Introduction by Nathan’s Mother:
I get very tired when I go to Peru. This year was my 4th trip and Nathan’s 2nd to the orphanage called Hogar Sagrada Familia (Home of the Sacred Family). Last year I got extremely ill from, what I have to believe was, food poisoning. This year, I had decided that we would take a year off from our Peru trip. I told Nathan that I was scheduling him for a week of Point Guard College training and we were taking the year off. Additionally he had a tournament at the end of the week. Nathan promptly told me that, not only were we going but, he would give up basketball before giving up the trip to see the kids. So off we went to Peru. I can’t begin to tell you how glad I am now to have gone again and how proud I am of Nathan for helping to make that call. I don’t want to steal any more of Nathan’s thunder so I will let him tell the story.
July is typically a very busy month for select basketball. Why would I take off during the middle of the busiest tournament month in basketball? Well there are about 900 reasons and they all live outside of Lima, Peru. My mother and sister had gone to Peru before. They had come back exhausted and teary eyed talking about their experiences and how much they missed the kids. It was those stories that made me want to go the first time and the relationships I formed that made me go again.
My sister at Hogar Sagrada Familia:
Peru is in the southern hemisphere so when it is warm here it is cool there. While it is very humid and damp around Lima, it rarely rains. The ground is bare rocks and dirt. It is a shock to transition from the wealth of central Texas to the poverty that surrounds Lima especially the outskirts where Hogar Sagrada Familia is located.
We are required to stay in a safe area at night and travel to and from the orphanage every day. We travel on older buses and it is 1.5 to 2 hours each way over rough and bumpy roads. On the way to the orphanage, our first day, we were moving slowly through traffic. I noticed a man walking across a dirt field and barely able to walk. I watched as the man fell flat on his face. He laid there a moment, grabbed a handful of dirt and let it fall from his hands, then slowly pulled himself up to continue his struggle. I also watched as family dug through a trash pile looking for food. It left a lasting impression.
To give you a feel for the orphanage, the kids are obviously very poor and starved for love. Our visit is one of the highlights of their year. They all work together to make the orphanage work hand washing clothes and letting them hang dry, preparing meals, etc. The orphanage is run by a very special man named Miguel who, after losing his son, began bringing kids off of the street. The number of kids has grown to 900 and, once you are a member of the family, you are a member for life. The kids arrive in lots of different ways being brought by relatives, friends, police, etc. Depending on the age of the kids when they arrive, it can be very sad as they realize that this is their new permanent home. For other kids, this is a paradise compared to the life that they had been living. While the situation could certainly be construed as sad, the family here chooses to be happy. They are happier than most people who have everything by comparison.
The first day at the orphanage, I stopped by the baby casa to see my mom. There are 40 babies there starved for attention and love. The familiar sound of “ah mi (and me)” is present almost all this time. This is the babies saying me too, please. They want a hug or a drink or a smile or a piece of orange…. whatever is being passed around at the time. I should probably mention that there are a very few and very special group of people who help at this orphanage all the time. One such woman runs the baby casa and it is no coincidence that her name is Santa (Saint). From morning till night she is giving medicine, cooking meals, changing diapers…whatever is needed. It takes a very special person to do what she does and very few people will ever be able to appreciate how special she is.
Santa – A Saint!
In the casa, a little girl spotted me and initially would not tell me her name. Once I picked her up, however, it was over. There was no way she was letting go of me.
No getting rid of her. What a cutie!
Please don’t go: Every day when we leave, the children beg us not to go.
The group that I worked with this year was a great group of 10 year old boys. They are a happy rowdy bunch. I am not sure who enjoyed who more. While I was very impressed with their soccer play, they seemed equally impressed with my basketball handling.
A group of kids in the area around the orphanage:
As I sit here now and reflect on the trip a few things come to mind:
1st. While there is certainly sad situations and extreme poverty at the orphanage, the people there choose to be happy. The love, joy, and laughter there make it a truly special place. It reminds me that it is not our wealth or stuff that brings happiness. It is the choices we make and the relationships we form. And we have a lot of stuff.
2nd. I went there to lift the spirits of some very special kids but I think the results were exactly the opposite. They lifted mine.
3rd. I did not write this to ask for your help but the kids there do need help. I hope that you may choose to give to the kids at Hogar Sagrada Familia but, if you don’t, I hope you will find a place to give. You can go to http://www.olivebranchministriesinternational.com/mission_trips.html (http://www NULL.olivebranchministriesinternational NULL.com/mission_trips NULL.html) to start.
4th. Life is precious. If you go to the website above, you will notice that Scott Zapalac is listed at the bottom of the website as the director of Olive Branch. It is with extreme sadness that I let you know Scott was killed Saturday in a car accident in Peru doing what he loved…helping others. God bless you Scott. And may he bring a very very special blessing to your family.
5th. Going to the orphanage instead of playing basketball was one of the easiest decisions that I have ever made. I hope that I will never let unimportant things get in the way of the truly important ones and I hope that I will always stay close to the friends I have made there.
Thank you for reading my story.