Below is a reflection written by Gaby Driessen, Regional Manager of Child Sponsorship in NPH USA’s Midwest office, about the wonders of introducing new visitors to NPH homes for the first time.
I directed my first trip to NPH nearly three years ago, so my first NPH visit experiences are long gone. I don’t feel the nervousness of driving into NPH for the first time; rather, I feel comfort and familiarity. I do not get anxious about meeting the pequeños for the first time; rather, I feel excited to see them again and pick up right where we left off a few months ago. I do not get to fall in love with NPH for the first time; rather, I continue to fall more and more in love with the organization and its people. Since I no longer have those “first moments” when I visit a NPH home, bringing new donors and sponsors to visit one of the NPH homes is, in my opinion, the best part of working for NPH USA. To witness someone step onto NPH grounds for their first time, build meaningful relationships with the pequeños, and feel so at ease and at home is so remarkable. With each trip that I lead, I am given the unique opportunity to see the light flicker in someone else’s eyes when they realize that by visiting NPH they are helping break the cycle of poverty.
In a recent trip to NPH Guatemala, I asked the trip participants to share their “aha!” moments. What about NPH has surprised you the most? What has made you realize the importance of you visiting NPH? What has been your favorite moment thus far? One participant, who was visiting NPH for his first time, shared that his “aha!” moment was when he realized that NPH is the Kingdom of God. His answer left me speechless. My entire education, kindergarten all the way through college, had been in Catholic schools, so at a remarkably young age I had been taught that the Kingdom of God was Heaven. One high school religion teacher liked to say for those of different faiths, “The Kingdom of God is a place where love is all around.” The trip participant went on to explain his reasoning for believing that NPH is the Kingdom of God – he witnessed Fr. Wasson’s pillars of unconditional love, shared responsibility and helping others in every child, caregiver, teacher, nurse, gardener, international volunteer, visitor, donor, and sponsor. He explained that he had never seen so much love in one place, and, in his opinion, all this love could only mean that NPH is the Kingdom of God. Throughout the rest of the week, I kept an eye out for Kingdom of God moments.
On the last day of the trip, the youngest boys section walked past me, each boy carrying a large garbage bag filled with folded clothes. When I asked where they were going with all the bags of clothes, they explained that they were walking into town to donate the clothes to those in need. All of sudden that lesson from my sophomore high school religion class of love being all around made sense, as did the trip participant’s “aha!” moment; there, in the midst of the Guatemalan highlands, with a volcanic and mountainous background, on the grounds of a place that provides a home, healthcare and education for approximately 300 children, I was standing amongst a group of nine-year-old boys who were, and are, living the Kingdom of God.