January - March 2014
Then and Now - A New Beginning in 2014
Exactly 15 years ago this month, I took my first trip to Nicaragua. I was not ready for what I would see.
One of the places I visited was known as La Chureca. Hundreds of families lived in this massive garbage dump outside of Managua. I watched with tears as garbage trucks drove into the dump, unloaded their cargo, and swarms of children moved in – looking for food, scrap metal, or anything else of value. Children like the young kids in these photos, which I took on that day. With long sharp poles, they pierced the garbage, experts at sorting through mounds of trash.
These children were sorting through what others had thrown away, looking for something of value. Yet they themselves had been thrown away – children who should have been loved and cared for. And God was speaking to my heart, "These thrown-away children are the ones that have the greatest value to me. Find them, love them, and treasure them, so they will know how much I love them, and they will understand their true value."
Later that day I saw a busload of homeless children, picked up off the streets, being sent to a prison for crimes of theft - committed in an effort to survive.
The next day I walked through one of the poorest communities in Managua, Lomas San Judas, and saw thousands of families living in one-room shacks, made out of street metal. Dirt floors, no electricity, no water. This was their life. And the girl that I saw looking through barbed wire epitomized everything I experienced that day – children whose lives were in bondage to extreme poverty, whose eyes searched for the hope of a better life. But saw nothing.
And I knew…I knew. It could have been me. Abandoned on the street at the age of two, but for God’s grace in bringing me into a Christian family, that life could have been mine. I came home from that trip and started Arms of Love. Construction of our first children’s home began two months later. And 15 years later, it is awesome to reflect on the work God has done through this ministry.
We are excited by what God is doing through Arms of Love and what we see ahead of us in 2014. There will be some changes in our organization this year – there are many new volunteers, staff and partners who are joining with us in caring for the orphaned and other children-at-risk. We will be introducing them to you as the year progresses. I invite you to join us on this special journey. Walk with us as we reflect, share, and work with you in caring for children whom the world may consider “the least of these.” In the kingdom of God, they are the most honored…invited to sit at the head of His table. Perhaps your role will be as an advocate, sharing Arms of Love with your community, perhaps you’ll be a volunteer in-country helping to encourage our children, perhaps you’ll commit to lifting our children and staff up in pray daily, and maybe you feel called to support our mission financially. Will you make the decision right now to offer a piece of yourself to our children? Your part in this journey can start today.
Robert Benson, Founder
How One Family Answered the Call
If not us, then who?
I was only 2 years old when it happened, but to say that it changed my life forever is an understatement.
My parents, John and Juli Mory, felt called to go to the Philippines as missionaries in 1994. A year later, they sold everything and moved (by faith and sheer determination) to the small island of Bohol. No internet, no cell phones, no car, and lots of cultural differences to adjust to, but at such a young age… it was my normal and it quickly became home. Just a little more than two years of living there and I had lived longer in the Philippines than in the U.S. so I hardly knew anything different.
Our family went to the Philippines with the purpose of church-planting and doing various types of compassion ministry, but deep-down my dad’s heart was always to start a children’s home for orphaned, abused, and abandoned kids who needed a loving family and a hope that their lives could be different.
It’s definitely a God-story, the way He connected my parents with Robert Benson. God in the hearts of men with a dream of saving the lives of hurting children resulted in Arms of Love Philippines being born. I remember being so excited as the home was built brick-by-brick, but nothing could have been more impacting than the kids that came to live with us. One by one the children came…
Some we had anxiously waited for and others were dropped off unexpectedly late into the evening, but all arrived with a common thread in their lives - stories of neglect, loss, and hardships that you and I could hardly imagine.
I always wondered what it must have felt like when they came. Relief? Safety? Fear of the unknown? Whatever they thought initially, it didn’t take long for them to feel Arms of Love…holding them close and promising them they wouldn’t have to be alone anymore.
I grew up hearing how much we were a blessing, but there is no doubt that we were the ones who were blessed just by being a part of their lives. We heard similar stories every time someone came to visit… they came thinking they had a lot to offer, but they left feeling overwhelmed at how much these children had given them.
Plan to change a life and you’ll change two! Don’t lose one more minute. I can tell you from experience, you’ll never be the same.
A New Adventure in Nica
Ted and Kelly Rodgers plan to begin working full-time for Arms of Love in Nicaragua beginning in April 2014, providing additional support and encouragement for our Nicaraguan staff. They are the first of several new people who will begin working for Arms of Love in 2014. This is their story.
