A guard stands watch day and night over The Hogar Rafael Ayau Orphanage, located in one of the toughest parts of Guatemala City.
The orphanage is operated by the nuns of the Monasterio Ortodoxo Lavra Mambre, and operates solely on donations. The 150-some children in the only Orthodox Christian orphanage in Guatemala are wards of the orphanage because of abuse, neglect, no trace of their parents, or mothers and fathers who simply cannot provide for them.
PSG Construction partner Stephen Gidus spent nearly three weeks at the orphanage this summer, assisting with a summer camp for the children. Trips are organized by the Orthodox Christian Missions Center in St. Augustine, Florida.
One orphan named Henry soon became Stephen’s regular companion at the orphanage. About seven years old, Henry would wait for Stephen at his dormitory entrance. They would often take meals together.
When Samuel, another orphan, first met Stephen, he shyly hid his left cheek against his shoulder. He was embarrassed by the ugly scar his father left when he attacked him with a hot iron. Once Samuel saw that Stephen was not interested in how he looked, he no longer hid his face.
“One thing we learned,” Stephen says, “is that you don’t go on a missionary trip with any expectations or your own agenda. You go to serve and do whatever you’re asked to do.”
Stephen’s brother and PSG partner Paul was building a home for a poor family in Mexico during this time. This was Paul’s third year volunteering for Project Mexico. Paul learned that it is not necessary to travel to another country to perform acts of mercy.
“Our leaders on the building team encouraged us to come back home and continue doing acts of mercy for people here,” Paul says. “They pointed out that it could be something as simple as working in a soup kitchen or driving an elderly person to church.”
The Gidus brothers encourage others to consider missionary or charitable work. “Special skills are usually not necessary,” Stephen explains. “The most important thing to have is a willingness to help out. Actions speak louder than words.”
Readers can learn more about the Hogar Rafael Ayau at www.ocmc.org.