The last morning of our trip was sunny, but brisk. I sat at the picnic table, clutching my warm cup of coffee, watching the handful of sheep grazing down the dirt road. A couple local construction workers hauled wheelbarrows full of tools up the steep hill past our cabin, all the while offering a smile and a cheerful “buenos días.”
This was our family’s first visit to Mexico. Looking for ways to stretch ourselves and our children, a couple good friends recommended visiting the Door of Faith Orphanage (DOFO) in La Misión, Baja California, Mexico. With the promise of a good local taco stand accompanying it, how could we go wrong?
Surveying the mountains surrounding the orphanage, I used those few quiet minutes that final morning to read that day’s Scripture in my devotions.
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth. — Psalm 121:1-2
I smiled at the relevance of the imagery and knowing it is a favorite passage of my in-laws who were on the trip with us. Psalm 122 and 125 continued describing the walls and mountains providing refuge:
Peace be within your walls
and security within your towers! — Psalm 122:7
As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
so the Lord surrounds his people,
from this time forth and forevermore. — Psalm 125:2
How appropriate for this orphanage, surrounded by a front gate and mountains, providing shelter for the precious lives within. Psalm 127 closed out the section reminding us that “children are a heritage from the LORD” (Psalm 127:3), and the critical need for God to be the foundation of it all:
Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain. — Psalm 127:1
Our family’s visit to DOFO was a wonderful opportunity to meet the children, volunteers, and staff personally, and to experience a slice of their culture and daily lives. We were under no illusions we’d be helping in any lasting way the few short days we were there, but the orphanage welcomed us all the same and appreciated our desire to learn and spread the word about the work they’re doing.
Meet Door of Faith
We stayed in one of the small campgrounds at the orphanage, which they use for housing missions groups and visitors. Maggie, one of the American volunteers, was our gracious host, showing us around, ensuring we had answers to all our questions, and making us feel welcomed. The DOFO staff is comprised of both paid Mexicans and American volunteers. There are currently about 28 Mexican staff members on site and seven American volunteers. The American volunteers raise their own personal support, and receive no financial compensation from Door of Faith. During our visit we saw groups from both the U.S. and Mexico there for the day volunteering.
Much of our time was spent hanging out with the children on the playground. The kids wasted no time in classifying us as playmates, grabbing our hands and inviting us to play. I was grateful my woeful Spanish wasn’t a huge barrier. When a boy sitting on a swing yells out “Amigo, faster!” it’s fairly easy to pick up on what he’s looking for.
From toddlers to college-aged, DOFO currently supports 65 children. They have capacity for up to 120, including facilities for newborns. While it is an orphanage, a number of the DOFO children do have parents. However, the parents were unable to care for them for one reason or another (e.g., drugs, abuse) and either willingly gave them away or had them removed. In some cases, the Mexican government brings the children to the orphanage, though DOFO receives no government funds.
A top priority of the orphanage is to provide a family atmosphere for the children. Children live in small dorms based on age, with a dorm parent primarily responsible for their care each and every day. Each dorm is uniquely designed and decorated. Bright colors, art, and landscaping are prevalent throughout the homes and campus. The children all have chores and responsibilities, as with any family, helping with things such as laundry and cleaning.
One of my favorite buildings was a small bakery that was recently built. With each child’s birthday, a themed cake is prepared. Given the sheer number of cakes that are made each year (one per child), they built a small bakery dedicated to the making of birthday cakes for the kids. If you’re interested in contributing to their baking, keep an eye on the bakery’s Amazon wish list.
Education is a huge goal at DOFO. There is a preschool onsite, and the older children attend local schools. The day we were leaving, even the staff and volunteers were preparing to attend a parenting class as part of their ongoing education.
As if caring for the needs of 65 kids wasn’t enough, DOFO also emphasizes community service. Their mission statement priorities say it forthrightly:
We strive to love our neighbor as ourselves, teaching our children to give back through both word and action. By allowing and encouraging our children to serve others, both on site and in our community, it brings restoration. Our children are taught that they are NOT what’s been done to them, they are made in the image of God, designed for good works, they have a purpose in this life. Service to other brings healing.
Part of the outreach even includes training other orphanages. The day we arrived, DJ and Lynette, administrators at DOFO, were participating in the dedication of another orphanage in the area.
Our Eternal Family
We also had the privilege of attending a worship service during our visit. Each Sunday the whole orphanage attends the Templo Cristiano Elim de México church. What an enriching time to study Scripture and sing praises together. DJ participated by providing English interpretation during the service. The congregation was so welcoming. One of the Mexican girls from the church even took it upon herself to make sure our daughters had flags to wave and were able to participate fully. After the time of worship, they invited us to join them for homemade sopas and soup (delicious!). Frequently church members will prepare a meal after the service to raise funds for their missions.
The church visit provided a powerful perspective for our trip that I didn’t anticipate. I loved hearing worship songs I knew being sung in a language I didn’t understand, knowing the passion and praise was glorifying the same triune God. In some ways, it helped me avoid simply going through the motions and instead forced me to focus on who we were praising: our Creator.
It reminded me that we are all part of the same Body, and that we have a responsibility to each other: “But God has so composed the body … that the members may have the same care for one another” (1 Corinthians 12:24-25). Romans goes further explaining that, “in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” (Romans 12:5), and that we are to “be devoted to one another” (Romans 12:10).
God, being the “father of orphans, champion of widows” (Psalm 68:5 MSG) repeatedly directs us to care for the fatherless, to protect them, and provide justice (e.g., Isaiah 1:17; James 1:27).
Before God our Father, we all share the same status through faith in Christ, and that is as adopted sons and daughters of God (Galatians 3:26; Galatians 4:5). No matter our family status on earth, we can share the same heavenly Father. For God has, “predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will” (Ephesians 1:5). We have, “received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Romans 8:15). In promising His return, Christ even says, “‘I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you’” (John 14:18).
Be Devoted To One Another
There are so many ways you can learn more about the orphanage. Subscribe to their newsletter, email or snail mail. Follow them on Facebook or Twitter. They also post some adorable pictures on Instagram.
If you’re able, I highly recommend scheduling a visit. Don’t shove this off as something only for youth groups to do. Are you in Southern California? From there it can be a single day trip, driving down and back. A church from California was doing just that one of the days we were there. They drove down, served a meal for the children, played and enjoyed time with the kids, and drove back. What a precious opportunity to serve together as families!
Prayer is essential, whether it’s for increased awareness of their ministry, growing compassion for this part of the Body, the needs of the children (physical, emotional, spiritual), the volunteers who raise their own funds, the staff, or the local church where they worship.
And certainly financial support is needed. They provide a number of ways to give online, whether a one-time gift or monthly.
And so we “groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons” (Romans 8:23), and use our time to act justly and love mercy. May God bless Door of Faith Orphanage as they continue to do just that.