Author Archives: Leslie Vorndran

About Leslie Vorndran

Join me as we explore all facets of this joy-filled life!

Foundation of Love

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What is the difference between a house and a home?  To some, the words are synonymous; to me, they represent the tangible brick-and-mortar vs. the theoretical, almost spiritual space a family resides. That is to say, we can make a home in our house. Or not. We could simply use it for its walls, roof, address, shelter. Is your house the place you live or the place you dwell?

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”
Psalm 18:2

My husband and I have resided in our house for fourteen years this February. Aside from my childhood home, this is the longest I have lived in one place. I’m not sure that was the intent when we purchased it. A newly married couple with two large dogs we treated like children, we found “a yard with a house attached,” perfect for starting our lives together. Purchased in the height of a real estate boom, we probably planned to build equity fast then buy bigger. Then we had a baby, the recession of 2008 hit hard, we spent years regrouping, we had another baby and another, and came to realize this too-small space was full of love and laughter and so many memories.

Somewhere along the way, God got ahold of our hearts and allowed us to fall in love with a hundred orphans in Honduras. The press to have a larger house became far less important in light of their humble one. And as our own children became more aware of all we have in comparison with others, we knew we needed to teach them by example the priorities we can make for the good of others. As much as we all want more space, a gourmet kitchen, and room to entertain, God was calling us to funnel our resources differently for a time.

But now that house where we began our marriage is falling apart. Just the house, not our home. Despite severe structural weaknesses that recently came to light in our 63-year old house, our family unit has remained sound. When we zone in on one another or leave our house to travel, our sense of home is always present. It even feels stronger when the distractions of the house and the pull of friends are eliminated. At times we have had to patch or mend our home, usually in the form of apologies and forgiveness, but those repairs, the attention we give our home only serve to make it stronger. As if infusing grace shores up the foundation a little more each time.

Our physical house has not benefitted the same. After too many years of settling, perhaps a bit of neglect while we were distracted with the work of raising a young family, and recent historic rains, an irreparable crack is separating the foundation, tearing the house apart from one end to the other. With a lot of elbow grease, some God-inspired MacGuyver-esque ingenuity, and answers to many prayers of help, we have been able to hold back the flood waters, figuratively if not literally, for now. The time has come to sell this house, to move our home, to find the next place God would have us set our foundation. But first, reality: find that new house, sell this old house, pack, move, etc.

In the midst of this trial by fire, I have found myself blessed immeasurably. Just before the latest water damage was discovered, a woman at church, a mentor of my heart, asked how she could pray for our family during the holidays. Peace, I said, peace to cover our home, our family, and our hearts as we headed into the Christmas season. Neither of us knew that only days later, my husband would pull back carpet to discover a puddle from one long end of the house to end of the other. Neither of us knew the work that would follow – ripping out of padding, dry wall, and insulation – all in an effort to remove dampness and the smell of mold. We didn’t know the sense of security for my family would be shaken, or that my husband would face his year-end workload with an urgent family project. But what we did know was this: when any of us asks God to provide, He has promised to do so in abundance. We asked for peace. He met that need.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:4-7

As I type those words now, I am overwhelmed again at His faithfulness in answering that prayer for peace. God keeps His promises. His very Word tells us He will and reminds us that God cannot, does not lie (Numbers 23:19, I Sam. 15:29, Heb. 6:18, Titus 1:2). He answered just as His Word said He would: as I rejoiced in His presence, even in this trial, He overwhelmed me with peace and joy. Truly I cannot explain it. This is not like me, probably not like any parent who seeks comfort and security for her children. My natural instinct is to take control of this situation NOW and get my family to dry ground. But I have released it. I know without a shadow of a doubt God is at work, in our hearts and in our dwelling place.

For several years, I have prayed Psalm 5:11-12 over my family. Although we do not yet feel secure in the structure of our house, we are secure in our sense of home. God is answering this petition and I lay claim to the promise He will continue as we seek a firm foundation in Him.

“But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.
For surely, O Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as a shield.”
Psalm 5:11-12

I encourage you, dear reader, to seek God in all you do. Seek Him first in your home, your house, your heart. No, I am not perfect or righteous or even good. You’ll still hear me complain and occasionally swear about our circumstances. I am still frustrated and overwhelmed. BUT I know that God is good and present and desires for us to find our firm foundation in Him. These are some verses I have found to encourage me in this pursuit; I hope they encourage you, too.

