OUR STORY IN A TIMELINE
We believe the best way to tell our story is through this timeline. We invite you to explore how the Lord has been faithful to us, and the children of Panamá, over the years.
Painting the entire interior and exterior of a 44,000 square foot building is no small endeavor, but thankfully it progressed smoothly and the painting of Casa Providencia is now complete!
"We're so thankful for all the Lord has brought in to allow us to get to this point, and now we are excited to raise funds for operations so we can welcome our first children!" -Matt H.
Our kitchen and physical therapy equipment arrived for Casa Providencia!
Copa Airlines held their 6th Annual Charity Golf Tournament and donated $25,000 towards Heart's Cry project, Casa Providencia! We're extremely grateful for the generous contribution from Panamá's #1 airline, Copa. This donation helped purchase much-needed supplies for Casa Providencia, bringing us one step closer to opening the doors.
We hosted our First Annual Heart's Cry Children's Ministry Charity Dinner and we were honored to have Anne Graham Lotz speak. Members of the Chatham County Line band also played bluegrass with Matt. The banquet was an overwhelming success, bringing people together under the mission of Christ to serve and protect the orphans, His children.
The Hedspeth family was thrilled to be back at Southbridge Fellowship in Raleigh North Carolina, their home church, to share on Orphan Sunday. Orphan Sunday is a day reserved once a year to remember those often forgotten by society. It was a wonderful time of connecting with other believers who have a passion to care for orphans.
LATE NOVEMBER 2016
A 40 foot container came all the way from Sweden's Salvation Army! It was full of medical supplies that mainly went to Casa Providencia, with some items distributed to other organizations. Our friend and fellow worker in Christ, John Gordon, graciously chose Casa Providencia as the recipient of most of this needed equipment.
Matt met with a myriad of groups and clubs interested in supporting Casa Providencia through various in-kind donations. We are thrilled at the possibilities of support through these groups. Here he is meeting with the Club Activo 20-30 of Panamá.
September marked tremendous progress in working with the local government and its officials. We had an encouraging meeting with the newly appointed Director, Yazmin Cardenas of SENNIAF (government department over children's welfare in Panamá). After 2 years of prayer, Heart's Cry was able to return to a direct collaboration with SENNIAF in order to benefit the children in Panamá.
SEPTEMBER 20, 2016
Heart’s Cry and Casa Providencia were awarded a Global Grant through the Rotary Club International for $117,000. This was a three year application process and we were very blessed to receive it. The money was put toward hydrotherapy equipment and a back up generator for Casa Providencia.
Our social worker, Lesbia Cardenas, attended a conference hosted by Casa Viva in Costa Rica, discussing a program for family placement of orphans in foster care.
Roof work was completed on Casa Providencia. God literally held off the rains during the rainy season so it could be completed.
Ana Gabriela and Graciela Mauad were given a scholarship through Show Hope for a program that the Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development at TCU offers, Trust Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) which corresponds with the Empower to Connect Conference. They completed many hours of preparation, exams and interviews in the months leading up to the training. They passed all the preparation work and then experienced a hands-on training for professionals for a week.
"We were truly blessed by this experience and were filled with hope as we were able to see and learn from evidence and research, and experience ourselves the way God works and has created us. We were able to better understand what these children have gone through, and how to help them and their parents understand and approach life and their relationships in a healthier way." -Ana Gabriela DLG.
Roof work on Casa Providencia begins.
Heart's Cry hosted a conference entitled Empowered to Connect for adoptive and foster parents. It was a huge success, bringing many parents to tears as they realized there were resources available to them after adoption
Heart’s Cry began bringing mission teams to Panamá under Orphan Cares.
“We are so thankful people are coming down, it is always encouraging to me God has laid the orphans of Panamá on the hearts of others as well.” -Misty H.
The Presidency changed, frustrating Heart’s Cry’s efforts for two years as a new director of SENNIAF was put into office. In the meantime, Heart’s Cry Family Services was working with the same families because none of the kids were getting adopted, and Matt was working at Casa Providencia on a daily basis doing construction to prepare the building.
Heart’s Cry Family Services hired staff.
Heart’s Cry signed an agreement with the government to do foster care, leading to the creation of their Family Services office which provides free adoption services to Panamanians.
"We chose to provide free services because we felt it is necessary to not treat adoption like a business, but to treat it as a calling from the Lord. Our Family Services team is here to help Panamanian families to follow through with this calling." -Matt H.
JUNE 17, 2013
The new adoption and foster care law, Law 46, was signed into law after three years. The law now allows foster parents to adopt, (before it was illegal) and now only requires the investigation of biological parents and grandparents.
