Friday, October 31, 2008

Friday's Featured Child

This Friday's Featured Child is actually 2 children - brothers Julio Cesar, 9, and Hector Estuardo, 17. Julio and Hector have lived at the home for approximately 6 years. The boys and their sister were brought to Casa Shalom's gate by the police the same night their parents and baby brother were murdered in a home invasion. Hector was wounded in the shooting and was brought to Casa Shalom with a bullet still lodged in his cheek. The director at the time took him to a plastic surgeon and praise God, Hector's scar is barely visible.

Hector is an absolute soccer fanatic and also enjoys drawing. Julio says that his favorite free-time activity is climbing Casa Shalom's fruit trees in search of hocotes (small, lime-like citrus fruits). As the boys have no family other than each other and their sister, having a sponsor would be a life-changing blessing for them and would help them believe that they are special and loved! If you are interested in sponsoring one (or maybe both!) of the boys, please contact us:

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Legal changes

It seems like the Guatemalan adoption system can't make up its mind - several months ago, the system was all but shut down due to the extensive corruption in the system. But recently, the courts make a decision that will greatly affect the lives of the kids at Casa Shalom. Many children who live here actually have parents or other relatives, but these relatives aren't able to financially take care of them. They live at Casa Shalom to ensure they'll have sufficient food and a safe place to live and receive an education. The Guatemalan court system sees this kind of kids as a drain on the system and has decided that children who could legally be with their relatives must either be returned to their families or they will be legally adoptable. This has already affected the kids of Casa Shalom - brothers Elias, 11, and Carlitos, 8, are at the orphanage because their parents are deceased and their adult siblings cannot afford to take care of them. Since this new law was passed, however, the adult siblings decided to remove the 2 boys from the home because they didn't want to risk the boys being adopted and taken away to the United States, never to be seen again by their family.

There are ups and downs to this new law - it will probably make it easier for families who are currently trying to adopt children from Casa Shalom. But it will be hard to watch kids leave, not knowing if their families will be able to care for them as we do here at Casa Shalom. Please keep these kids in your prayers and pray that the Lord continues to watch over them, whether at Casa Shalom or with their families.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wednesday Night Chapel

Every Wednesday night, all the residents of Casa Shalom gather to have a chapel service, led each time by a different group of kids. Tonight, each home performed a skit or a song. In the video above, the Luceros, the boys ages 6 - 9, perform a praise and worship song dressed as butterflies and birds. In the video below all the kids sing "Jesus isn't dead, he's alive! Jesus isn't dead, he's alive! I feel Him in my hands, I feel Him in my feet, I feel Him in all of me!" As you can see at the end of the second video, Director Jorge Mario isn't about to be outdone by the kids!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A closed door

We had a disappointing experience today - we went with Edwin, one of the oldest residents of Casa Shalom, to the American Embassy, hopes high for him getting a tourist Visa to the United States. Edwin has lived at Casa Shalom since he was 9-years-0ld. He and his brother and sister moved to the orphanage after their mother abandoned the family (they never knew their father). He has grown up at the home and has showed a gift for leadership and academics - because of this, he's currently attending University and studying marketing and business. During his time at Shalom, he made the acquaintance of a businessman from the United States who has visited Casa Shalom 4 or 5 times, and he became close to the man and his family. The man offered to bring Edwin to the United States to study business with him and to improve his English skills. He made all the preparations, received his passport, but today, Edwin's Visa application was rejected.
The embassy said that he doesn't have enough ties to Guatemala to guarantee he'll leave the United States when his Visa expires. The U.S. government is suspicious that all working-age immigrants are trying to come to the United States to stay illegally and work. This obviously wasn't true in Edwin's case, but there was no convincing them of that.
While sitting in the waiting room for hours, waiting to see if Edwin would be accepted or rejected, we noticed a pattern - the nicely dressed, obviously wealthier people were sent to one line - the "accepted line." Those dressed in less-than-designer clothes, those in indigenous dress, extremely few of them made it into the "accepted" line. It was a real reality check for us. As North Americans, we have never given a thought to our ability to travel basically wherever we want. With the exception of maybe North Korea and Cuba, no country in the world would reject us. We have completely taken for granted our privileged status, our nice blue United States passports, our much-desired American dollars.
Please keep Edwin in your prayers as he deals with this disappointment. And remember to thank God for all that we have been given!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Hospice San Jose

