Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Testimony Tuesday: Carol & Brian Duarte

My husband, Brian, and I had sponsored a little boy in the slums of Nairobi. We went on our first missions trip in 2010 to work at his school and in his community. I had made a T-shirt with a big heart to wear the day I met him. His teacher called him to the front of the class. He climbed across the desks and other students in their over crowded class and put his hand out to greet us. He was wearing a sweater covered in little hearts. I could not hold back the tears. I grabbed him and hugged him; and probably scared the daylight out of him. We fell in love with Anthony and all the people and children we met on that trip. We sponsored two more when we got home. Though my heart was forever changed, I told Brian, “I can never go back”.

My dad was an orphan.
I wasn’t breathing when I was born and the doctor gave me mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. 
They told my mother if I lived, I’d be a vegetable. 
I lived a life of alcohol, drugs and despair. 
I ended up divorced at a young age; a single mom with four babies trying to put myself through college. 
My children were fatherless. 
I stood in line for free food and begged for my utilities to be turned back on every month. 
I wanted to take my life. 
My husband was fatherless. 
His mother was mentally ill. 
He was raised in a violent home. 
He was lonely and depressed. 
He never thought he’d live this long. 
God had plans for us.

I had a lot of fear on our first trip. I said I could never go back. God knew better. He was at work in me. I surrendered again with great joy and He sent us back. We signed up with Visiting Orphans to go to Uganda and Kenya for my 50th Birthday. I was so excited to serve God this way, for all He had blessed me with.

This trip was not like our first one. We experienced things I had never experienced before. It was far more intense. Even our bus ride from Uganda to Kenya was intense. What should have been a 6 hour bus ride turned into a 16 hour bus ride; and was filled with unusual events. 1/2 way through our trip, sometime during the night, I said to Brian, “I can never come back here”. He held me tight and laid my head on his shoulder as the bus rolled through the night.

In the morning, we pulled into a sunbeam-covered orphanage, with the sound of over 220 children singing hymns in the distance. God was clearly at work here; in this orphanage, in these people, and in me. Each day we were there, new children were brought in. I was falling in love with Pastor Benson, his wife, Florence, and all 220+ children. The day before we left, I was carrying a little one in, that I had found sleeping in the field. After handing him to one of the older kids, I turned around and saw Pastor Benson standing next to me with three, very dirty, very scared, little boys. 

Immediately, a crowd of children began to form a circle around them as “Dad” introduced the family to their new brothers: Peter, Ian and John.

Ian and John’s mother was also an orphan. She was thrown out of another orphanage at 16, for misbehaving too much. She immediately married and had these two boys, but abandoned the children and her young husband when Ian was 2 and John was 3 months old. The father did not want them either and abandoned them at the door of their widowed grandmother. Peter had already been orphaned and was already living here with his grandmother when the other two cousins arrived. She tried to care for the three boys but had nothing to give them so she told them to beg and search for food; and sent them out to live on the streets. They have been living a life without food, water, beds, and school for six years; since Peter and Ian were 2 years old and John was 3 months. Yes! You read that right!

These babies have lived alone, cold, lonely, scared, without anything, since they were two years old!  Without a mommy! And raising an infant! These boys had never had a bath in their lives. “Dad” showed us their reptile like skin and called for the older teens to boil some water. I heard my Father calling me too. I heard him telling me to prepare my heart for His children too. I knew these boys were mine. Brian found his way over to me through the crowd and said, “We have to sponsor them”. I replied, “ Yes!  And we have to come back”.  He smiled the biggest smile and wiped the tears that were streaming down my face. We knew they were ours. I stood in awe as Dad and Michael Durham (Merrill’s husband) went to give these precious children their first baths.
 I would never be the same.

Only a couple of weeks have passed now, and the boys skin is healed and smooth. They are adjusting incredibly well and are so loved by their new family. Benson says they are the happiest kids in the entire home and feel like they live in Paradise!  He says he cannot get over the “drastic change from worse to best”!  He added that after we left, he learned that Peter had a 15 year old sister living a life of starvation and despair and in danger of becoming pregnant. He rescued Joice as well, and brought her to live with her brand new family too.


Brian and I began planning our next trip the moment Peter, Ian and John stole our hearts. Kenya and Ethiopia 2014!!! Merrill asked us to consider becoming trip leaders and using that trip as our training.  Brian was excited. I was scared and hesitated at first, but as God continued to work in me, I was reminded of those big, little eyes.... and all He has carried us through .... and all He still has yet to do with us.

I felt God ask me, “Who are you not to?”.

I had no reply. I have surrendered completely!  I am filled with excitement! Here I am Lord... Send me!

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