Friday, July 8, 2011


It has officially been one week since I heard the news of Izzy passing away. A week of feeling like my heart has been split in two. A week of grief like I've never known it before. I miss her every moment of every day and I am still struggling to believe she is really gone. I loved that little one with every ounce of my being. I'm sure I failed her at times and that I didn't do everything right but I can promise you that I I loved her to the best of my ability.

A few months ago I came into contact with a girl because some art work she had made for a friend. I've never had the privilege of meeting her but during the past few months we have e mailed back and forth about a project she was going to do for me. During that time we have gotten to know each other on a deeper level. Today after hearing about Izzy she sent me the sweetest e mail......her words meant the world to me. She never got to meet Izzy.....heck she hasn't even met me. Yet God used her to touch my heart today and help me along in this grieving process....

"I am SO very glad you shared this with me... I can't even begin to imagine how heartbroken you must be. I don't know how you functioned there once learning the awful news, and I don't know how you're functioning at work for 12+hours at a time, as you cope with such a profound loss. I am so, so sorry, Ashley...

What a priceless series of gifts you have given Isabel in the "extension" of life God gave her--through you! I'm sure that if she'd been able to relay any messages to you on this trip, she would have wanted to thank you:
--for BEING IN HONDURAS, in the first place, when you could've been many other places...
--for FINDING her there in that village, and stopping to acknowledge her & reach out to her. I wonder how many people had previously seen/walked by her, yet left her there to die...
--for SEEING her for who she was: precious...sought after...and LOVED!
--for RESCUING her from what would've been a horrible, lonely death in that mountain village, years ago...
--for BELIEVING she could be helped--and for facilitating that precious process!
--for BEING WITH her, there in the, to warm her heart...after such a long & isolated time of suffering silently where she'd been before...
--for PROVIDING for her physical needs, starting with medical care to help her frail little body grow stronger...
--for ADOPTING her as your own, giving her a true sense of identity...of belonging...and her first glimpse of God's love and tender care...
--for BEING HER TRUE MOTHER, nurturing her and showing her the opposite of what her biological "mother" had done...
--for STRUGGLING through the decision of what was best for Isabel, loving her unselfishly so that you gave her what was best for ISABEL, even when it meant an excruciating decision for YOU to have to leave her in others' care...
--for the EXTENSION OF LIFE you gave her as a result of your decision, allowing her body to keep healing/growing instead of giving her a setback by taking her to an all-new environment with other physical/medical risks.
--for the SUFFERING you endured, dealing with a huge hole in your own heart as you returned to the States without her, so that you could give her heart a chance to keep healing, miles away...
--for GIVING her the most priceless gift of knowing she is loved...through the years you cared for her & the stability you provided her, when all she'd known prior to that was abandonment and decline...

I will pray for you, Ashley, as you continue to process such a painful, devastating loss, and as you remember all those days and years with your precious little girl. I'll pray, too, that satan won't "beat you up" with any of the "what if's" and "if only's" he loves to taunt us with. God gave Isabel AND you a precious gift in one another. Hang on tight to those incredibly rich memories, and know that you made a PROFOUND difference in her little life!!! I know she made a difference in yours, too."

Thank you Rachel for your sweet sweet words. They touched my heart more than I could even begin to tell you.

For those of you who have never heard the story of Isabel I'm posting it below in 3 parts.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Isabel - part one

The story of finding Isabel:
Living in Honduras I have witnessed a lot of things that lacked in the justice department. I've seen things that would make grown men break and sob. I've experienced things that I thought were surely the greatest acts of injustice in the entire world. However, when we found Isabel (March 11th 2008) I knew that injustice had taken on a whole new meaning for me. A friend of ours (Carlos) runs a daycare center in Teguc called Jen to ask her to go with him to deliver food to a starving family in a village near us. Shortly after they left Jen called to say that they were on their way back but needed me to warm up some water and find something that would serve as a bathtub. Upon their arrival at the house they had found a little girl that was so malnourished that she was literally starving to death. Jen was bringing her back to Casa to get cleaned up and then planned to make the long overdue trip to the hospital with her. Just as I was about to hang up the phone I heard Jen's voice barely whisper the words "Ash this is worse than anything I've seen here."

Let me just say that nothing could have prepared me for the site that I was about to see. Jen walked through the door carrying a tiny little bundle that was unmistakably a baby from the wails that could be heard from miles away. Wails that screamed of injustice and pain. We headed straight for Jen's shower where I had set up our make shift bathtub. As Jen began unwrapping the blanket I felt my heart drop and my stomach turn at the site before my eyes. I managed to lift my gaze. I found the rush of emotions that were gripping my heart staring back at me as my eyes met Jen's. Knowing the time for tears and breaking down would come later I allowed myself to look past what I was seeing and meet the needs of the little one Jen was placing in my arms.

