The Crew

The Crew
Christina, Matthew, Joshua and Katie Grace XiHua

Monday, September 3, 2012


I post occasionally about my volunteer work as a Guardian Ad Litem.  It can be heart wrenching to know what children in foster care go through.  Abuses that would make your skin crawl, or heart breaking neglect due to parental drug use. Our family lives in a low income county of Florida.  We are not rich ourselves and have to consider every week, and with every purchase, if it is wise or possible.  We are rich in the joy of the Lord, Oh Yes!  In comparison to many that I have seen, though, we should be overwhelmed with joy everyday for what we have!  

Oh do you realize the poverty that lurks in America?  Have you driven out into the corners of your city or county?  Please!  You must be aware!  

I will share something I learned this week.  I must keep everyone's anonymity in the story and THESE PHOTOS ARE NOT from my visit.  Just similarities. 

I was on my way to track down a mom, who may or may not be back on drugs, who hadn't contacted us about a visit with her child since getting out of jail 3 weeks ago.  I'd hoped that she had not gone immediately back to drugs, but if she had, I wanted to be able to somehow "tell" if she was.  Well, I finally found the address she gave me of the trailer park where she was staying. I have done GAL visitations to trailers before. Some nice trailers, some not so nice, but this park was the worst.  I can't even describe it, but when I drove in, depression hit me like a wall.  If a wind blew through this place, I believe it would be flattened if it were not for the hoards of junk holding things down.  Or up.  Sadly, if it were flattened, would anyone even know??  It was so lonely.  Not a plant, tree, nor grass, or even a sign in sight to mark each line of road in this small couple of blocks.  The bareness of green in the searing Florida heat was depressing too.  There were just dilapidated trailers, dirt ground, tons of junk, lots of beer bottles, a few downtrodden people hanging around, clearly years of drugs and alcohol in their faces.  A couple of teenagers walking through looking quite forlorn, on a school day.  I stuck out in my big blue minivan, driving slowly, looking  around. Even though I always dress down in jeans and a tee for visits, I clearly was an outsider.

photo courtesy 

I couldn't find this girl's trailer, #20, because there were no road signs or markings, so I took a big breath a pulled up to a big group of bearded, grubby men with shirts off around a truck, and asked where #20 was.  One older man, who was difficult to understand due to years of substance abuse affecting his speech, very helpfully told me where he thought it might be.  So I turned and headed down a short road, noticing some children's toys in yards as I drove and thinking about what a different childhood I'd had in comparison to this.....

photo courtesy google images 
Seeing the trailer numbers, counting 23, 22, 21... there was one more trailer across boarded up with no # on it..  I looked inside and saw it empty, no number, and hoped she didn't give me a false address.  I decided bravely that I would go and knock on #21, since there was a truck outside and the door was open, and ask them where #20 was.  Now listen.  I consider myself a confident and brave women.  I also commune in complete harmony with all folks, rich or poor, all races, on a regular basis. But for some reason I have to admit that I felt an unease in this place that day. I kept Jacob on the phone at this point because I didn't really feel safe going up and interrupting someone unexpectedly.  I knocked on the outside of this trailer and noticed a sign that said to go inside and knock, I inched my way in, and kept calling out to ask if anyone was home.  

photo courtesy google images

The "foyer" or enclosed porch was so full of junk, there was just a small path to the other door.  I knocked a few times and called out, but no one answered even though it was very small and I was right there at the main room.  I knocked again. No answer. I could hear the TV and a fan were on but still no answer, so I left. 

photo courtesy google images 
I noticed on the fridge by the inside door, a school picture of a sweet little girl, and I felt sad inside that she lived in this mess. 

photo courtesy google images - Hungry Children in America
I decided to try driving down the next row.  At the end, alas, there was #20!  I sat outside for a minute not sure if I was going to go in.  There were 4 motorcycles outside and several 4 wheelers.  Tons of junk and it looked, well, ominous!  If this mom was doing drugs again, I didn't want to catch her in the act with a bunch of people over there.  I decided to go for it and said a prayer. 

photo courtesy flickr Bill Fultz
So I entered the gate and walked slowly up to the door.  I knocked.  An older man with a gray beard answered and said gruffly, "yeah?"   I said, smiling brightly, "is ----- staying here??"  Then he smiled big and said "Well sure she is!  Just a minute!"  MY fear was gone.  Then she came to the door and was smiling and said "Hi!  These are friends we are staying with, let me go get my step daddy."  Then her step daddy joined us and I am not exaggerating when I say that he looked like he came straight out of the mountains of WV and I literally couldn't understand anything he said, but he was very nice and smiley and talked a lot. (this pic below exact! Just add overalls and a beard)

photo courtesy
She explained that she hasn't called us yet because she and her step dad have been getting set up in a new trailer down the road and don't have a place to have the child visit yet.   Now, this mom still doesn't understand that no matter how many times we tell her, that her time is running out and that she needs to call anyway and start outside visits first.  Seeing where she grew up and how?  Only God can change and replace the things that were not given to her mind and development.  She was left out, probably neglected or worse, in her world that was disjointed. Now her child received the same.  This child cannot wait but needs stability now.  

photo courtesy Zimbo

Now, if you stayed with me through all of this, and I realize it was sort of long,  I will share what I learned.  

