This article was originally published in the World Orphans Spring Insight Magazine 2019.
For the last five years, I have had the privilege of working in vulnerable areas of my native country. Each of the families I have served has impacted my life. Their stories have unveiled to me the realities that many families face.
When I think back over these years, one family stands out from the others. The Castillos are a family of four children parented by a single mother. I was first introduced to the family via the eldest children, twins Amalia and Judith. We met during a difficult season in their lives. They had recently been welcomed into a foster family by order of a judge, following the arrest and imprisonment of their mother, Wendy, for robbery.
Though she could have assisted, the children’s grandmother did not want the responsibility of caring for the girls. Prior to their mother’s arrest, when they needed someone to care for them, Amalia and Judith would be sent to stay with distant relatives or friends. Of the four children, Amalia and Judith were most frequently pulled from the home and separated from their local community.
Sadly, being in the care of distant relatives or family friends did not make their situation better. Instead, they were subjected to severe kinds of abuse, and the situation worsened until they ran away and asked local authorities for assistance. Thus, the judge was forced to make the only feasible decision. After analyzing their situation and determining that no one else within the family could care for the children, they were assigned to a foster family.
As a social worker, I was tasked with providing them with proper care as they integrated into a foster family, working with a local church through Home Based Care to address their spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical well-being. In talking with Amalia and Judith, we were able to identify and contact their middle brother who was staying with a neighbor. Additionally, we discovered their younger brother was in a shelter because the family who had been caring for him had become negligent.
By the middle of 2017, Wendy’s sentence ended. She started searching for employment opportunities immediately, hoping to begin the legal process to get her children back. During this time, I had the opportunity to work with her in counseling sessions and parenting classes. Most importantly, I was able to present the gospel to her. She soon began working as a taxi driver in La Verbena. This employment enabled her to find a place to live and ultimately allowed her to obtain legal guardianship of the twins and her third son.
Wendy faithfully attended each of her therapy sessions and parenting classes. She demonstrated significant dedication to positive change in every step of the process, knowing this was the only way to ensure her entire family would be reunited. Seeing her growth, dedication, and tangible change, the state allowed her to bring her son home in July 2018.
Because of the church, Wendy learned about God’s hope for her family. She also learned about the love our Heavenly Father has for her and for her children. Through Wendy’s painful and complicated journey, we watched her resilience blossom. Amid the hardship and trauma the children faced, we also saw the church used by God to demonstrate his love.
This family’s journey is far from complete, but we know they will continue to heal together. Our hope is that they have the opportunity to live out God’s vision for them—the one he has for all humanity: salvation through Jesus Christ. We know that family is deeply important to God. We are grateful to him for the restoration this family has already experienced, and we continue to pray that all
the members of this family will experience the fullness of salvation.
When I look at families like the Castillos, I earnestly believe that God is working in Guatemala in an amazing way, and I am excited that I get to be part of his work. It’s a joy to nurture families to health, equipping them to be instruments of God grounded in the Bible—to show compassion, love, and protection to vulnerable children.