Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A Mission of Love

          My name is Tiffany Ross and I am so excited to share this experience with you all so thanks for visiting!  For those of you who don’t know me, I’ll let you know a little about who I am before explaining why I’ve chosen to serve at the Farm.  Well, I am (nearly) a graduate of Florida State University and have worked as an intern this last year at Catholic Charities of Northwest Florida in the Refugee Department.  I am a family girl and make it a point to always make them a priority in my life. I’ve studied Spanish for a long time and watched more telenovelas than I’d care to admit. I’m a passionate Catholic and I firmly believe in the power of sharing God’s mercy and love through actions rather than words.  In high school I aspired to become an accomplished actress, loved performing on stage, and sang with my mom and the Lifeteen band at Church every Sunday.   Since then, my dreams have changed (as they often do growing up) and I’ve realized that my heart is the most content when I’m loving others and sharing in their beautiful, broken lives.  

I moved to Florida with my family in 2004 when I was in the 7th grade and that’s when I first heard about the Farm of the Child.  Zulena Pescatore—a founder of the mission—came to my school with her daughters to speak about the Farm of the Child and, at the time, it didn’t mean much to me.  It was later on that my family decided to go on a mission trip with our Church to visit this beautiful place and experience for ourselves God’s grace in an underdeveloped nation.  I had just graduated from high school the first time we went and it changed my life completely.  We went again the next year and it was after that trip that I realized how much of my heart I had left with those children.  I applied to go the next summer as a short-term missionary and it only increased my desire to serve there.  I want to share this beautiful mission with you today and, hopefully, continue to share with you in this journey over the next 28 months.  Right now I’d love to tell you a little about the Farm of the Child, how it functions, and who it serves. 

Near a small town on the luscious tropical coast of Honduras, there is a Catholic orphanage.  It is a beautiful place that was started by a man named Vincent Pescatore.  He left his corporate American job at a young age to answer a call to do mission work in Guatemala where he started the original Farm of the Child orphanage and met his wife.  Later on he decided to spread the work to Honduras and bought a plot of land right by the coast.  All he had to start were a few Franciscan Nuns, the support of his wife and five young, beautiful children, and a few very ambitious college graduates from the States.  Because of tension with the Honduran government, it was only safe to build at night, so that’s what they did.  There’s no denying the fact that there were many road blocks at the beginning of this beautiful mission, but Pescatore never let that discourage him.  Sadly, on January 3 at the age of 35, Pescatore and his brother-in-law passed away in a plane crash right by the Farm.  They were bringing in supplies and got caught in a storm that sent them straight towards the mountain side.  Despite this tragedy, the Pescatore family and the missionaries did not let that stop the mission.  If anything, it gave them more of a reason to fight for it.

The Farm of the Child has been effectively educating, housing, providing for, and loving orphans and young children in surrounding villages for nearly 17 years.  Today it is run mostly by American and Nicaraguan missionaries, the wonderful Franciscan Sisters, and Ysmary Trejo, the onsite director.  They have the 2nd best Catholic school in the country on the Farm’s property, providing education for grades K-8.  Each grade has its own classroom and the middle school, more recently built, has 4 rooms including a computer lab (which functions well despite the frequent power outages).  The school is separated from the soccer field and communal homes by a beautiful chapel that has been dedicated to Vincent Pescatore, which overlooks the entire orphanage.  

Looking down the hill from the chapel is the beautiful Caribbean Sea.  Close by is a clinic that provides service for the local villages a few times a week run by American missionaries who are trained Nurses.  The missionaries make it a priority to teach the locals about living a healthy lifestyle in all aspects of raising children as well as taking care of their own bodies, which is very important considering most of the people in Honduras have never had the opportunity to be educated past the 6th grade.  

The rest of the campus consists of small, family style homes for the orphans, missionaries, and Nuns.  Each house for the children is set up with Honduran “house parents”. The children are split up by gender and age levels.  For example, boys who are newborn babies up to ages 4 or 5 would live in the St. Joseph house.  It creates a safe environment for these children and sets a great example of how a loving family works, lives, and loves each other, giving each child hope for a better future when they grow up and have a family of their own.  

