How it all started…
In early 2011, God began whispering to Wyeth and Wendy Willard about his desire to see them spend an extended period of time in the Central American country of Nicaragua, where Wyeth’s dad had founded the first non-profit summer camp for local children living in poverty there. While the Willards had led several short-term family mission trips to Nicaragua, they weren’t interested in actually moving to the poorest Spanish-speaking country in the world. They found the proposition quite frustrating at first, thinking, “We helped plant a church in a nearby town, supported missionaries, parented foster kids, and tithed. Haven’t we done enough, God? Aren’t there people who actually speak Spanish and know how to be missionaries who could do a much better job?”
And yet they couldn’t ignore that tiny tugging at the corners of their hearts. So, together with another family from their community, they began praying for guidance, that God’s will for their life would be done. After almost a year of praying that prayer — a year that included some of the lowest points of their lives — they made official plans to move to Nicaragua in July of 2012. But lest you think they were immediately transformed from American-dream-living-suburban-Christians, Wyeth and Wendy told God He had exactly one year before they returned. (Oh yes they did.)
They dove into Nicaraguan life as best they could, while also struggling through culture-shock, a distinct lack of any Spanish-language skills, and everything else that goes along with uprooting 10- and 13-year-old daughters to have an “adventure” in a developing country. Wyeth and Wendy continued working their consulting jobs in the U.S. to support themselves abroad. They offered free babysitting for missionaries (after realizing that few had access to sitters they could trust, which translated into couples with little time to focus on their marriage) and coached soccer. By March, they felt as if they had checked the “been a missionary abroad” box and could prepare to go home.
About 24 hours after making checking that box, they got a call that changed their lives (as if moving to Nicaragua hadn’t already done that). A friend told the Willards about a mom who had been in the country to adopt two school-age kids. She was separated from her family back in the U.S., without any Spanish-language skills, transportation, or any sense of community. She was lonely, frustrated, and desperate. The day we decided we’ve “done enough” in Nicaragua, she boarded a plane — without those two kids — and made the excruciating decision to cancel the adoption.
“You must help these people, Wendy,” this friend pleaded.
“Oh, crap,” came the very honest response. While Wyeth and Wendy weren’t immediately overjoyed at God’s job assignment, they willingly accepted it and reversed their plans to return to the United States. In what was an emotional and challenging decision, they sold their remaining belongings in the States and fully invested in a 6-bedroom home in Managua, in which they could host adopting families. They continued freelancing their tech jobs back in the U.S. to support this endeavor.
They dove headfirst into the land of international adoptions, learning the importance of educating love, fostering community, and transitioning families. They fell in love with Nicaragua’s children. Wyeth and Wendy began dreaming a God-sized dream of building an in-country adoption care facility, where families could be nurtured and supported throughout the entire process, in an effort to increase the number of orphans-no-more, particularly special needs kids and those ages 7-14, which are the toughest to place.
And they began praying for a partner back in the States, someone who could provide administrative, financial, and networking support. Wendy attended the CAFO conference in 2014 and found there to be a serious lack of any sort of on-the-ground support for internationally adopting families. In fact, CAFO organizers said that in ten years of assisting and organizing global orphan-care workers, they had never heard of anyone doing this sort of adoption care.
The first six months of any adoption are the most critical in terms of predicting future success. Families who must spend a good portion of that living in the child’s home country are often cut-off from any sort of emotional, physical, or community support — support that it absolutely crucial if the family is to bond together for the long haul.
In May of 2014, after much counsel and prayer, the Willards came to the realization that they needed to return to the U.S. to be the support they so needed. God provided another missionary family, Carlos & Sharla Martinez, to take over the day-to-day process of serving transitioning families in-country. It would be another seven months before the Willards moved back to the States, during which time the two families worked together to train Carlos and Sharla.
From 2015 – 2017, the Martinez family served many adopting families from North America and Europe. Their Spanish fluency and Nicaraguan heritage gained them access to situations the Willards had previously only dreamed of. The ministry flourished under Carlos and Sharla’s tender care.
…and so much more
In the spring of 2017, we all sensed God leading us to pursue additional training in an area that seemed to significantly impact every single family we encountered in the ministry: trauma. Through a partnership with Fellowship Greenville, Carlos and Sharla were able to become affiliate trainers for Back2Back’s Trauma Competent Caregiver curriculum. We hadn’t realized just how important this training would become in just a few months when, in the spring of 2018, Nicaragua began experiencing the most violent turmoil since the Somoza dictatorship was overthrown in 1979.
As of mid-2018, it is perhaps too dangerous for adopting families to live in Nicaragua. What does that mean for this ministry?
We do not know how this will turn out, but are grateful for God’s provision of skills to help so many Nicaraguans deal with the ever present trauma with which they now live. In the midst of this significant economic, social, and political crisis, Nicaraguan families fit the definition of being “in transition” perhaps now more than ever since this ministry was founded. We recognize we have been put here for such a time as this.
We typically talk about the work we do in the following ways: