Sunday, March 14, 2010
Americans Deported from Morocco – Forced to Abandon Orphans
When Eddie and Lynn Padilla moved to Morocco in 2006, they expected to stay for good, raising a family and helping orphans. They never dreamed that four years later they would find themselves and their two young children being escorted by police to a plane bound for America—leaving 34 crying orphans behind.
For two of those orphans, Samir and Mouhcine, the Padillas were the only parents they’d ever known. Eddie and Lynn were “Dad and Mom” and the two Padilla children were their beloved siblings. The family is now torn apart, trusting God for the welfare of the children who are now under the care of strangers.
The Padillas, originally sent out by Calvary Chapel Downy, worked with Village of Hope (VOH), an organization taking in orphans, many abandoned at birth because they were illegitimate—a despised stigma in Muslim Morocco. Unwanted babies are often discarded in hospitals or left in trash bags to die. Without structures like VOH, there is little hope of these children having a loving childhood.
VOH’s approach to helping orphans is to set up small, family units rather than huge, dormitory types of orphanages. House parents (or even a house family, as was the case of the Padillas) then foster no more than eight children, creating a real family nucleus.
The house-parents at VOH were from several countries including the UK, Holland, New Zealand, South Africa, America—and one family of converted Moroccans who fostered seven children under five years of age. The Padillas were the only Americans.
On March 6th at 3pm all the house-parents—including the Moroccan family—were ordered to leave the compound and the children. By 9pm, the Padillas found themselves on a bus headed for the airport escorted by police. They took their two biological children with them, leaving behind their belongings and beloved foster children. Samir, whose 2nd birthday was to be celebrated on March 8th, and his one-year-old brother, were left bewildered, scared and alone.
Some of the children in the homes have known their house-parents for ten years. They now find themselves with total strangers, longing for the loving embrace of their parents.
One little four-year-old girl doesn’t yet know her parents can no longer take care of her. She was taken to South Africa on a brief, permitted visit, and scheduled to return in April. She will return home to strangers – workers commissioned by the Moroccan government to take care of the children abandoned by a society that doesn’t value orphans.
This trauma began unexpectedly a few days prior to the deportation of the VOH workers when Moroccan government officials questioned the missionaries and the children. They then alleged that the house-parents were proselytizing to minors. However, their allegation lacked evidence, no trial was given and the decision was inexplicably irrevocable.
The puzzling piece in this drama is that the VOH compound was legal and legitimate. The missionaries had openly stated their standing as Christians, and had accepted the conditions placed on them by the Moroccan government. Those limitations included the requisite that the children were to learn about Islam as well as Christianity and to be well acquainted with the Muslim culture. The missionaries honored this stipulation to a tee, trusting that God would use their obedience and reveal Himself to the children.
So why were the workers ordered to leave without any proven misdemeanor? The Bible answers that question. We are in a spiritual battle. And the battle is worsening. Hostility towards Christians is increasing worldwide, and with it, hostility to children—particularly orphans. This is a time when we, the body of Christ, need to step up our prayer quota and stand in the gap for the children and the nations. Morocco’s children need our prayers more than ever—as do the children worldwide.
We worked with many Moroccan children in France. I knew a lot of Samirs and Mouhcines. We brought them to our Saturday Club and taught them about Jesus. (Parents gave there children over willingly, happy to have less to worry about for an afternoon.) My husband visited Morocco several times, and was touched by the faith of those who’d come to Christ—sometimes at the risk of their lives. Many practice Christianity in secret.
But in the case of the VOH workers, their faith was no secret, even though they heeded the government’s prohibition to proselytize. Parents like the Padillas showed the love of Jesus to the children and to all those around them. They lived it.
The Padillas are now in Colorado with family, trying to make sense of it all. They will soon have to look for jobs in a country where unemployment is at a high, while the need for missionaries in nations like Morocco has never been greater. But they are not the only ones who’ll need to look for jobs. So will the 24 Moroccan employees who worked at VOH who are now fired. Mercilessly left unemployed – while 34 children are left parentless.
“My children ask for the other children,” Lynn told me. “To them, home is in Morocco .” Then the sobering words of a loving mother whose heart has been broken, “I never even got to make Samir’s birthday cake”
But in spite of the pain, Eddie and Lynn have kept an eternal focus. They are praying that the Muslim workers who are now taking care of the children at VOH will search their hearts and ask themselves what this was all about. What caused these people to come here to take care of our abandoned children? They hope and pray God will use this tragedy for His higher purpose – that of drawing the nations to Himself. Yes, even nations like Morocco.
Let’s join them in that prayer.
For an official statement from the parents of VOH, go here.
Janey L. DeMeo M.A.
Copyright © March 2010
Janey DeMeo is founder and director of Orphans First. She is also an author and speaker. Her husband, Louis, is a church-planter and pastor. They were formerly missionaries for 22 years in France, and are now based in Southern California where they continue their ministry. They both taught at the Calvary Chapel Bible College.