Last week, we visited the Hospicio San Jose, a local hospice that serves HIV and AIDS patients. Nearly 40 of the children from the hospice attend school at Colegio Shalom - here in Guatemala, there exists a large amount of misinformation and poor education regarding the disease and how it is spread. Because of this, the children from the hospice weren't permitted to attend school anywhere and Colegio Shalom stepped up and allowed the children to receive an education at the orphanage. Seeing all the children affected by this illness was heartbreaking - but they greeting their English teacher with a smile and a hug! They ran, laughed, played and snacked on cookies like children in any other location - from their demeanor, you would never know that many of them are orphans and have little hope outside of the hospice. But we praise God for a home like Hospicio San Jose and for a school like Colegio Shalom that give these precious children the chance at a normal, happy life. The hospice doesn't allow visitors to take photos of the children, but enjoy photos of the home. Photos: 1 -One of the toddler's bedrooms, but the toddlers were playing outside!2 - Josh and Jessica pose with one of the San Jose psychologists in front of the altar at the chapel 3 - The teen boys rooms are covered with soccer posters 4 -Hospicio San Jose is currently building the largest genetics lab in Central America in order to further study the HIV/AIDS virus

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A blessing in mint green and red

Colegio Shalom was in bad need of a new coat of paint and a local seminary decided to bless the orphanage by buying paint and painting the school. All Friday evening and Saturday, students from the seminary worked to paint the inside of the school green and the outside red. They worked tirelessly until 2 in the morning!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Guatemalan Yard Sale

We've recently had several donations of adult-sized clothing. We can't use the clothes at Casa Shalom - most of the kids are pretty short and definitely skinny! So we organized all the clothes in the back of Shalom's pick-up truck today and parked it outside the home's gate. We sold each piece of clothing for 1 - 2 Quetzales (less than 25 cents). We don't have a grand total yet, but we sold hundreds of dresses, pants, shoes, and shirts - it adds up to much-needed money for the orphanage! In the midst of all the clothing chaos, the teen boys' house parents' little boy, Walter, climbed into the pick-up truck, half-buried himself in the clothes, and tried to sell the shoes right off his feet!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday's Featured Child

This Friday's Featured Child is Vincio Beb Salguero. I chose Vinicio, 13, as this Friday's Featured Child because I've never seen a child more eager to be sponsored. Nearly every day he asks me, "Jessica, have you found a sponsor for me yet?" And I always say, "Not yet, Vinicio, but I promise you it will be soon!" Vinicio is at Casa Shalom along with his younger brother and sister because his mother became a drug dealer to support his family. Some of you may remember that Vinicio's sister Colim was the Featured Child a few weeks ago - Vinicio, Colim, and their brother Marvin all still are greatly affected by the murder of their mother last Christmas, over a drug deal gone bad. Their mother, along with several aunts and cousins, were murdered by armed intruders during dinner and the 3 children survived by hiding under the kitchen table or diving out a window. Vinicio says that he really likes to take the teen boys' dog, Spike, on walks and that he enjoys listening to music in his free time. His favorite subject in school is English, although he may have just said that to get brownie points from his English teacher!

If you are interested in becoming the sponsor Vinicio has waited so long for, please email us at Your $30/month will help buy the food, medicine, school, supplies, doctor's visits, and other items Vinicio needs to grow into a healthy young man! And your letters will help show Vinicio that he is loved and cared for.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

English class isn't just for the kids!

