Church crew to restore Mexican orphanage
April 22, 2014
By Joe Grove
A Mexican orphan, maybe 5 or 6 years old, was drawing on the concrete as Michael Birdsall sat on a cement wall watching. The boy had drawn a stick figure, but there was a little object off to one side.
In his struggling Spanish, Birdsall asked the boy what he had dawn.
“That’s me,” the boy answered in Spanish.
Birdsall asked what the other object was.
“That’s my heart,” the boy answered.
His heart was pulled out of his body, Birdsall said. He had come from an incredibly abusive family and his self-identity was one of being torn apart.
Birdsall is a member of the Mountain Creek Christian Fellowship and will make his fifth trip to the El Sauzal orphanage, near Ensenada, Mexico, for eight days, leaving June 30. He heads up a team of 15, ages 10 to 72, to continue a six-year tradition.
They go to do maintenance on the orphanage’s buildings.
The team members pay their own way, Birdsall said, but they also raise money to take with them to give to the orphanage.
If you go
They will raise some of that money with a taco buffet April 26, at the Issaquah Senior Center, starting at 5 p.m. at $10 a plate.
The team will serve the meal, and there will be three types of meat and all the ingredients that go into building your own taco.
Birdsall said it is a public event and “we invite all those who want to go, all those who want to support the orphanage. We will have an offering box for generous donations, we hope, and all the proceeds we will take with us and give them to the orphanage.”
Birdsall said the history of the orphanage goes back 45 years, when a baby was left on the doorstep of a young Mexican pastor and his wife, Ramon and Magdalena Espinoza.
“Oh, I guess God wants us to take care of this baby,” Birdsall quotes the pastor. That pastor has now retired and his son is the director of the orphanage, which has grown to a population of 40 orphans and 10 staff workers. His granddaughter is the deputy director, so it is a three-generation mission.
All the staff members come from the local community and the organization “runs by faith and dependence on God,” Birdsall said. In time, a church in California came alongside the mission to help financially, and as other churches from various denominations joined in, a tax-exempt foundation was formed to help with funds.
“The most telling thing is their resolve to take whomever God brings them and become their family until they graduate from high school and grow into adults,” Birdsall said.
“The Mexican welfare agency is intimately familiar with all the orphanages in the district, and they reserve the most difficult kids for El Sauzal, because they know the character of El Sauzal workers,” he said. “They treat these kids with the utmost love. They just pour love on them, so they get the kids who have been burned, stabbed, fed drugs, you name it.”
One of those was the boy drawing the stick figure with chalk that had its heart torn out.
“The next year, I went back and he had just blossomed,” Birdsall said. “The fruit of being in that loving environment brought him around, and he was becoming a normal, happy kid.”
Birdsall said the thing that keeps drawing him year after year is “I always feel when I go there that I’ve been walking on holy ground.”
Vanessa Chitwood, pastor of the church, said members continue the tradition because, “we take seriously Jesus’ command to go into all the world and preach the gospel.” She said Christians are commanded by Christ to go to the poor and disenfranchised, here in Issaquah and beyond.
“We are a sending church in that we want people to go,” she said. “We encourage mission trips, and El Sauzal orphanage has been a place where our team has gone every summer for years.
“It changes them, especially the young people. You come back different. You see the privileges here and the poverty there, and the stark contrast, and you come back different. I can’t promote it enough for our young people.”