In July 2009 my husband, Ted, took his first mission excursion to Nicaragua, and the man I thought I knew was changed forever by what he experienced. Ted was expressing his difficulty with being back in the U.S. The conversation of Nicaragua became a daily, somewhat unwanted, topic in our home in which I greatly tired of very quickly! I thought, “Where is my husband?” After one visit, how could this place called Nicaragua take up so much of my husband’s time and energy! What about me?? Hello!
No sooner had Ted taken “trip one” than “trip two” was scheduled six months later in January 2010. Two trips without his family to Nicaragua in less than six months! Really God? I was bitter and every time Nicaragua came up.
This time when Ted came home I noticed something different. My husband has always had intensity, but now it was gentler, softer and he was presenting a fire I had not seen before. Ted had fallen in love with Nicaragua and it became clear to me that I would have to (resentfully) go and experience this place. I thought, “But God, I am not called to missions in a third world country! I am comfortable right here in St. Louis doing whatever YOU call me to do. Just not third world missions!”
Thankfully, God had other plans.
In July 2010 I begrudgingly left my 18-month-old son Teddy, my parents, family, and friends for eight days in extreme heat, humidity, mosquitos, with no air conditioning or hot water. And then it happened…
I also fell in love with Nicaragua, and after the first mission trip, I knew God was calling us to spend and serve more time in this beautiful country. On my third trip Ted and I spent roughly 8 hours away from the team in Managua to share time at Brazos de Amor, and I fell in love instantly with the kids and dedicated staff. The one-day taste was not enough for me and I could not wait to return in January 2012 to invest time with the kids and staff. I dreamed of living on the property and serving in whatever capacity needed, to share my experience of being adopted into God’s family with those children in Nicaragua who also needed a new family.
I am overwhelmed with joy to be joining the team at Brazos de Amor! God has abundantly blessed me with a Ph.D. in Life Experience (aka “What Not To Do”), a M.A. in Professional Counseling, and B.A. in Human Resources Management. I thoroughly love the ministry that God has given me in St. Louis of counseling children, adolescents, teens, adults, families, and couples. But none of that means much without Jesus at my core!
Words will not do justice to explain how humbled I am that He has chosen us / dare I say ME / for such a time as this. Ten years earlier, I was lost, numb, and in desperate need of Christ. God saved me and continues to sanctify this forever-grateful sinner and saint. For me to express my excitement is quite easy due to the fact that God has wired me to be an extremely emotional human being! I am a Christ-follower in need of a Savior every second of the day, as a wife, mommy, daughter, sister, sister in Christ, friend, and Licensed Professional Counselor. As far as the rest of God’s testimony for my life, it looks like you will have to come visit me in Nicaragua!
Moved by Compassion
These first newsletter articles of 2014 have a common theme: stepping out into action.
Robert stepped out in faith, sacrificed of his time and resources, and Arms of Love was born. The Morys sold everything and stepped out in faith, and many ministries including our children's home were started in the Philippines. The Rodgers are selling everything and stepping out, in anticipation of what God will do through their lives in Nicaragua. All of them saw a need and were moved by compassion into action.
What is God calling you to do? Might you have a role empowering children that were once cast aside into extreme danger of exploitation? Arms of Love wants you to partner with us, helping to raise a new generation of kids that are full of hope. Volunteering, prayer, child sponsorship – there are many ways for YOU to make a difference in the lives of children.
We encourage you to let God’s compassion lead you to giving of yourself however and wherever you feel led. It may not even be with Arms of Love, but we extend and open invitation to you and your family. Together, we can make a difference.
What kind of difference? Including Alejandro this spring, there are 17 children in both countries receiving post-high school educations. And now including Mary Mie, we’ve had 3 college graduates in the Philippines. That’s the kind of difference YOU can directly influence. Abandoned children, once forgotten and at risk of human trafficking, now graduates becoming leaders in their communities. That is powerful!
Changes for Arms of Love in 2014
Our board is in the process of restructuring Arms of Love and we will not have a CEO moving forward. We have been so blessed by the 7+ years of service by CEO Kim Fisher. She has guided our organization with incredible heart and ability. Kim has been more than just a great leader, she’s been a trusted friend, a mentor, and a mother to orphans. She will continue consulting with Arms of Love, for which we are very grateful. Thank you Kim!
To read our archived newsletters, click here.
To sign-up and receive our newsletters, click here.