I want to begin this blog post by asking you to pray for our translator, Oliva, whose mother unexpectedly died from a heart attack this afternoon. What a reminder how short life is. Do not neglect to fill yours with opportunities to share God’s love. After a great breakfast of black beans, tortillas, fried eggs and plantains, we divided into two groups to being our mission work. The eight men headed to build houses while five women took the hour long trip to the Malnutrition Center. As soon as I entered the center, my eyes and nose sprang a leak and I spent the first several hours wiping away tears and a running nose. My heart was broken into 68 pieces. So, many children. So much to do. I was assigned to the toddler room with my adopted daughter. We had fourteen children less than two years old to care for. They were all scattered around on tile floor covered with a blanket. Some were playing for the toys, but most, just sat there. No expression. No animation. No recognition that we were even there. Two cried and we picked those up and held them, but the others mostly ignored us. I sat on the floor, with Jose who was very cranky. As I tried to comfort him, I felt a strong attachment to a little girl sitting near me. She has grey hair which I assumed was a side effect of the malnutrition, but later found out was a birth defect. Her name was Bree. I called to her and tried to get her attention. Eventually, she turned her head towards me and I motioned for her to come. She climbed up on the knee that wasn’t busy jostling Jose turned to face me and put her head on my chest. She burrowed in. If she could have gotten any closer, she would have been inside me. In fact, she did get inside me and I sat there with a squalling Jose and a snuggly Bree and cried. We spent the morning interacting with the toddler, changing diapers and watching some of them play. About half of them sat still as mice most of the morning despite our efforts to get them to play. Mid morning, I went to the little school where children ages 2-12 who are selected for their ability to learn are taught in one classroom. There were 16 and I told them the Bible story of Samuel with the help of an interpreter. Samuel, a little boy whose mother took him to the temple to live grew up to be a great man of God. I hope the children learned that they too have potential to be someone who will make a difference in their world. Afterwards, they colored on cut out shapes of a boy that was supposed to look like Samuel. Mostly they got marker on themselves and I promised the teacher tomorrow I would not bring markers. In the classroom, I met Carolina, who at 12 is the oldest child at the center. She just came in October and even though she had no schooling has already learned to read beginning books. After school, I helped feed the toddlers or rather watched the toddlers feed themselves. Even as young as two, they are expected to handle a spoon and feed themselves. They ate everything on their plates even sucking the bones of the chicken. I have come to the conclusion that American children are terribly spoiled and I am partly responsible for it! The children here are remarkably well behaved and patient. It takes a lot of time to bath, diaper and feed 68 children and there are never enough hands to do the work. I cannot imagine how the workers here do what they do without help. For example, there were eighteen babies in the bed babies alone with two workers. Yet, each child is clean and well fed. I am coming to see that not only are American children spoiled, but so are their parents. I cannot image doing the hard work that the people here do day after day after day. The men who are in their forties and look eighty. The women in their teens with a baby on their back working in the fields to harvest green beans that I will buy at Sams for $5 a bag. The older women in the market selling whatever they can make, carrying it back and forth on their heads. Living in tin shacks, cooking over an open fire, doing laundry in a concrete tub. I am actually feeling quite schizophrenic. At the hotel, we are spoiled Americans, complaining if the water doesn’t come fast enough out of the tap, moaning over our hard beds and spotty wi fi. Yet, we have electricity running water, good meals in the restaurant each night and, a spa next door. Tonight, I had a 45 minute massage for $18.00. I had a hard time enjoying it though because I felt so guilty about spending the money after all I have seen. I thought that perhaps I should sell all I have and donate it to the people here. I am still wrestling with that, but think that perhaps there is a better way. To be a good steward of what God has given me so that I have the resources to help more than I do. Tomorrow, I will go back to bathing, diapering, rocking, feeding, holding and playing with these remarkable gifts from God. And I will be rewarded with smile after smile as those little faces beamed at me in gratitude for my help and even the tiniest bits of affection. As we came home on the bus, an hour drive back to our hotel, our little group reflected on some of the moments we will treasure include the feel of Vilma and Bree snuggled up against us, so trusting and affectionate to a stranger. One of the girls less than a year old in the bath and handing the cup used to rinse her hair to us. Hugo’s incredible smile. Gerson’s clearing face. Bathing babies and that clean fresh smell after the bath. Seeing the children playing with each other’s shoes. A storeroom almost empty of diapers filled to the top shelf once more. Over 4,000 diapers donated! Seeing a toddler suck every bit of meat off the chicken bone. Learning Spanish from a five year old. Jose drinking his cup of milk in less than 30 seconds, asking for more and the worker having enough to give him another cup. A lap full of babies. Toddler tricycle races in the hall. A classroom full of eager minds wanting to learn. Children soaking up the story of Samuel. Little hands and faces stained with colored markers! Carolina so excited about the words she can now read. Workers eager to show us the ropes. Piles of laundry in a wheelbarrow. Even after the massage, my body is more tired than after the zip line and yesterday’s hike. I didn’t smell very good when I got home as I was pooped, wet and vomited on today. But it is a good tired and I can’t wait to go back and do it again tomorrow. Even if it breaks my heart again.
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27 (NIV)