“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
I Cor. 3:11

Matthew 7:24-27 is a parable of two builders: one who built a lasting foundation on rock, another who built his house on sand. Jesus called us in this story to hear His words and put them into practice with wisdom rather than ignore His teaching as fools. After watching our home literally sink into soft earth, we have been faced with a physical reminder to set our hearts on the Rock of our salvation rather than the temporary pleasures of this world.

“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”
Ephesians 2:19-22

Seriously?! With a promise like that, who needs to worry about the size of their house? We are a dwelling place for the creator of the world, made in His image to bring His love to all.

“The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this and it is marvelous in our eyes.”
Psalm 118:22-23

If so inclined, you should read (or re-read) all of Psalm 118. Full of praise to the One who loves us, protects us, chastens us, and even came to save us, this Psalm should be the foundation of our hearts’ prayer every day.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.”
Psalm 118:29

 

The Overall Trip

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Final guest post from 10-year old Meredith, following our visit to the Heart to Heart Children’s Village in Honduras. 

……..

The overall trip in four words is incredible, amazing, beautiful, and life-changing. The kids at the orphanage were so humble and kind. If you had met the the kids you would say the same thing everybody on the team said. “These kids are the nicest people I have ever met.” And the kids really are the nicest people I have ever met.

A lot of people ask how old the kids at the orphanage are. So I said three to twenty one. However, the orphanage is still helping them through their whole life. The orphanage signifies babies as six and under. 

We went to a waterpark and a zoo. The zoo is connected to the water park. The animals at the zoo are all native to Honduras. Monkeys, crocodiles, alligators, horses, peacocks, mountain lions, tigers and a lot more. The water park is a wide hole in the ground with a very tall steep slide and a loopy slide. No lifeguards or rules or pool chairs. Just us and the hundred and five kids.

The way Honduras changed my life was how poor but yet happy the people were. One day I got to the village and Guillermo ran up to me and said, “Look! I got a haircut!” We Americans would never be so happy to get a haircut. I was amazed how humble they were too. One of the ways I am going to keep in touch with them is to write a lot of letters.

I really hope that I go back again. It could change my life even more. I think if I went back one or two more times, then I would want to stay at the orphanage forever. Honduras is an astonishing place. I hope you get to go there sometime.

mmv

For more information about Heart to Heart, visit http://www.h2hcv.org. Since our visit just a couple months past, the family has grown to 117 children. The cost to fully raise (feed, clothe, educate, etc.) each child is about $300 per month. Every dollar donated is put directly into the ministry and makes a direct impact on the life of a child. 

Thanks for reading and thank you for your support! ❤️

The Poor

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Guest post by Meredith:

Honduras is the most poor country on this side of the world besides Haiti. Shanty towns are everywhere. Horses, cows, chickens, and dogs are roaming, looking for food. It is like The Great Depression all over again. It is not your paradise tropical resort.

The leader of our team was dumping garbage with one of the older boys. They were driving out the gates of the dump when the boy, Denis, pointed and said “I grew up over there.” There was a little shack like the one where he grew up. Kids were crawling on the garbage looking for paper to go to school. Huts and shacks circled the great mounds of trash.

When we as Americans use a piece of paper we don’t think that maybe little helpless innocent kids are out there. Out in the world looking on garbage dumps for paper. Just to go to school.

______________________

Unfortunately, Meredith is correct about the poverty in Honduras and the children living in the garbage dumps. What she doesn’t fully comprehend (probably for the best at her young age) is that these children scour the trash not only for paper but for food, for everything. Of the 8 million people in the nation, an estimated nearly 200,000 children live in at-risk situations, falling victim to malnourishment, abuse, gang violence, incapable parents, fetal alcohol syndrome, abandonment. 

Heart to Heart has changed that story for more than one hundred lives; the ministry has taken in the abused and lost, given homes to the homeless, fed the starved, and loved every single heart. Oscar and Amy Serrano raise each child as they do their own two biological daughters. They know every story, every heartbreak, every hope. It’s hard for us to comprehend the harsh realities of life in Honduras, which is only one small nation in a world too full of third world problems. But seeing the positive impact made by ministries like H2H should encourage us. Just like Denis, the young man Meredith mentioned, children are being rescued, raised, and loved. 

For more information, visit www.h2hcv.org

The Chalk Fight

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Guest post by Meredith:

In every story, chalk is a cute thing that kids play with. Well, maybe I shouldn’t say every because it is definitely not cute in this story. This is a story about me and a girl, named Alma, at the village.