“Only the Lord could do that, it took so many people to come together for His purposes, we were a tiny part in it. This was one of the biggest miracles I had ever witnessed, God truly moved a mountain to make this happen.” -Misty H.
Misty and Matt had their long awaited son Isaac. Two years later, they found out he was autistic and was a part of the 25% of autistic children who have an insomniac condition.
We abruptly received word that the proposed modification to Law 61 was being presented at the first of three debates in the National Assembly. We were invited and asked to bring supporters in order to show the movement behind this law change that will benefit orphaned children's rights in Panamá. After a full year of sitting on various desks, it was officially placed in the process for potential law change.
Heart’s Cry purchased the building Ilan Shatz was selling to build Casa Providencia.
A documentary called Dear Panamá was made, an elaboration of the book by A Voice for the Voiceless and YWAM. Spearheaded by Brittany DeVries, the video was used to raise awareness through social media of the stagnant state of the adoption law, as it had been sitting on a government official’s desk for a year. The Lord caused a lot of people in Panamá to get behind this movement, bringing the issue to the government’s attention.
Misty found out she was pregnant, one week after her brother died and seven months after her dad died.
"God's timing is perfect." -Misty H.
Misty’s older brother passed away.
Matt was recognized for his help with providing AZT, a crucial drug combatting HIV/AIDS to Panamá. Panamá had run out of this essential medicine, therefore Heart’s Cry raised the money to purchase the medication and then delivered it to the orphanages and the Children’s Hospital.
Misty’s dad passed away.
Led by Brittany DeVeries, friends and supporters fasted and prayed alongside us from November 21st-December 19th in hopes that the proposed law change would move forward.
The Hedspeths began fostering and eventually adopted their daughter Rosemary Dawn Hedspeth from Panamá.
Nick Vujicic is a man from Australia who was born with no limbs, caused by a rare disorder. He holds events all over the world proclaiming the hope he has in Jesus despite his condition. We received permission from Malambo orphanage to take 40 of the older children in the orphanage to the event. After the event, Nick only wanted to meet these 40 girls out of the 12-14,000 people there. This event touched many of the girls hearts, showing them the hope Jesus brings, as many committed their lives to Christ.
God used the work the Hedspeths were doing on the software to introduce them to Ilan Shatz, the owner of the software company. Shatz was shocked the Hedspeths were doing all of this work for free, and began aiding them by expanding the software development project. (Misty and Matt were raising money to develop this software). Shatz, and a business partner, were also owners of a building they were hoping to put a medical clinic in. When his partner decided he didn’t want to do that anymore, Shatz mentioned the building to the Hedspeths to build an orphanage in. The Hedspeths had thought of opening an orphanage before, so they began praying about whether this was the right opportunity to do so. During this time they were still working with the government on law changes and different procedures.
“This took a lot of time, we were recommending changing the entire structure, so it was a major thing to work through.” -Misty H.
Heart’s Cry began developing a software to improve the efficiency of the adoption process. They worked hard to do this, as each sheet of paper which fell from the current filing cabinet system was a child lost, with no hope of adoption. The goal was to enable the judiciary, government, and orphanages to keep track of cases under one system. This goal is still in process.
Final touches were put on the Law 61 Modification Proposal and it was submitted to the Legislators.
DECEMBER 20, 2010
The Hedspeths adopted their son, Peter Samuel Hedspeth, from Panamá.
Invited by SENNIAF to speak at a training seminar required of Panamanians considering adopting. We spoke on "The Effects of Institutionalization: Goal of Permanency in a Child's Life." HCCM put together a presentation, which was given on the first day of the training to about 40 people and 10 staff.
END OF 2010
Praise God, children were SLOWLY beginning to be adopted in Panamá.
The government invited Heart’s Cry in to help change the adoption law, and Misty began re-writing the law using her experience. Misty and her team worked hard for three years to write the first draft of a new adoption law, propose it, and meet with legislative committees eventually ending in approval.
A group of women from a local congregation, Panamá International Church, became essential to our Baby Holding Program. For a minimum of 2 hours, 3 days a week, the babies were being held and prayed over. They also raised funds through their congregation and coordinated buying school supplies for an entire orphanage of 64 children!
Matt heard about a group of professional skateboarders who traveled around sharing the Gospel along with their skills. He decided to take some kids from a nearby orphanage to the event, and each kid ended up giving their life to Jesus! This is an example of the many opportunities we took to share the love of Jesus with the kids in the orphanages.