We managed to get her changed and wrapped up in a clean blanket. Within minutes after I found myself sitting in the car cradling that same bundle and staring down into the eyes of a little one I would quickly fall completely in love with. As we drove to town Jen helped me piece together the rest of the story that I had yet to put together. The bundle in my arms was four year old Maria Isabell. (we call her Isabell) She and her brother, sister, and cousin were living with their grandmother just outside of Ojojona. The mom had abandoned them months before when her new boyfriend said he didn't want kids. From there the Grandmother (who isn't all there) struggled to find money for food and medicines that were necessary to keep her grand kids healthy. Isabell was by far the worst. She had begun having seizures off and on about four months ago and continued to have them in my arms as we rushed her to the Emergency room.

Once there we learned that she weighed only 19 pounds....4 years old and 19 pounds. They hooked her up to an IV and we soon saw a doctor. However, answers were few and far between. Priority became getting fluids in here and getting her stable. Getting her belly full and her strength back was far more important than dealing with the seizures that came off and on or the distorted/deformed way her body had become over the past months. Her hunger pains had sent her into the fetal position. The fact that no one had touched/moved her for days on end had allowed her muscles to disintegrate and the skin literally just hangs from her legs.

Not willing to let her spend a night in the hospital alone I volunteered to stay the night with her. I spent the night massaging her feet. She LOVES having her feet rubbed. (oh yes ME touching feet! ....God does have a sense of humor) I've decided that it is one of the few places that people can touch without causing her great pain and she really just longs to be touched. Every time she would cry (which was often) I would be by her side singing or talking of the days ahead when we would be playing tag, singing together, giggling, and doing all the normal things that 4 year olds were made to do.

Let me just say that those late night hours bonded us on a level that I didn't know could exist after such a short amount of time. By middle of the night she was drinking water and able to swallow again. Around 2 a.m. she had the last seizure and by morning her eyes were brighter, her body was a little stronger, and she was beginning to develop a little bit of an attitude. We spent the night and today bending, flexing, and moving her limbs the best I could. She still prefers to keep them curled up and bent the way we found her but they have each at some point been stretched all the way out so we know it is possible. We also treated her head for lice and may have managed to kill half of them. (she had a head FULL of lice)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Isabel - part 2

Falling in love with her:

From the moment we found her, Isabel’s progress was more of a roller coaster ride than I could have ever imagined. For every step forward we took it felt like we took two steps back. I watched her grow and change so much. She began making eye contact and holding it. She learned to lift her head and role from side to side. We worked with her arms and legs non stop until her muscles became comfortable in a normal position. We definitely walked some miles together......especially in those first few days. I could tell you what the names of every med she was on and when she needed to take it. Heck I even knew what they each smelled like. I knew which meds she hated and that you had to mix them with something else to get her to take it at all. I knew the stubborn gleam she gots in her eye that meant she wasn't going to do anything you wanted her to until she decided to. I knew what her mad cry sounded like...her hurt cry...her scared cry. I knew every scar, bump, bruise, and speck on her little body. I learned quickly that she liked her hair played with when she was going to sleep and her feet rubbed when she was hurting. I knew that she loves the color red and found music/singing to be soothing. When she was in the hospital they would bring each of her meals on one tray and a meal for me on a second tray...the card on my tray always said "para la mama." (for the mom). All the nurses (whom I knew the names of as well as most of their life stories by the time we left) referred to me as Isabel's mom and talked to Isabel about her momma (me!). I loved her...she was mine in every way I know how to say it. Heck while she was in the hospital she needed a blood transfusion and when it came time for it all eyes (of the doctors) turned to me to give the blood for it. I of course rolled up my sleeve and stuck out my arm. I would have given it all to her if it is what she needed. So you know that saying flesh and blood...we were well on our way!:) For those of you who don't know me so well let me just say I HATE NEEDLES! I'm a baby ...plain and simple.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Isabel - part 3

Making her truly mine.

After spending nearly 6 weeks in the hospital fighting for Isabel’s life the doctors released her and we began the fight to make her mine. After fighting INHFA (Honduras social service) friends of mine volunteered to go pick up a social worker and bring her out to where I was. I spent hours tracking down the mother as well as every receipt, photo, or document that I could find to prove that she was better in my care and that the family could never afford to pay for her health care. The mother had agreed to meet us to discuss Isabel’s care.

Once we got to the grandma’s house I realized that I had brought with me my own personal Honduran entourage. I said very little… only role seemed to be standing in the background holding my sweet Izzy. Yet I wouldn't have missed it for the world. I felt like a fly on the wall as I watched it all play out before me. Have you ever prayed over one thing with specifics that you so badly want to specifically that you've imagined it happening that way a million times in your head? That was how that day went for me. I felt like God asked me to write a detailed list of what I wanted to see happen and then He made sure to bring to life all of the things I wrote on paper. It was a reminder that we can pray about things until we are blue in the face and ask God for 100 things...but unless those things line up with His will they aren't going to happen like we want. More than that it was like God was telling me I've been doing the right thing. That it was all falling into place because it was His will.

