10 September 2014
A New Beginning
The life of Juan Sandoval, told to the author by my mom. I would have liked to have interviewed my great uncle Juan, but he passed away in August 2014 and my mom told his story. At Juan's funeral last month a number of the orphans who are now in their upper twenties or early thirties attended. They were so thankful to this day for what Juan had done for them and how their lives would have never been the same if it weren't for him. I got on the topic with one whose name was Mark about how you can't choose the life you were given and regardless of the circumstances God has a greater plan for the future. He told me about when he came to the United States, got a degree, married, and now has 2 kids. He couldn't be happier seeing his children grow up in a great environment unlike his own childhood.
Juan and Joan are my great uncle and aunt who dedicated a good portion of their life running an orphanage. Juan was born in Tijuana, Mexico in 1927 and lived in poverty as a child. His dad left his mom when he was very young and his mother had trouble raising 5 boys. They were very poor so Juan and his brothers pretty much spent their lives on the streets. Juan began stealing and doing drugs and at the age of 20, he found himself in trouble with the law.
In a way, the Rose park orphanage was born in a Mexican jail. It was the 1950's and sitting on the top bunk of a teeming cell, Juan Sandoval asked Jesus Christ to come into his life. Before then, his existence had been one of constant rebellion. Then, he accepted a gospel tract from a visiting lady that proved to be the start of a new life guided by God. From that moment until his release, Sandoval was inspired to witness and hold bible studies with the other prisoners. When free, after three years in jail, he dreamed of learning more of the faith that had brought new meaning to his life. He had only a sixth grade education, had grown up in extreme poverty, and knew little of the legal documents that made it possible to come to America. Yet, when he learned of the Evangelical Institute in La Puente, California, he made an application. With the help of the Institute, Juan was able to obtain legal papers to come to the United States. Miraculously, a way was found for him to become a full time student. At the level of education he was beginning, Juan found it hard to understand many things as he had very little schooling. With the help of tutors and mentors including his future wife Joan, Juan was on track to graduating as an ordained minister. He spent years in the word of God and was also learning English from the Institute. The first order of business after graduation in 1961 was marriage to his fiancee, Joan. She had come to the Institute from Wisconsin. Then, one day while visiting his mother in Tijuana, Juan and Joan became aware of the hordes of begging, stealing, and homeless children. Right then and there a conviction was born in their hearts to create a Christian home for as many of these children as God would send them. With no Government aid in the project, Juan scavenged up every penny he had and got to work. Juan had built the orphanage with the help of his wife Joan with used wood from anywhere they could get it. The orphanage was an all boy orphanage and had up to 96 boys at one time at it. The boys ate 3 meals a day of a small portion of beans and rice.
My mom talked about mission work and helping out the kids and playing with them. Her father was a world war 2 veteran who loved to travel, so their family traveled a lot. One of her favorite trips that she would go on was to Tijuana, Mexico to visit with her aunt Joan and uncle Juan at the orphanage. Her family would also take some of the kids back to Holland with them for a month or so at a time to let them see what America was like. The boys names were Pepe, Ramon, Christian, Antonio,...
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