From where I sit and type, I can hear Caribbean waves crash on our shore, smell wood fires where our bienvenida (welcome) lunch is being prepared, and look out to our verdant, tropical home...I've made it to the Finca at last!
Antigua taught me quite a bit...How to speak Spanish, how to roast marshmallows in volcanic ash, how run on cobblestones without breaking my ankles, how to make friends quickly with people from around the world, and (most importantly) how to salsa. But by the end of the month that was part hard study and part vacation and after an incredible opening retreat, I was anxious to hop on that 3 AM bus and begin mission.
And friends, the Finca feels like home. This place is so evidently a work of love. I know that my own country is embroiled in nasty, painful partisan politics and that the constant media barrage can leave you drained and hopeless. I know that the state of the church has caused many to feel betrayed and alienated. So, it is my privilege to share with you all a different vision...a vision of what is possible when faith, hope, and love are not vague ideas but directives for each day of our life. The Kingdom of God begins here on earth, and at the Finca you can feel it growing. So I invite you to take a break from any worries and stress you are under and listen to the story of the Finca, which is a verdadera love story.
It would take a book to do the story of the Finca and its founding justice, but I will try to summarize. It starts, like any good adventure, with a sense of restlessness. In this case, the restless protagonist was Vincente Pescatore, an American accountant, feeling choked by his suit and tie, desiring to know and serve God more intimately. Following the call, he left his job, lived in a Catholic community in NYC and later moved to Guatemala to work as a missionary in an orphanage. It was in Antigua that he met Zulena, the love of his life. Together, they discerned a calling as a couple to go to the depths of Peten, a jungle area in the north of Guatemala, where isolation, poverty, and the Guatemala civil war had left children orphaned and communities in dire need. Although it was objectively dangerous and in the eyes of the world, completely impractical, newly married Zulena and Vincente moved to Peten and started their first orphanage, clinic, and school. Ten hours away from the nearest hospital, they relied on the grace of God and taught themselves everything they could learn to aid the children they cared for and the local community. Vincente even became a pilot so that he could transport patients, often pregnant women, to the hospitals in emergencies.
Although far from any church and often without the Sacraments, the original Finca de los Ninos lived what it means to be the Body of Christ...They lived a communal life centered on the four pillars of Spirituality, Community, Service, and Simplicity, the same pillars that I am living by as a missionary. They spread the Kingdom of God through active solidarity with orphaned and abandoned children, constantly relying on God and the generosity of benefactors, missionaries, and their own community for survival. At our opening retreat, Zulena told story after miraculous story of how God responded to their needs and prayers and never abandoned them.
After seven or eight years in Guatemala, the Pescatores discerned a call to start another Finca in Honduras. Leaving the Guatemalan orphanage under the management of a religious order, they moved to Trujillo and began construction of the Finca where I currently live. Looking around at the beautiful chapel, six children's homes, missionary houses, convent, soccer field, offices, and school buildings I am floored by the immense sacrifices and hard work that went into this home. There are so many "yes's" that make this possible...the original "yes" of Zulena and Vincente, the "yes" of every missionary who has spent time here, the "yes" of donors, of house parents who raise our kids here, of teachers, of the local church leadership, of the children and the local community to be a part of the family of the Finca. And these little "yes's" heal the deep wounds inflicted by the "no's" of abandonment, poverty, and abuse.
Tragically, a few months before the second Finca was set to open its doors and start the school year, Vincente and two volunteers who had come to finish the chapel roof, died in a airplane crash in the mountains just beyond our home. At this time Zulena had five children, including a six month old. She and her children had just lost a beloved husband and father- a living saint. God had called one of his truest sons home. And so, Zulena, trusting in the Holy Spirit's call, decided to continue the work that she and her husband had begun. She said "yes" again and so God's kingdom has been able to embrace new citizens, new royalty.
It's staggering to look around the Finca and think of the hundreds of children who have found dignity, healing, education, hope, and home because of Vincente and Zulena's love for Jesus Christ, each other, and the "least of these." Hearing the story of the Finca from Zulena during our retreat, I found my faith, my hope, my love stirred. She made it so evident that she is but an instrument of God and completely relies on His grace. Looking around this beautiful home, hearing the sounds of children playing and bachata blaring, I am convicted that it is so very good to be an instrument of God because He can do so much with what we offer Him. It is so very good to say yes.
(If you are just coming upon my story for the first time and feel inspired to help in our mission of providing a home, education, and loving family to orphaned and neglected children, please consider helping in one of the following ways:
1) PRAY for us. Everyone can do that. If you don't believe in God, just send good wishes and encouraging letters! That works for me:D
2) Donate! See my donate tab. I've reached my funding goal, so go ahead and pick your favorite cause at la Finca...the school, the clinic, the casas...Have fun with it!
3) Consider mission work or service yourself. It is SO worth it to serve wherever you are called.
Also, if you want to send me a letter, you can reach me at :
Finca del Niño- Anna Smith
Apartado Postal #110
Honduras, Central America