Serving orphans is nothing like ‘Annie’

By Brent Kesler
Dallas, Texas


My daily life is too easy. I live in a nice little neighborhood, in a nice little community. I drive a nice little car and wear nice little clothes. Everything is so nice and easy that I often forget about the world outside of my nice little life. Even scarier is the fact that I can forget where all of my blessings come from.

It’s not that I forget my role, but sometimes I embellish the importance of my role in the creation of this nice little life my family and I have. Comfortable and almost expectant of them, I can miss being appreciative of God's blessings. Too much time is spent in front of the mirror focused on the man staring back at me.

With so much time and concern spent on me, I find that time spent serving and thinking of others goes lacking. When first asked to go to Guatemala to serve orphans, I was excited about the opportunity. Knowing several of the guys going and loving on kids, I thought, “Why not?” I have been on a few mission trips before and I love to share the Gospel. “This will be great! What a chance to serve others, Brent,” were my thoughts.

The weeks leading up to the trip brought more focus on me. What do I need to do? What do I need to pack? Will I fall in love with one of these kids? Will one fall in love with me?

We have all seen Annie and know the story well. My perception of this trip was that it would be the same scenario, except that these orphans speak Spanish. We would be a big ol' group of Daddy Warbucks coming to save the day. We would give them shoes, play with them, share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and just like that - everything's perfect. We come home, and they grow up to be wonderful young men. Nice try. Real life is no fairy tale.

After our first day at San Gabriel, I saw that my views of this trip and the whole orphanage life were far from reality. There is no story of a cute little red-haired orphan Annie with soot on her clothes to be found here. This is 100 percent real life, and it shocked me. While it seems blatantly obvious, I never connected to that reality until I walked into it.

They are heart-broken, sad, angry and attention-starved kids. Kids who need a hug, a smile – kids who need Jesus- because everyone else has left them to suffer alone. Not only is this the case at San Gabriel, but at every other orphanage in Guatemala and in the world. The weight and reality of this hit me. Every second of my nice happy little life in Texas, there is real suffering going on in millions of lives all over the globe. It took this trip for me to truly see that, to witness that suffering firsthand.

There was behavior that broke my heart: boys beating on each other, beating on the mentally-challenged kids. I met gang members, one who had scars all over his body from knife wounds and a bullet that entered his chest and exited his back 2 inches from his heart. There were stories of babies left in trash dumpsters, sexual abuse and physical torture. But in all the despair and suffering there was still laughter, smiles, hugs and some of that care-free boyhood play. It was wonderful to see them having fun.

Our final activity on Saturday proved to be the most beautiful experience. After all of the sports and activities, God saved the best for last. It was time to give stuff away! We had Bibles, socks and shoes for each boy who attended the baseball camp. Every Bible had a personalized message, written to them by our team leaders and graciously translated into Spanish. It was really special to present the children with God's word.

Then we experienced God's word first hand. As a team, we washed each boy's feet. Rather than merely lining the boys up and passing shoes out, we sat them down and washed their feet. How strong an action and what a picture of the King who came to serve! What a reminder of the broken in the chairs being not just these orphans, but being each one of us. What a moving call to love God with all our hearts and love our neighbors above ourselves. Tears flowed and hugs were plentiful. It was a wonderful spirit-filled time that is truly unforgettable.

God had a plan to use me on this trip. I hope that I was able to share some of His bountiful love with these boys, and that the truth we shared will be used to have deep lasting impact in their lives. But God had a plan to use those boys, too, to impact my life. Just when I think that all I want is a nice easy life with blue skies and a smooth commute to work, God blessed me with pain. He broke my heart and opened my blind eyes. This was no accident. God chose this time and this place to impact lives, one being the man staring back at me in the mirror today. I am forever changed, and I cannot wait to go back. What an awesome God we serve!
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Buckner is now accepting story submissions for Buckner eNews Now and the Buckner Web site from people who have participated on mission trips or local volunteering.

Send your story in a Microsoft Word document to news@buckner.org. Include your name, city and state in the subject line along with the title of your submissions. Stories should be no longer than 1200 words. (ex. Your Perspective – John Doe, Houston, TX)

Send any photos as jpegs. We can accept anything up to 10 MB in one email.

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