Now Alma was sitting with me “practicing my Spanish” at the chalkboard. Then I said, “I am bored.” 

“Of course you are,” she said. “So we have to spiff you up a bit.” She drew a long blue streak of chalk on my arm. 

“Hey!”

And we took off running.

Up the playground.

Down the slide.

Around the building.

Over the swings.

“Gotcha now!” I said. By this time my face was all blue and red, and she had no pink on her at all. I had her in a room, she was caught. Then she literally climbed up, onto a couch, and jumped out the window.

Through the window. 

Okay maybe Alma won that competition.

Be Still

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“If you’re tired, sit with a kid.”

Great advice for teams who come to the Heart to Heart children’s village in Honduras. Despite the heat and humidity, teams work on construction projects (building the houses, school, church), repair worn out buildings, create playground equipment, establish gardens, play soccer and basketball, play frisbee and chase. All of it taking a sweaty toll on the body. So when someone finally gets worn out, the best advice is not to sit alone, but to sit with one of the kids. Their ability to refresh the body and soul by their mere presence is amazing. 

All of the work we do is for them. Hard, backbreaking work at times. But none of the work would exist or be needed if not for the children. And so we, who can be caught up in the busyness of our tasks, must make a point to stop and be restored. There is no greater salve to the soul than to see little faces light up with the knowledge they are loved. They love to sit in our laps, just being. Some of them talk, but most are happy to have loving arms wrapped around their small shoulders, reassuring them. 

The joy I feel when I am able to pour my unconditional love into these children must pale in comparison to the joy my Father feels when I allow Him to love me as He intended. When I quiet my soul and look to His face, God is able to whisper “You are my beloved.” Do I willingly accept His love or do I try to rush to my next activity? Do I believe He loves me for who I am, or do I perform and try to prove I am worthy of such adoration? 

The children in Honduras continue to teach me so much by their examples – life lessons on acceptance, compassion vs. competition, hope, perseverance, empathy, and most of all unconditional love. Unlike my striving soul, these precious children know how to simply sit and be loved. They know their worth lies in God’s eyes and they don’t need to prove it. Unfortunately I had to say goodbye to my little loves today. As our van pulled away, my daughter and I held one another and sobbed. As we return home, rather than wallow in self pity, I hope I can honor the kids by finally learning what they know despite their youth: to rest in my Father’s arms and fully embrace His gracious Love. 

Honduran Waterpark

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What a full, fun day we had! Today made mission tripping feel like vacation. As a special treat, we used a portion of the money we raised to bring all the kids to a waterpark. I don’t know if I can describe what a joy it was for each of us. What we planned as a gift to them was given back to us ten-fold in laughter and memories. 

As with most everything here, a water park in Honduras looks quite different from anything back home. Set in the middle of a forest between the mountains and the coast, the Parque San Ignacio is both water park and zoo. There are no lifeguards, no rules, no overprotective parents slathering sunscreen or managing the lines for the slides. This was pure, un-Americanized freedom. For the kids and for us. 

We started the day by driving past the water park to the children’s village so we could board the school bus and ride with the kids. This has been a highlight of both my trips to Honduras. Piling 90 bodies into one hot school bus can only be fun if it’s packed full of people I love. And oh how I love these kids! With up to 5 to a seat, we squeezed in and laughed our way down the road.


At the park, we were given access to the main pool with its two water slides. The twisty slide was fun and ooooooohmygosh the steep slide was so fast! Kids and adults careened down and skimmed across the water like hovercraft. Two, three, even six kids at a time. They ran up the steps to go down again and again. These children make up the most amazing family, playing together like any other siblings, times 100. 

After a few hours of play, lunch arrived: 40 Little Cesar’s pizzas and 18 liters of soda to feed a hungry crowd. The zoo took us on a path deep into the woods. Jaguars, a puma, a lion, crocodiles, monkeys, and ostrich were all among the local and exotic animals. Just like my own children who visited the National Zoo today, these kids were delighted by the animals. Though it seemed to me, their favorite part was walking along with us. 


We circled the lake and returned to find the rest of the group laughing, splashing, having the time of their lives! And for many, this was. A day at the water park was, for the kids at H2H, the equivalent of a trip to Disney. An opportunity to play, to be a kid, to forget all the worries and burdens of a very harsh reality. A chance to just be fully present in the day and to make memories to last a lifetime. I know I did! 

