My favorite movie of all time is the classic Frank Capra movie It’s a Wonderful Life. I watch it every year at Christmastime. In it, a distressed George Bailey wishes he had never been born. With some heavenly intervention, he temporarily gets his wish, and is shown all the lives he has touched and the contributions he has made to his community. He also gets to see how things would have turned out differently had he not been there. But can someone get that kind of hindsight in real life?
I ended up at an orphanage in Honduras following a series of seemingly unrelated, yet connected, events that led me to a Team Effort youth mission camp in North Carolina in June of 2010. I was there chaperoning for a church mission trip when I met one of Team Effort’s amazing youth leaders, 20 year old Liz Presley from Gainesville, Georgia.
On the first day of the mission trip, Liz and I had talked for maybe 20 minutes about how we both wanted to help orphans in our very different lives. I had felt a strong to help orphans for three years. The problem is I had no idea how or where.
During the week Liz felt she had been called to put together a mission team to an orphanage her Church visited every year in Honduras. So on the fourth day she sat down across from me at a lunch break and said “I think I’m supposed to ask you to go with me to Honduras.” I replied “I think I’m supposed to say yes.”
I’d be lying if I said I found some inspired way to explain this idea to my wife, co-workers and friends on the 15 hour drive home to Wisconsin. Well you see, I met a 20 year old girl and I’m going with her and a few other people I’ve never met to volunteer at an orphanage in Honduras. They thought I’d lost my mind. That was June.
Liz called on September 5th. I remember the day because it was primary day in Wisconsin and I was at Scott Walker’s campaign headquarters in Milwaukee. She sounded despondent.
I really thought this was supposed to happen, but I’m going to have to cancel the trip. I thought it was supposed to happen too, and I asked if her church still going to the Orphanage in January and did she think they’d let me join their team? Yes and yes. She gave me their phone number and an hour later a stranger from Wisconsin was added to a mission team from Gainesville Georgia. Apparently I was the one who was supposed to go
Six months later I was on a bus in Tegucigalpa embarking on a rocky four hour trip to Orphanage Emmanuel with daughter Keeley and a 17 member mission team we had only just met in Atlanta that morning.
We spent two weeks with the amazing children at Orphanage Emmanuel in Honduras. Many had been abused. Others had witnessed horrible things. You wonder, how they can love at all? But to look at them you’d never know. They smile and laugh and play. When you hold them in your arms they tell you they love you. And they mean it. You know what you have to do. Everything you possibly can.
From that point forward I knew I finally had found the path I’d been searching for. Within a week I had filed the paperwork for the World Orphan Fund with the IRS and we were on our way.
Since then we’ve been to Honduras 5 times and Guatemala and Kenya once and visited nearly 2,000 children at 7 orphanages. Our formula is simple. Figure out where a game changing project or program is needed and convince people to help us pay for the solution.
Last year we paid half the cost of building a toddler house at Emmanuel in Guaimaca. This year we funded a new well there. We’re breaking ground for a new special needs house at an Rancho Santa Fe so the orphanage can continue accepting and caring for special needs orphans. We send funds every month cover half the cost of feeding 27 orphans and are repairing a well so they can have clean water at El Refugio orphanage in Naco. We’re funding a new 3rd Grade Teacher at Hogar Suyapa in El Progresso. And we’re helping help keep a school for 80 children open at Hogar Renacer in Confradia.
And if Liz Presley had never been born? If she had never joined Team Effort. If she’d never asked someone she had just met to go to Honduras?
There would be no World Orphan Fund.
$22,500 in funding never would have gone to build a toddler house at Emmanuel.
We wouldn’t be building a special needs house at Rancho Santa Fe, and they would soon would be forced to turn children away.
There would be children in Naco without a source of clean water and not enough to eat.
We wouldn’t be funding a new third grade teacher in El Progresso.
And we wouldn’t be helping to keep a school open in Confradia for 80 children.
Sounds like the same Frank Capra Story to me. Happy 23rd Birthday Liz. You’ve already changed the world.
Visit our website at www.theworldorphanfund.org and our Facebook page at facebook.com/worldorphanfund.