What I leaned was this:  

Yes, this person is the offender.   I have not forgotten this child's plight by any means.  Yes, she is still not following through, but she IS a person and wants to mean well if she could and doesn't have the tools to get where she needs to go at this point in her life. She needs prayer and love.  

I also learned that no matter how impoverished, junky, abused or addicted a community might appear, and you might feel apprehensive to even step foot in their boundaries, you'll often find their initial desire is for kindness and a chance to be kind. To be helpful and accepted as PEOPLE.  They deserve that chance.  These are the people Jesus touched when he walked the earth. 

I also learned the extreme suffering is just down the road.  Where I thought I had seen what was really tough, I just saw it was much worse. There are people and children there.  Hurting, hungry, neglected.  We must be aware and find a way to reach out.  

Matthew 25
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’


  1. I admire you for your work and compassion,

  2. You Go Girl!!! I'm proud to call you friend:) We live in a rural american town where we have to travel many miles to find what you have pictured here. When we feel like we have it rough...we need to don't know ducky, how lucky you are!!!! Thanks for the reminder! May God bless you and PROTECT you in your work:) Love you, Love your family....and I've never even met you!!!!!:) But someday I plan to!! Hugs

  3. Oh Annie, how amazing you are!!!! I have to admit, I don't think I would have been strong enough to knock on that door, any of those doors:( This truly breaks my heart. I think we often forget that the people who are doing the abuse and neglect are often those who were abused and neglected themselves and while that does not excuse the behavior, I think it helps us to pray for them, to reach out to them and try to help, to forgive them, as we are told to do, as Jesus did on the cross. Thank you Annie!

  4. Judy, one day, you Vicky and I will all get together! Wouldn't that be wonderful??!! Our Z CWI girlies will see each other again and we can hug!

  5. Thanks Annie, and I know you would do the same! Besides, it really helped to have my husband on the phone the whole time. One time, I went to the house of a very angry legal guardian of this teenage boy. This man was so yucky on the phone, swearing a lot, and just angry at the world. I was so apprehensive when I went out to their trailer in the country. Thank goodness he wasn't home when I arrived for the visit, just the mom and the teen. I brought Jacob with me on that visit and he waited in the car. :-)

  6. I would have had someone on the phone too. I know we aren't suppose to be judgemental but there are some scary and messed up people out there, and you have your own family to think about as well. That is awesome that you are doing this.
    I did take some pictures of a place I went to look at a horse, oh my gosh it was the craziet place of stuff, and they were really nice people that actually took care of their animals, but I couldn't have lived like they did, I guess unless I thought it was normal?

    Maya was only jumping off the stump, thank goodness!

  7. Made me think, Leah, to go out and really take some pics of the conditions around our area and perhaps journal about it. I had to really search online to find photos to represent what I saw and was talking about. Not meaning to take photos of my cases of course, but of just people and places and perhaps journal about the state of poverty people are living in. Maybe not everyone is aware of it? I wasn't aware of the extent of it, I have to admit, until I moved to Florida. I never saw this sort of poverty in Boulder County,CO growing up. Here it is abundant.

  8. Hi

    My name is Jenna. your kids are a special miracle from god, a gift from above, earthly angel. Your kids are full of happiness, life, smiles, joy, fun,love, and spunk.

    You are an amazing mom, person, and brave woman to be in the line of work that you are in. You are also a very caring person. I have a couple of friends who were drug addicts, one who got back into drugs after being clean for five years, and one who has been clean from drugs and alchol for seven years. I myself have been put on drugs, for pain wise, and used to use to much ketamine, for the pain, without really understanding or knowing how much I was using, keep in mind I am special needs and have developmental delays. Now I am off that, and on methedone, which my mom gives to me.

    I was born with a rare life threatening disease, and have 14 other medical conditions, and developmental delays.

    I wrote this poem
    Each of us are Special
    Each of us different,
    No one is the same
    Each of are us are unique in our own way,
    Those of us who have challenges, we smile through our day.
    Those who of us who have challenges, we smile through our day.
    It doesn't matter what others say
    we are special anyway.
    What is forty feet and sings? the school chior

  9. It breaks my heart to think of this...I'm not stupid, I know poverty exists but like most people I'd be lying if I said it's easier to think about when it's random and not put a face with it. I have so many thoughts about this. Mostly I just want to pray for these people. Good, bad, right or wrong....we are all children of God.

  10. Having lived in South America, I've witnessed extreme poverty. But you expect to find it in a "third world country", not the United States! But it is all around us, rural or inner city. I admire the work you do for "the least of these" as my older boys had a Guardian Ad Litem who really did nothing for them. Thank you for what you do. And thank you for the reminder to open our eyes--and our hearts--to those right here in our vicinity who need the hope of Jesus Christ!

  11. Thankyou so much Annie for writing this post! You love and compassion is contagious! I wish there was a 'post to FB' link. Do you know how I could?

  12. What an incredibly difficult job. God bless you for your efforts!!

  13. Hey girl! You doin ok? Haven't heard from you in a while. Just checking in on you. Hugs to you all.


Many hungry children near the boarder of Myanmar and Thailand-click on photo