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.