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Follow That Harmonica
By Stacy English

"This is what Christianity is all about," a Unity for Orphans volunteer said in between hymns and praise songs he played on the harmonica.

The scene is a parking lot surrounded by volunteers, ready to embark on a day of serving children in an orphanage. “Visiting children, giving food and supplies they need and showing the love of Christ. This is it right here. Love in action.” About 50 people gathered that Saturday morning to caravan down to Tijuana, Mexico. About half of the people there were visiting from the Riverside area to see if their church would partner with this orphanage to visit and support them. The rest were mostly from The Rock Church San Diego, serving in the Unity for Orphans ministry. Most of them were returning because they enjoyed their last visit so much and wanted to continue serving in this ministry.

As you enter Casa Hogar Belen, clean swept dirt floors transition to mission tiles. The colorful walls and the sights and sounds of children inspire you with joy and hope. Pastor Jose Mendoza, his family and the caregivers love and care for the children of Casa Hogar day in and day out. They are raising them in Christian love. They are restoring them to good health and happy lives.

What then are the roles of the volunteers who come down and visit every month? As one leader explained it during a morning devotional just before the trip to the orphanage, when you visit orphans you are building on their lives. You are allowing God to use you to show love to these kids through your relationship with them. These children crave individual attention. Most of them have been abandoned completely by their families. Some have been abused. By visiting them and spending time with them, you are giving them much needed positive attention and restoring their faith in humanity. You are showing them that there are people who care about them and there are people who will be good to them.

The day’s agenda is simple. The volunteers play ball with the children, push them on swings, do crafts with them, hug them, talk to them and have lunch with them. A Bible story is taught to the children, as well.

God has a special place in his heart for the sick, the orphans and the imprisoned, and calls each of us to serve such communities with that same conviction.

As Rock pastor George Clerie says, there is something within us that has grown cold or callous when we no longer care about people who are helpless. In James 1:27 it says, Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. Serving at Casa Hogar is a great place to start or continue in living out love to others.

Casa Hogar had its start in the 1970s, when one woman answered the Lord's call. She was married with several children of her own, living in Tijuana, where she went to church and taught Sunday school. One day at a local Christian rally, a group of pastors told her that God had put a calling on her life to work with many children. Since she had already been working in the Sunday school ministry, she was encouraged that she was doing the right thing. A few years later she felt an increasing burden for the very poor children living who begged for food and reached out to her on the streets. She wanted to help them but was not quite sure how. Soon after, she met a missionary woman from Sweden who asked if she would start an orphanage with her. She agreed, and the two began to take in Tijuana's abandoned children. She now understood that this was the calling the pastors had been speaking about.

Her husband did not feel that same call, and he left his wife and their eight children. The woman and her friend continued the orphanage and would see it grow to house 200 children at a time. In its three decades, the orphanage has housed over 7,000 children.

The children come to live at the orphanage through various channels. The Mexican government will sometimes bring a child that has been abandoned or taken away from unsafe living conditions. Sometimes a parent - often prostitutes or drug addicts - will bring their children to the orphanage if they cannot care for them. Of the children who are brought here, some are adopted, but most stay and are raised by the Mendoza family. Pastor Mendoza, who took over Casa Hogar for his mother, is proud to say that the children who have grown up here have gone on to become fine, upstanding citizens of the community--police officers, actresses, and other respectable people in society.

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