. On this particular day there were five newborns in front of us when we arrived.

We wait in a multipurpose waiting room in the furthest seat away from the 40 others waiting to see a doctor. This photo is only about 1/4 of the waiting room. The rest was full. We waited about a half hour before they called us in.

Once in the room the nurses work efficiently to administer the shots and record what was given. A date is given for our return.

At this visit Santiago also received a TB vaccination in his arm. This is something new for us as this particular vaccination is not given in the States and is followed by a reaction that leaves a nasty scar.

We understand that around the globe many children die of diseases that are preventable with vaccinations. While our experience is different than in the States, we are grateful that our babies do have vaccinations available to them.


Posted by Juan Strutton at 1:58 PM

Saturday, June 29, 2013

New Arrivals

Two of our most frequently asked questions are: "Where do the babies come from?" and, "What is the process for bringing a new baby into your home?'  On Wednesday, seven-month-old Santiago and nine-month-old Amelia joined our GBH family. We would like to use their arrival to answer those questions.

When we have funding and trained staff in place (1:2 baby to adult ratio and $500 committed monthly financial support per baby), we let our Mexican Director, Martin Castro, know that we are ready for more babies. Martin then works with the DIF (Mexican Social Services) to coordinate which babies will come and when. All our babies come through the DIF.

The DIF will set up a time to bring the babies to us, or Martin will pick them up from the central shelter where they are currently being housed. 

When they arrive we offer a bottle so that their tummies are full and we can start them on a feed-wake-sleep schedule. This all happens very slowly, allowing time to take in their new environment, new sounds, and new friends.

New babies are given their own white board where we will keep notes of their daily lives for the rest of their stay at GBH. 

There can be up to forty babies at one time in the DIF shelter. For them to keep accurate records and identify them correctly, they wear wrist bands at all times. We cut the bands off and save them in their file.

GBH Director, Juan Strutton, reads through the file on each baby. If any changes in care are required, he notifies the staff, otherwise the file remains private.
Babies are weighed and measured. A growth chart is started.

Babies are carefully and tenderly bathed. Crazy, fun, splashing baths are a ways off yet:)

We try to get medical attention within the first 48 hours of the babies' arrival. KT is a bilingual pediatric nurse practitioner, who is amazing. She explains anything we may medically be unsure of and helps us get the babies on the road to health and wellness.

On this particular visit we had a brief lecture on respiratory issues, an explanation on all the meds that were prescribed before their arrival, a hands on lesson in how to work our nebulizer, as well as a written "if-then" plan for step-by-step asthma treatment. Phew!

Amelia and Santiago arrived Wednesday. They are already showing signs of improvement in their health. As they start to feel better, their personalities begin to emerge. Santiago is generally a happy little guy. Amelia is quiet and very sweet. Both share an undeniable resemblance to the image of their Maker. Thank you for keeping these two new little ones in your prayers.
Posted by Juan Strutton at 4:28 PM

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