My Barnacle Daughter

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My 10-year old daughter draped on my left arm is where I usually find her these days. Always pressing against me, I lovingly call her my Barnacle. For a couple of months, I haven’t been able to turn to the side without tripping over her. When I’ve finally had enough, I say “barnacle!” and she scatters; that’s her cue to give me space. But more and more, I’ve come to accept Meredith’s need to be so close to her mother. This phase of physical nurturing will end long before I’m ready. 


Perhaps our pending trip to Honduras had something to do with her increasing closeness. Or perhaps this trip was a gift for us both as we approach that precipice of the teen years. Whatever the case may be, my Barnacle has been a delightful travel companion. Our first day required us to be awake and out the door before 5:30 am. After three airports, two flights, and a two hour ride in the hot van, we arrived at our hotel. Always adventurous, Meredith was immediately ready to explore our home away from home. 

We spent our first two full days at the children’s village, getting to know the kids, learning dozens of names and faces, and battling house-fly sized mosquitoes and 100% equatorial humidity. My daughter has amazed me at every step. Especially those that took her away from me. My near-constant companion has been largely on her own, playing games, helping the kids write letters to their sponsors, teaching boys to make friendship bracelets, helping house mommies make fresh tortillas. Before she even met the kids, she volunteered to lead a devotional for the whole group, then practiced for two days to be ready. 

I am so proud of this young lady and grateful to watch her in an element that suits her so well. Her cheerfulness, teamwork, and commitment to the task inspire me to work harder. Her desire to know God’s Word and to share His truths encourages my anxious mother’s heart. But her God-given potential matched with her internal drive terrify me. As much as I want her to grow into the woman she is meant to be, I dread when I no longer feel the press of my little Barnacle.

So for now, we will make memories enough to carry us both …


A Little Goes a Long Way

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Yesterday, as we flew to Honduras, I pondered my part in this great big whole. Do the things I do really leave an impact? Can my visit to one orphanage in all the orphanages in all the world really make a difference? I’d like to think the answer is yes and she leapt into my arms today.

Four years ago, my heart broke as I held a sick baby girl. Her mother had just released custody and dropped her off at Heart to Heart. I had the unfortunate privilege of watching the surreal exchange. Noemi was lethargic, cried all the time, and had a deep cough. She needed sleep and tender care. So I rocked her for hours while she slept soundly on my chest. And then, a few days later, I had to leave her, not knowing how this child would adjust to her new reality. But I knew I left her in the care of a ministry dedicated to raising and loving their children. In the time since, I have received updates on Noemi and her 4 siblings, but nothing prepared me for our reunion. That sick baby is now a spunky five year old girl! When her sister led me to her today, little Mimi ran and jumped into my arms. She doesn’t remember me, or the bond we shared, or the prayers I lifted over her weak little frame. But she remembers love and pours it out freely. 

This tiny child sat on my lap and carefully formed the letters N O E M I L O P E Z in her little notebook, just as my own five year old does at home. I fought back tears; this sweet bundle of joy didn’t need to see me cry. But so overwhelmed am I at God’s provision in the life of this one child to bring her out of sickness and abuse to a home where she is loved and cared for. And for God’s provision in the life of every child at Heart to Heart. Although there are always more children to help, tonight 105 at risk children are sleeping soundly and safely thanks to this ministry dedicated to raising them. It’s not enough. It’s never enough. But Noemi taught me even a little makes a big difference!

http://www.h2hcv.org

Honduras today! 

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I cried when I left Honduras. Yearned to return before my flight even departed. Not knowing when or if I would get to see their faces again. But God answered my pleas. 

Today I am flying back to Heart2Heart, to the orphanage and the children I fell I love with. They won’t remember me, just another lady in a line of well-meaning visitors to their children’s village. Oh but I remember them, their smiles, their hugs, their kindness. And I remember profoundly, daily, the impact they had on my life. Children with no possessions aside from heartbreak and abuse, overflowing with a joy and love unlike any I’ve known. 

