March 8 2010

Washington Post article
September 5, 1992

Course Work in Compassion

Graduate Student Organizes Missionary Efforts for Orphans

by Carey Kinsolving

Although Christine Carr is a year shy of meeting the requirements for a doctorate in education from the University of Maryland, she already has gained major points in courage, charity and compassion through her work with children in Central America.

Carr’s credits include washing 100 sheets by hand; removing a bean from a child’s ear with tweezers; scrubbing uncounted lice-infected heads; treating eye sores; surviving a hurricane; learning Spanish; going without electricity, running water and toilets that flush; riding buses packed with people, packages and animals; and enduring the dengue fever.

Carr describes her spiritual odyssey this way: “Eleven years ago I said with conviction, ‘Jesus, I believe.’

“Eight years ago I said, ‘Here I am, Lord, send me.’

“Four years ago I said, ‘Okay, Lord,’ so I began freeing myself from professional and financial obligations so that I could serve in an orphanage outside of Managua, Nicaragua.”

With no mission boards, support team or co-workers, Carr landed in a war-torn country where the Sandinista government was hostile to “Yankees.” But to the orphans, some of whom had distended stomachs due to malnutrition, Carr was more than welcomed. She was loved. The children’s clinging hugs and bright faces were all Carr needed to know she was where God wanted her.

Carr describes her mission as threefold: To share the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection and to demonstrate the principles of the Bible as a way of life; to meet the basic needs of the children, thereby increasing their ability to learn; and to provide teacher training in host countries.

Since 1988, Carr’s organization, Heart of the Matter, which she operates out of her one-room studio in College Park, has shipped clothing, school supplies, personal hygiene products and medicine to schools and orphanages in Guatemala and Nicaragua. Much of the clothing comes from children in Washington area schools who donate what they have outgrown.

Carr has spent the last three months training 300 teachers in and around Guatemala City. “The teachers have told us how grateful they are for the training, because they no longer are just dictating information,” Carr said by telephone from Guatemala. “Now the children are learning and participating.

“Our emphasis is teaching [teachers] how to teach children how to use the values that are expressed in the Bible to make decisions and how to apply them in real situations.”

Friends often join Carr in her studio near the University of Maryland for prayer. Or they attend packing parties at her parents’ house in Odenton. After boxes are packed for shipment, the group prays that somehow the boxes will reach their destination.

This time, however, Guatemala-based Avia Teca Airlines flew 46 boxes of clothing, medicine and school supplies for Carr’s summer mission at no charge. Such supplies are put to good use in the village of Coban, 250 miles east of Guatemala City. Seventy-five children meet in a bamboo shack with a dirt floor on the side of a mountain, and the typical first-grader is 10 to 15 years old, Carr said.

That Carr is a determined woman becomes clear to all who cross her path. Her intensity and enthusiasm are so compelling that a lunch with a journalism graduate student left the student almost ready to abandon her studies to join Carr for this summer’s expedition.

The grad student’s eyes began to swell when she gazed at the smiling faces of children in Carr’s photographs. The student, who asked not to be identified, said she felt that a stint with Carr would bring her into contact with the real world as opposed to the one created by press secretaries and political pundits.

Julie Wilkinson, 27, joined Carr on an expedition to Guatemala, and she said the experience changed her. “I now find myself back in my comfortable surroundings at home, trying to sort through all that I saw and learned in Guatemala. Like many people, it would be easier to just turn away and become consumed by the American lifestyle once again.

“But in reading my journal, I am reminded of the people we met and the 650 families we worked with who lived in wood, cardboard and sheet-metal ‘houses.’ These people were lacking the necessities of life in many areas, but these people, especially the children, still have hope and joy, and they still have their faith.”

Wilkinson, an education major at the University of Maryland, taught school in the mornings and worked afternoons implementing a health-care program for 650 families.

“I wrote in my journal that if everyone just had the opportunity to see one of these kids and look into his face, perhaps the world would be much different,” Wilkinson said. “Well, I had this opportunity, and I pray that I can live up to my responsibility.”