While the kids of Casa Shalom are on a break from school until January, the adults are taking advantage of the English teacher's free time! Today, Jessica started a once-a-week English class for the staff of Casa Shalom - cooks, house parents, directors, guards - all adults are invited. Today, 9 adults and 2 children of the house parents studied greetings, adjectives and the verb "to be." They're so excited about the chance to better communicate with the North American groups that come to Casa Shalom.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

No children were harmed during this haircut

Despite the pained expression on Henry's face, this haircut actually wasn't painful. He's just mourning the loss of his shaggy hairdo! When the kids get a bit overgrown, Marina, one of the Colegio Shalom teachers who boards at Casa Shalom, take out her razor and cleans them up. A former hairdresser, she's happy to use her abilities to keep the kids of Casa Shalom looking their best. In the second photo, Wilson, Kevin, Brayan and Jose Ramiro wait their turn to get clipped.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The battle against las cucarachas

We at Casa Shalom are having quite a problem with las cucarachas - cockroaches! The 3 boys houses, no matter how clean the house mothers keep them, have a constant battle against the bugs. We've tried roach bait and roach spray, but they keep coming back. It has come down to the need to fumigate all 3 houses, but at 300 Quetzales per house (approximately $40), it's too expensive for the home to do. If you would be able to help pay for the fumigation of one or more of the houses, it would be a very practical blessing for Casa Shalom. If you are able to help the kids in this way, please contact us at:
Update: less than 2 hours after we posted the request, we have recieved a response from a family that is willing to take care of our unwanted "guests." Thanks Randy and Robin!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Happy Walls

The ladies of the team from Virginia that left this weekend spent their days giving the outside of the girls' and babies' house a fresh coat of paint and painting adorable murals on the walls of the living room and a bedroom. Their hard work paid off - the toddlers just love their new paintings. Photo 1 - Rhonda paints a sunshine on the bedroom wall 2 - Dee paints a rainbow on the bedroom wall 3 - Lauren had the great idea to paint a gumball machine in the living room 4 - gumballs bounce down the side walls of the living room 5 - A rain cloud and a happy sun make the bedroom brighter 6 - Matthew 19:14 reminds the children that the Kingdom of God belongs to them!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

We Can Share It

Lack of drinking water, famine, homelessness, elder abandonment, abuse, hungry orphans - admittedly, the amount of need we are faced with in this world can be overwhelming. For those of us who feel a pull to make a difference in, choosing who to help and how to help are major questions, considering that the need far outweighs most of our financial resources. Today, a new Outreach program was launched by Maranatha Church in Palm Beach Gardens, FL, where Jessica's father is the senior pastor. The "We Can Share It" project aims to support both domestic and international missions. The program has plans in place to support Casa Shalom by providing Christmas presents for the kids who might not otherwise get a gift. The program's website will have a daily blog with insights in the Biblical mandate to give, and unique giving opportunities. Please take a moment to check out the program's website:

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A lasting impression

The group from King George COG and Spotsylvania have completed their work at Casa Shalom. We'd like to thank them for all their hard work and the blessing they have been to the kids and to us. Their work will not be forgotten - they have made a lasting impression on Casa Shalom! Today was the dedication ceremony of the new playground, after which the toddlers had a chance to play on their new playground. We're happy to report that the vote is unanimously thumbs-up - they LOVED their new play area. Enjoy the photos and video below of the children getting to know their new North American friends and their new playground. 1 - Antonio spies on his friends using the playground's telescope 2 - Jim gives Tony a push on the new baby swing 3 - Randy continues to push Tony long after he fell asleep 4 - Mike is smiling because he's having fun with Victor. Victor is smiling because he stole Mike's sunglasses 5 - Dottie poses with Sonia and Casa Shalom's newest resident, Clara Alicia 6 - Dottie shows Alejandra how to use a paint roller Video - Jim and Randy push Ana and Sarai on their new swingset.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Friday's Featured Child