What will it be like this time? I’ve dreamt of it. Will I again be burdened with sadness for the destitute lives in this third world nation? Will I again be overwhelmed by how small I am in this huge cycle of poverty? In a place I can do so little to rescue these precious souls from despair, how can I make a difference? Our group of 10 carries six large duffle bags (nearly 300 lbs!), packed to the brim with school supplies, clothes, shoes, and athletic equipment, all of which came to us through the generous donations of friends in the US. All trip expenses have been covered through financial gifts and church funds. Encouragement fuels me and reminds me our small group is part of something larger. We get to partner with dozens of friends and family members at home who send their love, good thoughts, and faithful prayers. I choose to be filled with hope for the small impact we will have and it’s infinite ripple effect. I choose praise and thankfulness for the opportunity to return and share this experience with my group. 

And … wheels MIA – SAP!!

[Edited to share my first glimpse to which Meredith replied “Oh Mommy. You’re crying tears of happiness, aren’t you?” Absolutely!


Meredith is going to Honduras

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hnOne of the great joys of raising our daughter, Meredith, is watching the social-justice vein within her grow. Ever since she was very young, she has been concerned with and tested many venues for helping the disadvantaged. Her father and I are often caught in the balance between lending a hand to her “charity work” and reining her in when she tries to help a little too much.

“You’re right. All girls should be allowed to attend school! But, no, we cannot spend the summer after Kindergarten traveling to all the countries and speaking to the leaders. Not this year.”

“Yes, feel free to make bags of toiletries and snacks for homeless people, but no you cannot walk through the city alone to distribute them.”

“Thank you for helping collect clothing and school supplies for the orphanage we support in Honduras, but no you can’t travel there…  Or can you?”

This last request, one of dozens, sat differently on our hearts. Could she go to Honduras with one of us, meet the children she has supported for more than five years, work alongside us, build relationships, play games with kids her own age but vastly different backgrounds, be forever changed? Why yes, this time we can say with resounding clarity – YES.

Honduras

Meredith and I are headed to Honduras in less than six weeks with a small team of parents and teens. At age 10, Meredith is by far the youngest member, but we believe ready. She is excited to meet the kids, teach crafts, and play games. Our team will host a week of summer camp activities with sports, music, games, crafts, and devotions. We are raising money to take all 100+ kids to a local water park. We will share dinner with the older teens and worship at church alongside the whole community. But the most important “work” will be to spend time and build relationships with the kids who don’t benefit from regular attention, hugs, and quality time.

For Frank and me, our prayers for Meredith are many. Among them, that her innocence will be protected in a place where the harshness of life isn’t hidden away. She will come face to face with much of what we in America shield from our children’s eyes: poverty, greed, desertion, immoral life choices, animal cruelty, physical and emotional abuse, desperation. When I consider all the awfulness and danger of a third country as poor as Honduras, I question our decision. Why expose her to this at all?

Because she will also get to see God show up in a place that seems so void of His love. She will meet children who have nothing yet are filled with a knowledge they have everything simply because He holds them in His hands. She will learn family is everything, even if it consists of 100 brothers and sisters without a single biological connection. She’ll perhaps realize taking the top bunk above her little sister isn’t quite as bothersome as sharing a bedroom with seven other girls and no air conditioning. Working alongside half a dozen women who cook, clean, do laundry, bathe, and care for more than one hundred kids, she might learn a heavenly perspective on housework – theirs and ours.

Above all, I pray Meredith will experience the uninhibited joy of childhood! No matter on what continent a child has been born, no matter what advantages a child’s family can or cannot provide, no matter what horrors a child has seen or experienced, when all the distractions of life are stripped away, each child on this planet is entitled to joy and unconditional love. Despite all we give our children in our affluence, our children are left unfulfilled, hungry, wanting. Yet, these kids who bring no material possessions as they escape lives of abuse and neglect, find their security in others who care for them, hope from the opportunity to be educated, and wealth in being loved by God. The first time I ever looked into the eyes of pure, overflowing joy was 4 years ago when I met the children of Heart 2 Heart Children’s Village. I cannot wait to introduce my daughter to them!


We are working with the team to raise about $1,000 to take the kids to a waterpark. If you would like to help us make that happen, feel free to make a donation here www.h2hcv.org (please mention Meredith or me in the subject line).

To learn more about the amazing work happening at the Worldwide Heart to Heart Children’s Village, visit the homepage at www.h2hcv.org. H2H is a home and school to over 100 children and youth, ages 2-20. The children come undernourished, abused, and unloved, but H2H changes their lives by raising them in a Christ-centered family atmosphere and educates them at a bilingual school.

Read more about my experiences before, during, and after my first trip to Honduras under the Missions tab. Meredith and I both hope to catalog our trip via this blog.

Above all, please keep us in your prayers!