A letter of gratitude to our president Randy Farris:
"I just wanted to start off by saying thank you for this amazing opportunity of course. It was a life changing trip that I will never forget. Thank you for sharing your awesome story with us too. Hopefully one day I can share mine with you.
One thing I wanted to share with you about this trip was what happened to me. As you heard I went into this trip with not high expectations. I thought I was just going to play soccer with some orphans and if anything, maybe one of the guys would like me more just because I was athletic. However, I had this amazing connection with this little girl there at Juniper Tree. She is brand new to the program, so I don't know if you had the chance to meet her yet. Her name is Maria and just the most beautiful little girl.
It all started on Devotion night. After dinner before the devotion started I went outside to play with the kids for a short period of time. Maria was laying on the ground. Possibly pretending to be hurt or just playing a game. I walked over lightly singing the song by Santana, Maria haha. She looked up at me and was slightly crying, so I picked her up and then she just wanted more and more until I made her promise I would only pick her up one more time. After that she held my hand for about 20minutes straight as we played soccer on the concrete and walked into the house for devotion. She let go of my hand then and was gathering everything she wanted together. I didn't think too much of it and walked around looking for a free seat. A couple of the other older girls, Britney and Jasmin wanted me to sit next to them on the couch, so I took a seat there. Only 5 minutes later Maria came over to me sat on my lap and gave me a old testament in English. We clapped and sang together for a good amount of time. After about 20-30mins she went back to her mother of her house. Whether she wanted to or her mother called her over. I'm not certain. After devotion I had a very interesting and profound talk with Martin. One of the house fathers there. Deigo kindly translated for both of us, and he asked me a deep question. "Do you feel a calling? I see the way you play and work with the kids". It brought a lot of joy to my heart, but also slightly confused me. The next day was our free day at the beach with the kids. I started off just digging in the sand for 20mintues or so letting everyone do their own thing. After 20-30mins of that. Maria came up to me and I could tell she wanted to play. I asked her in spanish, "Tu quieres nadar conmigo?". She said yes and grabbed my hand. for 2-3 hours, maybe more I held her hand and played with her in the waves, on the beach, etc. There was one instance when I let her go for about 2 seconds and a big wave came and knocked us both over. When I got up I saw her and she was about to start crying. Everyone else from my group that was next to us was trying to cheer her up real quick, but I just picked her up and instantly she stopped crying and had the biggest smile on her face. I would continue to pick her up whenever she wanted and we would walk out into the waves as long as she said, "Va', and stop as soon as she said "No mas". There was even one instance when I left her for about 2 minutes because she was talking to her house mom and I went in the water to rinse myself off. When I looked back. Maria was practically yelling for me and reaching her arm out to be grabbed, and as soon as I came in close enough where she wasn't afraid to walk out she came running to me. It felt as if I have been one of the first positive male influences in her life and I was finally giving her the love she deserves, but at the same time she was giving me so much love back. We both never wanted to leave each others side at that beach. Later we went back to the house and william was going to give a presentation with the Kendamas. Maria came and found me, called me her "Gran amigo" and grabbed my hand again so I would sit with her. After William gave out kendamas to all the kids, they struggled a little and so did Maria, but she caught the ball one time and what made it so special to me, even though I slightly missed it by talking to someone else was that she looked up at me first and wanted me to see her get it and she wanted me to know first. I could see the joy in her face when I looked at her (story the font changed, and it wont go back lol). I told her I was going to go play soccer and she said ok. After that it was time to leave. I asked her for a photo together and she picked out the spot she wanted. I was completely fine at the time. I knew we had to leave an everything, but when I said goodbye to Maria, it happened...I picked her up as I hugged her and I don't know what she said since she said it in Spanish really quick, but she was super excited and smiled with a big laugh and then I just lost it. I started to cry. I couldn't hold it in no matter how hard I tried. I was going to miss her with all my heart. I went days feeling this joy and sadness throughout Cusco and even now back in the US.
I wanted to tell you this story because it means so much to me. Since it was so unexpected it became so much more powerful. With saying all this I want to sponsor Maria now and was hoping you could give me the info to do this, and I also want to write to her so she knows I'm still thinking of her. I know I want to go back there and see Maria and the other kids. Peru was such an amazing and spiritual place in general and for me. I hope I can go back there next year.
Thank you so much for allowing me to experience another form of love in another country