Monthly Archives: January 2012

Live From Guatemala: Day Two


Today was challenging. The lack of shock value I mentioned yesterday showed up today and I didn’t handle it as smoothly as I would have liked.

Honest, no-holes-barred, truth? I wanted to leave. I literally wanted to hop a plane and wave goodbye from 37,000 feet. To say I was uncomfortable would be an understatement. Let me paint the picture for you.

We drove three hours towards the coast this morning. Yesterday we saw an urban Child Development Center not far outside the city limits of Guatemala City. Today, we traveled to see Compassion’s work in the rural, more remote communities.  With every passing mile, the lanes grew more narrow and the traffic lessened.  Within the first hour of our trip, well constructed infrastructure disappeared and the view consisted of hundreds of acres of sugar cane.

We arrived at the Child Development Center and were welcomed by balloons,  music, and a vibrant staff waiting for us. We were not there long before we split into groups and went to visit the homes of children enrolled in the center. Each group was led by a translator and a church volunteer.

A muddy entrance was bridged by two plastic crates. Once across, the view was heartbreaking. An adobe structure, in the shape of a rectangle with two walls missing served as the home for six people. It was no larger than 20 ft. by 10 or 15 ft. and the missing sides were covered with black tarps. There was a corrugated metal overhang over the entrance of the home where the family sat.

Immediately to the right of the home was their kitchen: a lean-to with a fire-pit in the middle of it. The view from the porch was of a small muddy yard, a half-dozen chickens pecking the ground, a rooster crowing (a few hours late), a dog that looked as though it hadn’t eaten in two weeks. Also in the yard was the family bathroom, which was a small adobe hut. Clothes lines zig-zagged their way through the few trees in the yard too.

As I turned my attention back to the house, we began to learn about the family. The grandparent’s of the two children enrolled at the Child Development Center owned the land and the home. The grandfather, born in 1925 couldn’t remember how long he and his wife had been married, when we asked. He chuckled. She sat behind him, further under the overhang and near the home door.

Holding a coffee cup in her right hand and covering half her face with her left hand, she looked as though she was born in 1925 too. Dark, leathered skin, grey silky hair neatly pulled back in a bun, arthritic hands and a eyes that starred nowhere. She never spoke. Never even looked our way. She barely moved. She was deaf.

The children, a boy and a girl, were only half siblings. They sat at the kitchen table, that was outside, as they ate their lunch. The boy’s father had died several years ago and the girl’s father was nowhere to be found. We were told she had never met him. The children’s mother was at work, laboring in the sugar cane fields. The only other family that was there was the grandfather’s son; the children’s uncle. He was only wearing pants. No shirt. No shoes.

Actually, the only shoes were on the feet of the children. Benefits of being in Compassion’s program.

The children were old enough that they knew we were Americans, but young enough to prefer playing with the chickens than answering our questions.  We spoke instead with the grandfather.

“How can we pray for you?” we asked him.

He raised his hands to heaven and brought them down to his chest as if he were praying. He said, “God bless you! I have no needs. I have a job. I can work and pay the bills. I have six children, one of which is my son here, and they all have Jesus in their heart. I am blessed. I am grateful.”

That was it. No mention of a bigger home so as it separate the six beds that filled the open space. No request for shoes for himself despite the fact that it appeared he hadn’t owned shoes in years. His feet were swollen, his nails were black and it seemed as though his skin was infected.

No “It would be great if we could have electricity or air conditioning.”

His children received salvation in Jesus Christ and that satisfied his heart. Physical needs were met, day by day. He literally asked for nothing more.

I have been more quiet than usual since that visit. The rest of the day’s adventures have simply been blurred by this man’s gratitude and faith.

If you would like to sponsor children from Guatemala, in circumstances similiar to this, please go here.


Live From Guatemala: Day One


The first day has already come and gone. Quickly, I might add.  Already there have been moments that I can not stop replaying in my mind. To be honest though, none of these “moments” have consisted of surprise, shock, or speechlessness when it comes to the scenes of poverty. Blame it on the day job.

