Thursday, January 17, 2008

a year

Even as I type that title the words seem foreign and out of place when talking about this place. I sat staring at those two small words for minutes before I could even begin typing this....and even now I'm not exactly sure what I'm going to say. How do I sum up in one blog the emotional, spiritual, and sensual journey of these past 365 days? I have official passed the one year anniversary of my travels to this beautiful country and am now beginning into my second year here. In some ways time has flown and yet in other moments I feel like I have been here for my entire life. Either way one thing has remained the passion for this place and these children that I call my own. It seems surreal to think a year ago I walked in here thinking I would be in and out after just 3 1/2 months. Yet here I am. As I allow my brain to take a walk down memory lane snippets of the past year play before as if being displayed on a movie screen. I can see the airport that first day I walked off the plane. I hadn't heard back from anyone at Casa for about a week so was uncertain if anyone would be there waiting for me or not. I had assured my mom that someone would certainly be there and if not I would figure SOMETHING out. Yet as I walked out into the sea of tan faces I was not to be let down, there was Jen and Kay Grose ready to greet me with a smile and a hug. From there my memory takes me to the drive home where we ran into two boys on the street working for money. I thought Jen was going to send me through the windshield as she slammed on her breaks in order to introduce me to her two friends Brayan and Rudy. They were the first two Honduran children I had the privilege of meeting and will always hold a special spot in my heart. I remember driving down the lane and seeing Casa for the very first time. I remember the swarm of kids that greeted me even before I could set my first foot on the ground. From there I remember countless nights of being awaken by soft cries or little bodies being pressed up against mine in search of a safe haven from their countless nightmares. To this day I still hold to my belief that it was that first month I spent living in the room with the girls that bonded my heart to theirs so much more than the boys. Don't get me wrong I LOVE my boys and every second I am with them but if I'm being completely honest it was the girls that first stole my heart. I remember struggling with the language barrier. So many nights would find me snuggled in my bed crying out to God why the heck he brought me to a country where I couldn't understand them and where my gift for gab seemed absolutely pointless. That slowly began to fade as the kids started teaching me more of their language. I'm no where near being fluent...I'm convinced that when I can go a whole day without hearing "no mommy it is said like this......" that I will be quite content with my abilities to communicate. In the mean time my spanish continues to improve and is actually more spanish than spanglish. I'm rambling....all about things most of you already know. So allow me to speed this along and share just a few more highlights of the past year. In March I received one of the greatest blessings I could have ever asked for when my dad stepped off the plane and spent a week with me here. At Easter time the Belpre Church group came down and I had my first experience working with a team and I LOVED it. I built my first house with Jody, handed out food bags, went to the Blind School and Hospital Escuela, visited the Jesus Statue and so much more. During that week I met and adopted myself into the Laughery family and wonders of all wonders they welcomed me in with open arms. While that group was here in April we ran into Brayan at the state orphanage and found out that he and Rudy (who had been sent to another center) weren't on the streets anymore. From there it was an uphill battle that we would eventually win to be able to bring them home to Casa once and for all. Which brings me to my next snippet...the addition of 6 more children. Some how in the process of getting Brayan and Rudy we were convinced to take 4 more. I will never forget Jen turning to look at me when the Judge brought in some of the saddest faces and stories I had heard. I knew that there was no way we were walking out of that office without those new faces...and we didn't. In the weeks to come we may have doubted our decision and I feel certain other people doubted us but I'm happy to say that today things are running smoothly and those sad stories have been given a happier ending. In May my best friend Colby came down to stay with me for a whole month. Talk about spoiled I was on cloud nine the entire 4 weeks! It was in those 4 weeks that we met 2 boys who came down expecting to build a garden and instead built friendships with us that have only grown stronger with the passing weeks since then. Right after that summer really hit and we began seeing group after group come in. It was during those months that I met and fell in love with some of the best people God has ever placed on this earth. Sam, Anna, JT, Donna, Jeff, Erica, Karen, Devon, and the list goes worked your way into the deepest places of my heart and I thank God for you daily. In June my momma came to visit and continued with the spoiling affect that having my worlds collide seemed to have on me. At the end of the summer I had a chance to return home and do a a TON of fundraising. While home Gina and her .....correction...our Mommy came to visit for 2 weeks! After my long break away I returned to my kiddos and life here. December brought the Malone team and Christmas. I know I skipped lots and could never hit it all. I purposely left out the Luvin parts and promise to sit down and devote time to a separate blog just for that. Adding it in the midst of all this doesn't seem to do it justice. There are other memories that fall somewhere in the jumble as well ....Monica breaking her leg, the first time one of the kiddos vomited and I had to clean it, the time Katty vomited during Colby's first few days here and watching Colby deal with that so beautifully, (oh how fun it is to remember that!) Santos's death, and the list goes on. However, I couldn't sum up the year if I didn't dedicate a section of this simply to the sisterhood I have found here. Jen didn't let me down that first day in the airport and she hasn't since that day either. It didn't take us long to realize that our hearts were cut from the same mold. She is my I need to talk and I am her I'm here to listen. God knew that we would need each other...not just in this place but in life. He decided not to just give me a new friend but a sister. Then as if that wasn't enough he completed the sisterhood by giving us Gina. We are the weirdest set of 3 amigos I've ever seen....but it is what makes us work. We are friends and above that we are family. They are home for me when home in every other sense of the word is thousands of miles away. They are my safe place, my haven, and my comfort. So yea....a year. I'm not sure I've done it justice. Yet I feel certain that I never truly could with simple words and imagery. Thank you to each of you that have played a part in my being here this past year. No matter if you gave money, prayed, offered kind words of encouragement, visited, sent letters/packages/emails, etc. your efforts did not go unnoticed and were the very thing that gave me strength to continue on here. I love you all.