We got to the house and the mother was there as anticipated. The social worker and lawyer we had brought along went right to work. They started talking to the mom and grandmother explaining who they were and what organization they worked with. As the mom started to fight saying that Izzy doesn't need medical attention my friend (who happens to be a doctor) stepped in and made it known that in his professional opinion she wouldn't live if she didn't receive help. The social worker then ever so gently informed the mom that, with or without her consent, INHFA could take Izzy from them. Things went rather smoothly after that. Before too long we were in a car and headed to town to pick up Izzy's medical records from before we found her. We then went to make copies of all the paperwork/pictures/etc that I had as well as the medical stuff. After that they actually sat and typed up the authorization paper for the mom to sign in front of the lawyer saying she was handing over her rights to INHFA....who then drafted papers saying they are handing her over to me. They simply wanted to provide a buffer between the mom and I in case she decides at some point she is going to change her mind. From there we went to another office and they drafted a birth certificate on the spot. (she has never had a birth certificate and never been registered...makes me wonder what this countries population really is if they have all kinds of babies who aren't registered) All of her documents from before said her birthday was Jan. 12, 2004. However, her birth certificate now says Jan. 2, 2005. So somewhere in those 6 weeks I had her she has lost a year of her life. I walked away that day with her complete medical history, the paper with the mother's signature saying she is giving up all rights, the 2 original copies of her birth certificate, and most importantly....Izzy still in my arms. My heart called her mine from the second I met her but that day it was like everyone else was acknowledging it too.

Friday, July 1, 2011


Today was an up and down battle emotionally for our team here in Honduras. Our first stop of the day was to the special needs orphanage. When we arrived we were told some devastating news. The girl Ashley had been telling me about all week, Izzy, had became ill and had passed away. Even though I had never met this girl I knew she had to be absolutely amazing from just listening to Ashley talk about her with such love and admiration. While at the orphanage all of us had some great experiences with the children. Their smiles and laughter are some of the most amazing things here in Honduras. The boys spent the night again last night so they were with us all day again!

After the first orphanage we went to the Dump. The Dump here in Tegucigalpa you have to see to believe. Hundreds of people live, and I do mean live in the dump. Our goal today was to feed some of them. As you drive towards the dump the scenery goes from sad to heartbreaking as you see men, women, and children in conditions you never thought possible. As we drove in we had to have people guard the food on the back of the truck so that it was not taken. When we got to a crowded spot we had the kids stay in the van as we got out to great the masses. The man in charge of the feeding is Mark Tindel. He works at Casa de Esperanza and at least once a week comes to the dump to feed. We passed out beans, rice, tortillas, and water to the people at the dump. Mike and I were in charge of passing out the water and it went fast. I got down to just one pouch and my goal was simple, give the last bit of water we had to a child. Two people came towards me, a man with a machete, and a little girl with a smile. I don’t even have to tell you who ended up with that water.

After leaving the dump we went to the Mother Theresa Orphanage. This place had some amazing kids. Daniel quickly made a new friend who wouldn’t part from his shadow. And his name was Daniel too! Steve also connected with a child, Kenny. They were inseparable all afternoon! One of the nuns there pointed out a small girl, Jacqueline who was shying away from our group. She was such a sweet little girl! The nun told me that when I leave the little girl would cry. But it didn’t take that long because as soon as anyone but me touched her she started bawling. Luckily Hines was there to help me calm her down. Side note, she also covered me in warm strawberry milk.

Our busy day continued when we went to the Jesus statue at one of the highest points of the city. From there we got to see a storm roll in and the view was breath taking. We then had to run back to the car to beat the storm and luckily we all made it back before the storm came.

Our final trip of the day was to KFC where we took the kids from Casa de Esperanza for dinner. Those kids are quite possibly the most energetic children I’ve ever associated with. The KFC has a soccer field in it so Daniel and I got to play some soccer with the kids! There were some sad goodbyes as we left KFC though.

In closing please keep Ashley in your prayers tonight as well as anyone else whose life was changed through Izzy.

(Written by team member: Corey Bryant)

Maria Isabel

My Dearest Izzy,
God may not have knit you together in my womb but He certainly carved out a special space for you in my heart. And although I didn't labor for hours to bring you into this world we certainly walked a lot of long and hard miles together. Even when it felt like the entire world was against us I refused to give up on you because I knew in the depths of my heart that you were worth fighting for. I cried a lot of tears, prayed a lot of prayers, and picked a lot of fights on your behalf.....and it was all worth it. Even this pain that I now carry in my heart is worth even a second of the time that God granted us. I will never understand how God chooses what two hearts to bond together but I will be forever grateful that He picked your heart for mine. Your gentle disposition, your stubborn nature, your fighting spirit.....I will forever cherish all of the little things that made you my little princess. To the world you may have been disabled but to me you were perfect. I selfishly long for 5 more minutes to squeeze you close....but I know you are finally at peace. All of Heaven gets to delight in your presence as you skip, jump, laugh, play, and breath deeply for the first time. I imagine you there now singing with a whole choir of angels and taking long walks.....hand in hand with Jesus. I love you my precious girl and I thank you for the ways you freed this heart of mine. Your momma misses you deeply......