Hola! My name is Kristen, or as I am known on the hill, “Kristina.” Almost exactly 10 years ago, I arrived at Emmanuel for the very first time. I never would have imagined that all these years later, I would be here with the extreme privilege of representing this place to each of you.

I have been a part of Emmanuel in many different capacities over the years. First, as a visitor coming multiple times a year leading teams to the home; then, a child sponsor to multiple children that I had built a relationship with; and most recently as a member of the team at the children’s home serving the kids directly as my family moved down to Juárez for 2 years. While there, I was an arts academy teacher, visitor coordinator, child sponsorship coordinator, and of course, one of many that loved on the kids day in and day out. Since moving back to Minnesota about a year ago, I have continued to lead teams on visits as well as run the child sponsorship program from afar.

In many ways, it’s hard to remember much of my life before Emmanuel was a part of it. It has shaped me, molded me and played a big role in the woman that I am today. I know I am one of many where Emmanuel has held such an important piece of their story.

In the role that I currently play for Emmanuel as the child sponsorship coordinator, I have the unique privilege to be able to learn the stories of each one of the kids that call Emmanuel home. It is something that I do not take lightly, but view as an incredible gift to be let into something so raw and so personal.

It is hard to read and hear the stories of each one of our children about how they came to Emmanuel – each filled with its own level of trauma, struggle and pain. It’s hard to read their story and translate it for sponsors without my eyes welling with tears, especially when I picture each child’s face through each word. Sadness, anger and despair are often feelings that emerge, but I also always experience this feeling of relief and hope as I read the special words recorded of their story.

And here’s why…

That pain, that struggle, that trauma, it might not be over, but I know that this child and their family – they aren’t walking in it alone anymore. They have found Emmanuel. They have found a warm place to sleep, an excellent school to learn, a court to play in and be kids, 85 brothers and sisters, 3 home-cooked meals a day, a team of qualified people able to talk through everything they have experienced, an opportunity to try new things like art or dance, a loving adult who can provide 24/7 loving care and supervision – the basic necessities that maybe once were uncertain, have now become a daily guarantee. When will my next meal be? Will my mom be able to pay for school next year? When is mom coming home from work? Am I safe here? Who will care for my brothers and sisters? Does my future have any hope? These things that most of us take for granted for our own children, are no longer in question for these kids when they walk in the door at Emmanuel.

When I read their stories, I know deep down, with full-confidence, that God has stepped in. Through Emmanuel, God has met these families just where they are at, they are no longer alone, and they now have the opportunity to encounter and know the love of God in a tangible and life-altering way. What has been filled with darkness, all of a sudden has a glimmer of light.

When they step foot on the hill of Emmanuel, their story is about to take a beautiful turn.

And why am I so confident of this? Because I have seen it with my own eyes and felt it in my own heart.

Johnathan. Mia. Rogelio. Oscar. Gerardo. Mía. Itzayana. The list goes on and on of the children that have come and gone from Emmanuel, but as I’ve spent time with them and been a part of their story – they are not the same kids when they leave. They have learned to be kids again, they have grown in confidence and discovered more of their God-given talents, and they have walked away with a new identity as a child of God. Gerardo – he discovered his love of painting. When I visit him at home now with his family, his canvas creations are displayed all over his home and his painting supplies stocked and ready. No doubt, this gift will be seen by many someday. Rogelio – he found God in a real and moving way. His hardened, skeptical heart softened and he became a compassionate, curious follower of Jesus. Each child, changed in their own, unique way.

Leonel. Karla. Jahaira. Pablo. Just a few of the kids still at Emmanuel who I have the privilege of watching grow up. Leonel – once a shy, often sad boy, is now laughing and playing with all of his friends. He has opened up and built trust with adults at the home and is facing head on the things that are hard in his life. Karla – she’s found her voice. She’s found her place as she cares for the little ones in the home. She’s become a beautiful young woman on the inside and out. A rock for her family as they struggle through cancer with their mom. Each child’s story becoming more and more beautiful by the day.

Emmanuel is a light for these kids. Emmanuel is a light for these families. Emmanuel is a light in my own life. And I hope, through partnering with this ministry – you have felt this light too.

Emmanuel has been light for so many of us, now it’s time we be light for them.

As we prepare for a new school year with the kids, would you consider giving to Emmanuel today? Now is a great time to give as we have received a MATCHING GRANTof $10,000. We need your help to reach this goal!

No gift is too small for God to use – $10, $100, $1000, $10,000. Give what you are able. Partner with us as a monthly donor. Become a child sponsor (see our enclosed note for more details on how to give towards this matching grant!). Click here for more information about the matching grant.

I have seen first-hand the transformation in a family from crisis to stability, the expression on a child’s face when they finally get a chance to go to school each day, the healing a child finds in learning how loved they are by God, the community our employees have formed as they pour their heart into the kids, the joy a visitor receives from time spent with our children, and in my own heart as a partner in this ministry. It is one of the most beautiful things I have ever been a part of, and I would love for you to be a part of it too as we welcome the kids home for a new year!

In hope and on behalf of our niños,

Kristen Hannack