The past few days have been filled with so many wonderful things, and each day has truly felt like a gift fom God. It is incredible to see how he has been so present here, and it is humbling to see how he is working and teaching me things each day.
Thursday night was a substantial blessing. While our family was eating dinner, there was a knock at the door and 5 boys (probably between 10-12 years old) came into our house. One of my sisters greeted them, and then told them to wait while she started to make them dinner. I was a little confused because I had never seen the boys before, but the family seemed to know them. My grandmother then told me that the boys come from very poor families who live farther up the mountain and sometimes they come to the house after Mass to get a nutritious dinner. They spend all day wandering the streets, and at times the only meal they receive during the day is that dinner. My sister asked if I could make them coffee, and as I was mixing in the milk and sugar the thing that kept coming to mind was the verse from Matthew where Jesus says, ‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
I thought it was amazing that the family was literally embodying this verse by inviting the boys in and giving them dinner. This is something that would never (or at least very rarely!) happen in the US, and it was an incredible testament of faith for me to see. It also made me wonder why we in the US so often give excuses to ourselves for not doing the same… ‘I’m too busy,’ ‘It’s too dangerous,’ ‘I don’t have enough money / time…’ the list could go on and on. I am guilty of this too, and seeing this lovely family so willingly open their doors and hearts to these boys made me question what kind of changes could be made in my own heart and journey of faith to walk more as Jesus did.
The next day, Friday, was absolutely incredible! It was my last day of Spanish school and my teacher agreed to accompany me on an adventure to two neighboring towns, Parramos and Jocotenango, where there are connections with my church back home. We first went to Parramos, which was farther away. There is a mission school there called The Arms of Jesus (Los Brazos de Jesús), which also receives a mission team from FPBC every year for short term projects. Many of the students at that school come from low-income families in Parramos, and so they also have sponsors who help to provide them with health care, education, etc. One of the sponsors is a woman at my church, and so I visited the school to give her little girl a dress. When we arrived at the school, the atmosphere was absolutely incredible. As soon as we stepped in the gate, we saw children who were smiling, laughing, playing and learning. They all grinned, waved and jumped up and down as we walked past, and the whole air was saturated with a sensation of love, security, and joy (very fitting for being in the Arms of Jesus!). We also got a tour of the school, and it was so great to see all of the wonderful things that are going on there – for example, they even have a health and dental clinic for the students, since many of them would never otherwise be able to afford health care! As it turned out, the little girl I was looking for only attends school in the afternoons. It was a fleeting disappointment, because it just meant that I get to go back to the school again to give her the dress in person 🙂 I am so excited to return to the school and get to know a little more about what it is like. It was certainly a blessing for me to visit, and I’m so grateful for the work going on there that is shaping the lives of these children (and, likewise, how the children are shaping the lives of staff, volunteers, and visitors like me!).
After visiting Parramos, we stopped in Jocotenango at another school called Los Patojos. This school works especially with children from the street, ranging in age from 4-20 years old. The school offers the kids a safe and fun environment to learn, and they even teach them things like break-dancing and graffiti-style art to keep them engaged, give them alternative and non-violent ways to express themselves, and keep them off the streets. As it so happened, Friday was the 6th birthday of Los Patojos and they were having a big party! So, later that afternoon Jensen and I returned to the school and met Rafa, one of the brothers of the husband of the new global missions director at church, who works at Los Patojos with his brother and cousin. Rafa led us to the school and explained excitedly that in 6 years the school had grown from a group of 3 kids to a group of over 150. The party that afternoon was just for the kids, in celebration of each of them and the gift of their lives. Inside, the walls radiated with noises of celebration and every inch was covered in brightly colored paintings. All of the kids were dressed to the nines, the girls in lovely dresses and the boys in button down shirts and ties (and yes, some also sported gangsta hats) 🙂 There were dance competitions, ranging from break dance to ballroom, and prizes for drawings and spoken word pieces that the students had done. It was such an ambiance of joy, we couldn’t help but smile. One of my favorite images from the afternoon was a sweet little girl who had Down’s Syndrome, sitting on top of the shoulders of one of the teachers and smiling widely at the celebration. After a few hours we left, with an open invitation from Rafa to come back any time. I think we’ll definitely take him up on that offer, too!
At the end of the day I just stand in awe of the ways that God is working. Among people and places who could have many reasons to despair, there is abounding hope, joy and love. The Holy Spirit is alive and moving, and it is incredible to catch just a glimpse of it here!
Coming up next – a blog post on K’iche’, volcanoes, and Independence Day (tomorrow!) Stay tuned 🙂 ¡Que Dios les bendiga!