Anna said...

i love you so much ashley lauer! i am so glad God has placed you in my life. thank you for being the best friend and sister a girl could ever ask for. i thank God every time i remember you. i miss you! four months and twelve days!

Sam said...

I love you, and miss you! I am so glad that God placed you in my life this year, I cherish our friendship and can't wait to do life with you there for 5 months!! yay hooray! You are one awesome girl Ashley!

Phil. 1:3
Love you!

Jen said...

Well's a GOOD thing I don't have to say this to your face and can just sort of hide away behind this computer to say "those" things that wouldn't come without the river of tears that are running down my cheeks and are never spoken easily through them. You humble me Ash, you really do. In this ministry that has taken every ounce of us and then some, you have been faithful to walk alongside me and cheerlead when I needed you to speak and sit quietly when I just needed you to be near. You've given me space and chased off everyone else when I needed to bury my head in my pillow and cry and you have called in the calvary when you thought I needed my "peeps" to come running. You have understood when I needed to help the Luvin's of the world, and you have been honest when it was time to let them move on to get help elsewhere. You have shown up with me in hospitals where it reeked of death and my heart hurt so badly I had no idea what to do, but knew I didn't have to do it alone. You have gone with me to the judge's office and encouraged me to do what my heart told me to do regardless of what everyone else might think. You have listened when I needed to process and couldn't figure it out in my head. You've always prayed for me on "my day" and I have no doubt a million times other than that as you watched my heart struggle to do this all "right" while there never has been an easy way to do that.

I AM HONORED and I AM HUMBLED that God would allow your heart to cuddle up next to mine and form ties to it as my sister in this.

Beyond that dear one, you are a hero to my faith as I watch you walk this out passionately and always seeking His face. This is NOT easy and you hang with me, with us, with them, and I find myself hanging on too because you help remind me it's worth it.

I have NO idea how to say thank you for that.

May this one year you've devoted to Him multiply into the rest of your life lived in reckless abandon to whatever He calls you to do and may He honor you for every single sacrifice.

I love you beyond my ability to say so. Thank you for your kind words.