Summer's Children

By Lainey S. Cronk on December 18, 2007

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Summer is the blonde American mother of 41 El Salvadorian children. Living in one of the four “houses” of the orphanage called Hogar Escuela Adventista, this PUC student missionary takes cold showers (with frogs), washes her clothes by hand, and is sung to sleep at night by bats hanging from her ceiling.

It’s far from a plushy life. In addition to the hundreds of duties that come with parenting 41 children ages five to 20, Summer oversees a work crew of 11 little boys, heads planning for the 12-week summer program for the kids (remember, their summer is our winter!), plans worships, and life-guards at the pool. “I have never been so tired!” Summer says.

And of course there’s the language barrier. One of Summer’s most difficult groups consists of several teenage girls who stay up in the bathroom an hour after bedtime. “One night I tried to ask them if they were sick, and I accidentally called them ugly instead, and they agreed with me,” Summer recounts. “When I realized what I’d done, my heart felt as if it were going to break.”

Despite challenges, exhaustion, and the rocky transition time, Summer is certain that God is present: “I know God is here, and I get to see Him work in the lives of precious children,” she says. “I have seen God do amazing things since I've been here.”

In fact, a moment of grace came with the very group of girls who had been so unapproachable. One night when Summer went to say good night, the girls seemed to warm to her and even asked her to sleep in their room that night. As they had fun goofing off together, one girl looked up at Summer and said, “You really do love us, don’t you?”

Summer’s heart goes out to the children. “Can you imagine being one child in a house of 40?” She says. “Being a teenage girl is hard enough— then put 27 of them in one house, all feeling that they have been abandoned and have no one to really love them!”

Summer is committed to making these children realize their value. She concludes, “There is nothing in the world I would rather be doing than giving to children who are in desperate need of love.”