It really sustained our existing testimonies of just how much our Heavenly Father is aware of each of his children and how much he really does love each of us. —Tiffany and Paul Downer
Practically every girl dreams of getting married her whole life. But when it comes down to it, planning a wedding in three months can be stressful and exhausting. Don’t get me wrong, it was a fun and exciting time in our lives, but it’s no wonder that newlyweds whisk themselves away for a week afterward to regain some much-needed sanity.
We were married in December 2011, so even though we are both Southern California natives, we couldn’t wait to go somewhere warmer for our honeymoon. Neither of us knew much about Belize, but as we searched the Internet for tropical destinations, we instantly fell in love with the place.
As we continued planning our wedding and honeymoon, we found ourselves having several conversations about how fortunate we were to have the gospel of Jesus Christ in our lives and how we felt blessed to have parents, family members and friends who were great examples of charity and compassion.
As we were preparing to be sealed in the temple for time and all eternity, we just felt such gratitude for temples, eternal families and for all the help that our Heavenly Father had given us to prepare us for this special day in our lives. It was a feeling of overwhelming love and gratitude, and we felt like we needed to do something about it. That’s when we decided to do something special on our honeymoon to share Heavenly Father’s great love with those who were less fortunate.
We were searching online for places in Belize that were in need of help when we stumbled upon the Liberty Children’s Home in Ladyville, Belize, a unique orphanage where the focus is love, respect and education. We had a great feeling about this place and, in our naive minds, thought that it would be nice to have the guests at our wedding donate toys to the Children’s Home that we could deliver on their behalf. With a December wedding, we knew that the spirit of Christmas would be in the air and that people would be looking for opportunities to give.
We decided it would be a good idea to call the Children’s Home to make arrangements for our project before we made any permanent decisions. After speaking with the Children’s Home director, Delfina Mitchell, it was clear that they were in much greater need than for the small Christmas gifts we were originally planning to give. They expressed that although they would appreciate such toys or gifts, the children were in greater need of necessities like food and electricity. We were humbled by their response and felt a bit foolish to think that toys would be appropriate for this occasion.
Delfina shared with us that after she had spent her day reaching out to supporters for help, and not having much success, she began to pray for a means to pay the electricity bill and buy food for the 24 children living there. Soon after, our “random” call came in from California asking how we could best help. She expressed how receiving our phone call made her day and was an answer to her prayer. We knew at this point that the Spirit had led us to these children in Ladyville, Belize, and that it wasn’t by accident that we stumbled upon their website and felt inclined to help.
It really sustained our existing testimonies of just how much our Heavenly Father is aware of each of his children and how much he really does love each of us. We were reminded that we are his hands here on earth and how important it is to live clean and worthy lives so we can hear and follow the Spirit’s whisper to love one another. We felt incredibly blessed to be a part of his work and promised to always act on that still small voice, which is something our sealer during our temple sealing also encouraged us to do.
We were impressed when we visited the Children’s Home and saw their incredible effort to be such a self-sustaining people. A few years back, somebody gave them two pigs as a gift, which they learned how to breed, and now they have several pigs they use as a source of food and income.
They raise their own chickens for eggs and grow a lot of their own vegetables to use and to sell. Recently they sold several pounds of tomatoes to a large hotel chain. They also have a water purification system that enables them to reuse water for their various needs. They even run a preschool that they open to the community. Their living quarters are very simple and humble.
These incredible children are loved and nurtured by the wonderful staff at the Liberty Children’s Home. They had positive attitudes, amazing smiles and a cheerful spirit. The Children’s Home was so appreciative of the donation from our wedding that resulted in necessities like food and clothing for the children.
We were blessed to spend the unforgettable time with such sweet children that we wish it could have been longer. They were so attached to us after just one day and you could see that they longed for families of their own to love them unconditionally.
Most of the children that come into the home never get adopted, but fortunately they are in good hands and do share the love and bond that a family strives to have. We were humbled by the way they live and the love that radiates from them.
We left Delfina with a Book of Mormon that included our testimonies. She expressed her thanks and told us that she had heard a lot about our church and was looking forward to reading the Book of Mormon.
We will never forget our experience at the Liberty Children’s Home and plan on continuing to support them however we can.