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Father's Corner: Mother Ines of Hogar Rafael Orphanage in Guatemala
By Father Andrew Harrison

Mother Ines of Hogar Rafael Orphanage in Guatemala asked me last year if I would return and present a prevention program for the teenage orphans about the dangers of drug abuse and chemical dependency. Last month I fulfilled that request. I asked David Velazquez to go along with me as translator. Instead of a formal lecture, I decided an informal conversation about drug abuse may be more effective and would answer their questions. I planned to demonstrate the effects that certain illegal drugs have on the brain. This demonstration was developed by Dr Erickson of Texas University. It was used with his permission.

The children were given different color balls representing natural brain hormones which affect how we feel. Dopamine is a feel good hormone. GABA is the sleep hormone. Each teen was instructed to imagine they were a nerve cell in the brain. They were instructed to pass the ball to the next cell representing the natural communication between nerve cells. I then demonstrated the difference when drugs, such as cocaine or alcohol were introduced into the system. It was very graphic showing the long term damage of these drugs cause.

Several of the orphans shared their stories about how they were affected by adults who used drugs. They came to understand how genetics can play a part in their future lives and why they should be very wary when introduced to any of these dangerous drugs.

Michaelyn Sloan, ministry leader of St. Luke mission teams, also went along to set up the activities for our future mission trip to Hogar Rafael Orphanage this coming June. We sat down with Mother Ines and mapped out our activities. We would be doing activities with the children, teaching church school classes, interacting with them similar to last year with hikes and field trips. Last June, we all went to the zoo and afterwards, had chicken dinners in a local fast food place. This was all funded by donations from parishioners and other donors. This year we are planning a very special trip with the children.

Besides interacting with the children we will be doing maintenance projects, such as moving debris left over from construction, repairing facilities, cleaning fish ponds, and gardening. This work will be done between the daily Orthodox service cycle of Matins in the morning and Vespers before dinner and Divine Liturgy on Sunday.

We will also be meeting with a local Christian group made up of five churches who are interested in the Orthodox faith. Father Andrew will be teaching them about Orthodox services and answering questions about the Orthodox faith. Lee Kopulos will be teaching the Orthodox understanding of the scriptures. Some of the women on our June team will be teaching about Icons and giving sewing instructions. Under the guidance of Mother Ines, we are hoping we can facilitate the reception of all five parishes into the Orthodox Church.

Looking back to that busy week in March, I can hardly believe that in one short week we climbed a volcano with the children, when to a spa, visited and had lunch with the Christian pastor and his staff, took a tour of the future hospital facility under construction and the online university, all from the work of Mother Ines and the nuns of Hogar. I also served one Divine Liturgy, two Presanctified Liturgies and one funeral and attended a Liturgy with Mayan elders who are being missionized by the Oriental Orthodox Church. What a week.

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