I look at pictures of children all over the world nearly everyday. I’ve read hundreds of stories, interviews, and testimonials of kids, parents, and pastors alike. I knew this trip would hold little shock value. I don’t mean to sound hard-hearted. Please understand that I simply mean, when it comes to the issues surrounding and frankly, creating poverty, there’s little room for surprise.

Driving from the hotel 20 minutes through winding, nicely paved, roads to the child development center was a highway of irony. On the outskirts of Guatemala city lies one of the richest communities of Guatemala. Homes, or mansions rather, that you could barely see over the stucco gates rivaled Beverly Hill’s best. Mercedes dealerships and fine restaurants peppered both sides of the road.

But with a single turn, the scenery changed. The neighborhoods were not gated. Corrugated metal, cement cinder blocks and bed sheets for front doors stacked up along the hillsides. Homes were built on top of one another, literally. The floor of one home provided the roof for the home below it. The well paved roads became bumpy as we drove along uneven cobble stone streets.

The van parked and our leader said, “We’re here.” Everyone was quiet.

I won’t lie and say that I wasn’t nervous. I was. Reading about these places is simple; walking their streets is not easy.

But right in the middle of the depravity was Compassion’s church partner. Brightly colored and on a high-traffic thoroughfare of town, the Church’s doors were open.

That’s been the view of Adrianna and her two children, Daniel and Jaqueline, who are currently sponsored children.

We had to hike to their home, set on the side of a steep hill and built into the mountain. Their kitchen was outside; a pile of wood that cradled a large metal cauldron. Their clothes line hung next to their washer; a large tub next to a water spicket. And their front door was a pink bed sheet. Torn and frayed, it gently hung over the only entry to their home.

As we (me, two other visitors, and a translator) sat on their front porch, Daniel and Jaqueline passed around the letters and pictures they had received from their sponsors over the years. There was a big difference between the two siblings, however. Daniel, 17 years old, has been sponsored by the same family for eight years. They wrote frequently, sent him birthday presents, and even included him in their family’s Christmas Card mailer.

Jaqueline, on the other hand, has been enrolled in the program for the same eight years and has been sponsored by more than four families, none of whom wrote her more than a few times. And the difference between Jaqueline and her older brother was undeniable.

Daniel volunteered an answer for every question we asked of their humble family.  If his mother spoke, he chimed in too. He was articulate, well dressed, attentive, and unintimidated by our visit. When I asked him what he wanted to do when he was done with school, he grinned widely and chuckled before he listed a long list of goals he had for himself. Daniel was also among the smartest in his class academically and a gifted artist.

His sister though, barely spoke at all. It wasn’t that she was just quiet; she was shy. She was not as accomplished in her studies as her brother and when I asked her what hobbies she enjoyed, she shrugged her shoulders and shook her head. She made little eye contact, slumped slightly in her chair, and when she passed around her small stack of collected letters, she seemed embarrassed. Her collection of correspondence was a quarter of her brothers.

As a Compassion employee, we are often told that the letters the children receive are of indescribable importance to their development emotionally and socially. The relationship that correspondence fosters between a child and a grown-up that believes in them, encourages them, and tells them to hope for a life beyond poverty is… well, it’s the Church. That’s the body of Christ doing her job. From one believe to another, life is given and hope is instilled. It is absolutely life changing for a child.

I, as a sponsor, so often struggle with what to write my little girl in Bolivia. “I think I asked this question last time. I don’t remember what I wanted to know about when I was 9 years old. How do I write something that resonates with her?” These are the questions I wrestle with. But the fact of the matter is this: Compassion’s sponsored children look forward to and treasure every letter you send them. They covet your prayers and they fervently pray for your welfare. They need you. They love you.

They need to hear that you need and love them too.

Sponsor a child in Guatemala.