Our sons lived for five years in an orphanage in the rainforest of Puerto Maldonado, Peru after their biological parents died. When our family traveled there one August to adopt the boys, the felt temperature was 114 degrees, and it was the season in which the farmers burned their fields in preparation for the planting to come. So, the damp air was filled with blowing ash, cloaking everything in a soggy, smoky blanket. I took four showers my first day there, trying desperately to cool down my body’s core, sobbing, thoroughly miserable because the water was uncooled and only trickled its warmth onto my hot skin.
That evening, when we arrived at the Hogar (Home), we met Pilar, the House Mother, a failed nun who flunked out of her convent in Spain because she “didn’t follow orders,” she told us with a radiant smile, made beautiful by the living of her true calling, that of serving the lost children in her care. Careful to keep from standing near anyone in that heat, unrelieved by air conditioning, not even a fan to stir the wet air, struggling against the waves of warmth rolling around the room, I watched Pilar smiling, sweat running down her face and neck, into her shirt, pooling at her feet, as she held an infant close in her moist arms, toddlers clinging to her slippery legs, while I swallowed the urge to run screaming out into the night.
Since goodbyes are hard, and the children of the Hogar need to be especially brave as they depart with strangers for strange lands around the globe, Pilar has instituted a leaving ceremony in which the adoptive family takes all the Hogar community, children and workers alike, out for a celebration dinner at a local restaurant, so their departure takes place from there and not from the home so filled with memories that would call the children back instead of launch them forward. It’s a simple restaurant, serving chicken and fries, and the children put their shoes in bins while they play and wait for the food to be served. Pilar told us the story of how one evening when the children went to retrieve their shoes, they were gone. All of the shoes were gone. Someone had stolen the shoes from these orphaned children. Puerto Maldonado is a battlefield where desperate poverty wages war with sacrificial generosity and sometimes poverty wins a skirmish.
The children of the Hogar are given toys by the community, cast-offs, broken things, still treasures in this land of lack, and when our new son, Cristian, learned that he was going to be adopted, he said immediately, boldly Peter-like, “my new father has more and better toys,” and then gave away all of his toys. All of them.
And, we didn’t come for Cristian.
Because the wheels of adoption grind exceedingly slowly, we didn’t come for days. For weeks. For months. Every morning Cristian would ask Pilar, “When is my father coming?” And she would reply confidently, “I don’t know when he is coming, but I know he is coming.”
Because we are a family of modest means, only able to pay the cost of adoption with the help of our extended family, friends in our faith community, and a couple of grants from adoption agencies, when I heard what Cristian had done, I began to be concerned that we would fail to meet his expectations until another adoptive mom assured me that anything we could give would more than exceed the hopes of a former orphan, who could not begin to imagine what living in a family, being loved by a family, would mean.
Because of the joy that he knew was coming, Cristian lived in that waiting time, the in-between time, without the earthly treasures he had given away, with a growing intensity of longing for what was coming, and by that very act of faith had begun to live as if he was already adopted.
And, I would like to live like that, with the triumphant, childlike faith my son demonstrated, willing to set aside all the things my heart treasures here on earth, believing that my Father “has more and better,” living into my adoption as His child, looking ahead to the joy that is coming and asking with growing intensity,
“When is my Father coming?”
Awara Fernández lives in Georgia with her husband of 34 years and their rescue dog, Gonzo. They have 6 children and 7 grandchildren. You can read more of her writing at callapress.com and coming soon to kosmeomag.com as well as thewayback2ourselves.com. You can find her at facebook.com/awara.fernandez