MANEADERO, Baja California, Mexico — Christians from Southern California traveled by tour buses to a suburb of Ensenada, Mexico, to join 150 local missionaries and believers recently to attend the grand opening of Puerta Hermosa (Beautiful Gate) Orphanage, a complex that serves as the home for abandoned and severely ill special needs children of Baja.
It is the incredibly heart-wrenching stories of the children who come to Puerta Hermosa, and the call for Christians to take care of "the least of these" that motivated groups such as Strong Tower Ministries based in Orange County to build the complex, and for others, including 100 people from the U.S., to be a part of the grand opening.
A couple of days before the ceremony on Saturday, Beautiful Gate Orphanage and Genesis Diez (umbrella ministry) founder Greg Amstutz told this reporter the story of two children who were the first taken in for care, resulting in the start of the Beautiful Gate Orphanage 10 years ago.
Amstutz said he was told by one of the residents in the area he was serving that a mother of four was so distraught about her two severely sick children that "she was either going to dump them on the curb because she could not deal with it anymore or she was going to kill them."
"That night, on a rainy, cold night in Baja we were taken to her home by the man who told us about the situation and we were taken to a very low income apartment complex," Amstutz explained. "She and two of the children were over in one corner sitting on a cardboard that was her mattress resting on a concrete floor. The three of them were huddled together in a blanket in a place full of cockroaches. There were mice, and it was ugly. But the other two girls were nowhere to be seen.
"We asked where the other two girls were, and their names were Maria and Margarita, and she said they were here. I asked where, and over in the corner there was a pile of trash, but when you looked, the pile was shaking and underneath this pile of trash she had already thrown away both of her little girls for I'm not sure how many days. … The mother agreed that we could take them to the hospital."
The two girls were in a hospital for a month before they were released. Amstutz and his ministry tried to help the mother with daycare and the administration of medicines, but realized after a year of efforts that she was not going to be able to handle the children and the procedure involved with the medicine.
"We prayed about the situation and it was obvious that God was calling us to start an orphanage for disabled children," Amstutz said. The girls came under the ministry's care, but a diagnosis for the girls was never really found. A woman that served on a short-term missionary trip hosted by the ministry was told about the symptoms and said the children may have Huntington's disease, something rare for their ages. The care for the two girls became a hospice care situation, and the children died within a four-year period, he said.
He added, "Beautiful Gate is out of Act 3:2 which is where Peter did the healing of the disabled man before that beautiful gate of the temple in Jerusalem. And not only was that healing representative of what we want for our kids, to bring them to their fullest potential, but at that time as written in the Bible, a huge amount of people accepted Christ. It's not only to be a help to the disabled, but to be a light to Jesus Christ."
In addition to providing 24/7 medical care and a home for up to eight children, Puerta Hermosa serves as the offices for Genesis Diez — a ministry that has been without a permanent home since its start 22 years ago.
Genesis Diez serves as the umbrella ministry for three other ministries besides Beautiful Gate Orphanage.
"After I accepted Jesus into my life in 1991 I asked for God's will in my life and He showed me that I should take care of children in Baja," said Amstutz. "The very first projects were Rancho Genesis orphan summer camps. That ministry still exists today."
Another ministry, "Footprints" under Genesis Diez serves children of the migrant farm working families in the area. The ministry is "very relational," including Bible study, food baskets with prayer in the families' homes and English classes. "Our emphasis for the children is attending public school education which creates independence and a future rather than dependency," he said.
From leukemia cases to severe heart and brain problems, Beautiful Gate Orphanage takes care of these orphaned children "by embracing them into our family as our own sons and daughters," say the ministry leaders. "Our prayer is to model and advocate compassion, justice, and proper care systems for these children with the parents of special need children, orphanages and all of the people of Mexico."
"The Lord provided us with a beautiful base and home where He wants us," Amstutz said. "It's been an awesome blessing."
The four ministries under Genesis Diez
Rancho Genesis: Spring and Summer camps for week-long church camps for orphans, relationally paired with Mission Teams from the states.
Beautiful Gate Orphanage (Puerta Hermosa): Full time care for special needs children with brain damage and severe illnesses.
Footprints: English and Bible teaching for the indigenous children of the area.
Koinonia: Helping other ministries in the area to "further the Kingdom."