This Friday's Featured Child is Eddy Estuardo de Leon. Eddy is 13 years-old and lives at Casa Shalom, along with his younger brother. Eddy loves to play soccer and marbles in his free time and also says that he enjoys climbing trees. Eddy likes to each chicken soup and ice cream, but not together! Eddy and his younger brother live at the orphanage because their single mother cannot afford to take care of them. Eddy has a younger sister that lives with his mother and struggles with feelings of abandonment because she lives at home while he and his brother were sent to live at Casa Shalom. Having a sponsor would greatly boost Eddy's feelings of self-worth! Eddy is patiently waiting for a sponsor to choose him so he can send photos and talk about his favorite things to do! If you would like to end Eddy's wait, for $30/month, you can provide him with better food, clothes and shoes, medicine and doctor's visits if he gets sick, field trips outside the home, school supplies, and other items Eddy needs to be a happy and healthy young man, please email us at: or visit the Child Sponsorship webpage at:

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Computers Have Landed!

The new computers provided by Computers for Guatemala
have arrived! We and the teen boys went to pick up the computers in a town 30 minutes away. We loaded the boxes, along with boxes of donated clothing and toys, into the van and pick-up truck and brought them back to the orphanage where they are being set up. As soon as the new computer lab is up and running, we'll post photos! Thanks to Amy P. for alerting us to this opportunity, to Don L. for accepting our application and making this opportunity possible, and Gary C. for paying to have the computers shipped!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A great work

Good news - the internet is back at Casa Shalom! We are excited to finally be able to share some photos of the great work the team from Virginia has been doing since Friday! They have 3 main projects - 1 is the building of a roofed play area for the toddlers. The second is the construction of a large gate at the back of the property which will complete the new fence that encircles the property. The third is the painting of murals on the walls inside the toddlers' home. The group has worked hard since Friday and has had lots of help from the teen boys of Casa Shalom who are now on "summer vacation" and are happy to lend their hands to the project! They are glad to feel useful and are really taking ownership of their work. Please enjoy the photos below. 1 - the teen boys unload bags of cement (no pre-mixed cement here in Guatemala!) 2 - the teen boys and team member Jonathan work together to tote water for mixing cement 3 - Danny and Richard take the first measurements for the new playground 4 - laying block is hard work! 5 - Randy makes use of Casa Shalom's tractor to haul gravel 6 - Jessica shovels gravel 7 - the worksite 8 - the framework of the playground goes up 9 - the roof goes on 10 - the whole group poses in front of the nearly-completed playground (all that's missing is the playground equipment!).

Monday, October 13, 2008

We're still here!

After a week of no new blog posts, some of your may have started wondering if some strange Guatemalan virus got us - but we're still here! The internet went down at Casa Shalom last week, and unlike Comcast, our company doesn't offer next day (or frankly even next week) service. It's still broken and I'm posting from a local food restaurant. Please keep checking back and I'll post as often as I can until the connection is restored and then we'll be back to normal.

There have been lots of exciting developments since last week. On Friday, a combined group from King George Church of God and Spotsylvania Church of God (both in Virginia) arrived to serve for a week as a missions team. Since Friday, they have finished the large gate in the new fence they financed and have started the laborious process of building a roofed play area for the toddlers, which will be a great blessing for the 10 babies who are usually cooped up inside when it rains. The teen boys have volunteered for lots of back-breaking work like mixing and hauling cement.

Please watch for more posts soon!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A pig farm + a cow farm + a truck load of rotting broccoli = what is that smell???

Those who have visited Casa Shalom may have noticed a particular odor wafting over the home. That odor could easily be explained by the pig farm that borders the orphanage on one side. Or it could be blamed on the cow farm that borders the other side. But add those two odors together with the giant truckloads of broccoli the cow farmer buys to feed his animals but that rot before it can all be eaten....well that's an odor unique to Casa Shalom!