The missionaries live in one house together right on the beach next to the Convent.  They do all sorts of jobs needed on the Farm.  Many of them are teachers at the school and Social Workers helping the children in whatever ways needed. Some of them are also outreach coordinators, nurses, psychologists, and maintenance/ security directors.  A few years back the maintenance crew completed building a big, thick fence with barbed wire at the top that runs around the entire Farm which will help ensure the safety of all those who live, work, worship, play, and go to school there.  They also have a night staff that patrols the fence and gate at night.  My mother swears God has put a bubble over that place.  No matter what kind of horrible things are going on in the country or what kind of desperation locals may be driven to out of poverty,  the Farm seems to be and to have always been protected.  

I have been so blessed to play with, work with, and truly get to know these kids the past few summers.  They are so happy, so full of life, and in so much need of stability.  They truly opened my heart to this mission.  It is very evident how much these children desire true, authentic, and unconditional love. So, when you form a bond of trust with them, they welcome you with open arms…and don’t ever want to let go.  I remember one boy, Carlos, who just loved hugs.  He was around 6 or 7 years old, but that boy was a tank and very athletic.  He just loved piggy back rides, being swung around, and running, jumping hugs.  I could barely catch him every time, but the love he had to share was simply something I couldn’t reject.  He also enjoyed chasing the girls around with little crabs he found and a hose whenever he could get his hands on one.  Then there was his friend Roni who was a little comedian.  That boy had a joke for everything and was all smiles and laughter all the time.  Nelsi, one of the girls about 7 or 8, taught me how she climbed the trees to pick fruit in her backyard.  She wanted to show me that girls like us could really be as strong as the boys.  Nelsi knew how to swing a machete and dig a trench like a pro and didn’t mind showing you how well she could do it.  But, as soon as the storms came, she had no problem dropping everything and grabbing my hands to go dance in the rain.  

Celebrating Mass with the neighbors
at a local villagers home

My special friend Belgia

At the Quincinera of the Farm!
(15th anniversary celebration)

praise and worship with the girls

A dear friend from up the mountain
in Buena Vista

the kids after Sunday Mass

my little sister Sigri
Sigri, another girl around age 16, was simply one of a kind.  Because of the abuse she went through as a child, her mind-set was not on the level of other girls her age. Despite that fact, she was bright, bubbly, loud, and full of energy and sarcasm.  She and I seemed to have formed a pretty tight relationship.  She would make fun of me for my gringo Spanish, but always referred to me as her sister.  She always had something funny or smart-alecky to say, but man did we get a kick out of each other.  Leaving her the second summer was much harder than I expected.  The tough girl attitude she put on to protect herself from rejection fell away as she cried on my shoulders not wanting to let me go.  In that long, drawn out, teary good-bye, I promised her I’d be back soon enough.  I am so proud to say that the promise I made to her those years ago I will be able to keep.

The summer I spent as a short-term missionary was much different than I expected.  I had much more responsibility than I anticipated.  It was also different because I was not only living there, but also cleaning, cooking, and learning the lifestyle of the Honduran people and the missionaries.  I worked a lot with the Franciscan Sisters on projects for the orphans and the local villagers; I brought my guitar and all the Spanish worship music I could get my hands on.  Essentially, that summer was a great opportunity for me to discern this kind of missionary work.  While it was a tough learning curve, it was beautiful and life-giving. 

The Honduran people have truly stolen my heart with their love, their faith, their simplistic lifestyle, and their culture.  I am so incredibly blessed to have been given this opportunity to grow deeper in my faith and to learn more about myself and I am so happy to be able to share it with you.  I want to ask you for your prayers for the Farm of the Child and for the other missionaries that will also be preparing their hearts and fundraising this summer. In the wise words of an Italian nun I once met, “pray for money, for it is a necessary evil.”  So, if you find it is within your means to help me with donations, even if it is only a little, it would truly benefit this cause because I cannot go without the proper funds.   If you would like to donate now, please click.this safe PayPal link.  

 Thank you for your interest in this mission and for your time!

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