We stayed at a humble home for the duration of our stay in Tijuana; right next door to the orphanage that about 45 beautiful children call home.
When I "signed up" to go to Tijuana, I knew that we would be spending time at the orphanage and, in my mind, I had lots of ideas of what is was going to be like.
I imagined that I would see sad children; not very socialized. I imagined that they would have "raggedy" clothing and that they would probably be dirty. I imagined that these children would need my love and attention and all the hugs that I planned to give them.
My perceptions could not have been more wrong.
What we saw were children: happy, smiling, playing, and very friendly. They were dressed in nice clothing and they were very clean; they showered every day. And while the kids eagerly accepted the love and hugs that they were given, they were not short on love.
Through my "Tijuana Trilogy" I wanted to share with you where I saw the Light of Jesus; and even though I didn't think I would find much of anything uplifting at the orphanage, it's where the love of God is dwelling and where his Light is shining brightly.
Enrique and Lupe, a young couple with two young children themselves, run the orphanage. Just in the past year, Eduardo (he has three orphanages in Tijuana) was able to get them a mobile home that sets right by the orphanage; this allows them a little bit of their own family time and a place to "get away" when they do get a day off.
Enrique and Lupe have given their lives for the children of Mexico; most of the children, we learned, are not adoptable. The children end up in this orphanage because their parents can't afford to feed them and take care of them for various reasons, but they don't give up their rights to the children. For many, as soon as they are old enough, their parents take them back home so that they can start working to help support the family.
Enrique and Lupe, with the help of their 3 or 4 other employees, teach them about Jesus in tangible and intangible ways. They teach the children about God's great love for them in their actions and their words. They give so much and they don't expect anything in return.
I was humbled by the way Enrique and Lupe love these children even though, on so many levels, they are being taken advantage of. But God's love and his light are in this couple and they don't ask why, they just love - unconditionally. And the children love them - they LOVE them!
I left Tijuana ready to get home to hug and love on my own kids; but it was so hard to walk away. The kids are so easy to fall in love with - and a part of my heart will always be there with them. I pray that God calls me to Tijuana again; but if he doesn't, I look forward to the day I'm reunited with my "Tijuana Kids" in heaven.
On the way home my friend, Dori, asked me how I was going to describe my time in Tijuana in one sentence. After some thought, I said, "I expected to see despair but I saw hope."