While the Lord was opening amazing doors in the orphanages and government to bring about systematic change, our family underwent another especially trying time. Misty underwent another miscarriage, Matt's mom had to have a second surgery to remove her cancer, and their dog Walker died.
Misty suffered a miscarriage, a very trying time for their family. And then a few weeks later, they found out Matt's mother had breast cancer. Praise the Lord, after a trying time, Matt's mom survived the cancer.
A PhotogenX team came with YWAM and Voice for the Voiceless to create a compelling booklet called “Dear Panamá” which presented the state of the orphans in Panamá.
Heart’s Cry started interviewing the staff of SENNIAF and recommending structural changes. They wrote the Progressive Implementation Proposal to President Martinelli, recommending five things Panamá needed to do to fix their adoption system. These suggestions were based on the Hague Convention (the portion related to adoption), laying out how children’s rights were being violated based on the Hague law. The government received these recommendations and we began to work closely to effect change.
Ricardo Martinelli was elected President of Panamá. The Hedspeths were already friends with his sister in law, Ivonne Martinelli, as she had initially been the one to explain the problem with adoption in Panamá. She also personally runs an orphanage and has adopted 2 kids. President Martinelli therefore gave her the power to find the director of SENNIAF (the Panamá social services department) and by the grace of God, Gloria Lozano de Diaz (pictured above) became the director in August. Gloria was a blessing because she was open to the ideas Heart's Cry had, enabling Heart’s Cry to meet with her and work with her closely.
We visited Bogota, Colombia to learn why Colombia has such a world-renowned adoption and orphan care process. The Lord blessed our trip and we learned more in a week than we ever could have imagined. At this time the Lord also called Heart’s Cry to integrate the local Body of Christ into the orphan situation. God began to raise up believers who were dedicated to what they called the Godparent Program, a long-term commitment of mentoring or spending time with an orphan at a particular orphanage on a consistent basis.
Heart’s Cry began to work alongside the Casa Metro Amigo Orphanage, driving their social workers every week to perform the family investigations for the orphans in their care. If we did not show up, this did not happen.
We hired Ari to work for Heart's Cry and she was a wonderful blessing. She was very capable and able to translate quickly, assisting with operations within Panamá.
"She became an integral part of our team and a dear friend" -Misty H.
One of our first projects was an "Orphanage Mattress Drive." Orphanages usually house 10-20 children in each room and their mattresses are in horrible shape. Mattresses were one of many items that orphanage directors struggled to purchase economically. By pooling the needs and resources of many orphanages, Heart's Cry negotiated much better prices.
Matt's dad passed away from ALS.
IN-BETWEEN AUGUST 2008 AND JULY 2009
During this time, the government was simply cordial to Heart’s Cry, inviting them in through words, but not actually letting them help.
“We left everything, and now they weren’t letting us in the door…”-Misty H.
They decided since they could not assist by bringing change to the adoption process within the government, they would do so from the ground up. They began to investigate what was happening in the orphanages, specifically in three orphanages (Malambo, Metro Amigo, and Divino Nino). This ended up being a blessing.
“We had to decide what was actually happening inside the orphanages, which is what helped us eventually write the government procedures.”-Misty H.
They held yard sales, sold all of their stuff, and officially moved down to Panamá.
Matt and Misty Hedspeth officially started Heart’s Cry Children's Ministry, a US 501(C3). The goal was to change the system in Panamá, enabling local Panamanians to adopt.
The Hedspeths performed a vision trip down to Panamá to find somewhere to live.
This was the first time Matt and Misty visited Panamá. They went with the hope to adopt and first visited orphanages, seeing what the adoption process was like in Panamá and the health and mental states of the kids, and then to relax on the beach for a few days. As they did these visits, the directors began explaining to them how the kids weren't getting out of the orphanages because the law said the government had to investigate every family member in the family tree before adoption for a child was opened. But, the government did not have the resources to perform this extensive family investigation, causing the children to be stuck in the orphanages. This discovery led the Hedspeths to begin talking with the government, even talking with the First Lady of Panamá, about this issue. They never made it to the relaxing beach vacation they had planned for. After they went back to the states, they were invited to go back down to help the government with their adoption process. They felt the Lord had called them to Panamá, and so they began preparations to move to Panamá permanently.
END OF 2007
The Hedspeths went to a fertility clinic, they decided that instead of using those services, they would adopt. As they were praying about where to adopt, the Lord led them to be the first to start an adoption program in Panamá, through the adoption agency Misty had helped the year before.
Misty Hedspeth was helping a US adoption agency become accredited under the Hague Convention in order to perform international adoptions. Also during this time, the Hedspeths were hoping to get pregnant.