Monday, July 09, 2007

"Welcome to our house, We are a community"

Before I begin you need to know that it is impossible to describe in words what I have experienced over the past several days. I was not prepared for my eyes to see what God showed through the lives the people I met. There are hundreds of stories to be told that I was so blessed to hear during the short time we had to develop relationships. I am seriously having trouble processing all the thoughts that are pouring out of my head right now. This is likely going to be one of the longest entries I will write this summer. I am emotionally exhausted, yet refreshed by the faces and laughter I experienced with 600 children and teens.

Last week we rode 2.5 hours to get just outside of town to a very impoverished section of the city. On the side of a hill sits tiny houses crammed together and only separated by tiny dirt roads. High on the hill sits a tiny community of 600 fatherless children and teens. Many of them have lived there their whole lives and others just a few years or months. There is no clean water and barely enough food to go around, but God continually provides for these precious young people.

It is called "the community" and for good reason. They are a family, they are all each other has. It is important that you know the story behind the pictures and numbers. Many years ago, a man named Miguel took his sick son to the hospital and found no help. He was forced to leave with his dead son in his arms. On his way home, he passed 2 orphan boys on the street corner and offered them a place to stay. The boys stayed with him for a few days that grew into weeks and months. Slowly, more and more kids began coming to him in need. Eventually, it grew into what is now a family of over 600 young people with no other hope. Miguel is one of the most faithful men I have met here. He is the kind of Christian I want to be.

Before we actually entered the place, we walked into the hospital where many kids are ill or injured. Many of them have been injured in car accidents, abused by their parents, or sick because of weak immune systems and most likely malnutrition. There was something distinct about the kind of help being provided here. There aren't many resources, but there is love at the core of the care here.

We first approached a field of kids playing soccer when they surrounded us. They all wanted to shake our hands, hug us, and talk to us. Many of them grabbed on to me and just wanted my arm around them or to sit closely to my body...just to feel my touch. I sat and heard the stories of George, Manuel, Saul, Alexandro, Christian and dozens of others. I will write about these children soon because their stories are powerful. We walked up to one of the 6 or 7 houses where about 40 children live together in each. Most of them share beds with one another and rarely get a shower. We walked into a girls house where they were singing and dancing together. One girl introduced herself..."welcome to our house, we are a community." What a deep concept to grasp! With such sincerity, this little girl taught me what community is and what it looks like in action. My heart sunk because I had never felt so welcomed by anyone before in my life. They asked if we could sing and requested Backstreet Boys, so of course we couldn't resist! It went something like this..."You are my fire, my one desire...." and you know the rest! haha.

Friday was also encouraging because of what we discovered we'd be doing on Saturday. We were walking up the hill to the orphanage when one of the other workers drove by in the van and asked us if we wanted to go to the ocean. What we didn't know is that they were going there to fish to provide food for the next day. We rode down to the beach and walked to the tiny boat. They asked us to step aboard, so we did and they took off into the water! They tiny boat took us to another tiny boat where we prepared it for fishing later that night. To make a very long afternoon there seem shorter, we went back to the community and played some soccer with a bunch of 7-8 year old boys. They learned our names and wanted us on their teams. They've got tons of energy and run around like little rascals. I accidentally kicked one little boy named Luis in the face when trying to make a goal. I kind of made his nose bleed a little, but he came back and was OK. Obviously I felt horrible about myself in that moment. Anyway, we stayed pretty late and Reid played more soccer with the older guys who are amazing and schooled him.

Saturday was the best day of all our time there. We got the privilege of escorting girls to a huge fiesta that we later discovered was their Quinceanera. This day was huge for them, and we got the honor or participating in it with them. Usually the father escorts the girl to the party and has the first dance with their daughter. Well, for these girls', Reid, myself and the other workers filled that void for one night. The whole community made this night a big deal with cakes, music, and dancing for hours. It was an absolute blast. My date for the evening was Magaly. It seemed like she had a blast and I can only hope that this night was perfect for her. Before the party, we took the girls shopping at a market to get some new clothes for their special evening. They were so happy and thankful for the little they were able to get. After taking them back, we went to Mario's place to get cleaned up for the fiesta. Mario took us to get our haircut and a shave (they did an awesome job, i mean we look gooood!) and then went to buy a nice shirt because we didn't have any with us. We danced for about 4 hours and stayed until 1am with them. It was probably some of the most fun I've had in a long time.

It was such a blessing to spend some time with this community. It was beautiful. It's extremely difficult for me to fathom what I have seen the past few days. My heart breaks for them, but it also leaps for joy because of the hope that lives there. I wish that each of you could see what I have seen and meet the people I have met. Many of the children told me that when I left, I should not forget about them. Luz, one of the girls urged me that I have the power to change people by what I have seen. She wanted me to take it and share it with the world and I am seeking the way to do that now. I still need time to process my thoughts, but I will get back soon with some of the stories I noted in my journal and some of the wonderful conversations I had. Peace.


Jonathan said...

Wow... unbelievable. One of those stories is enough to overwhelm me with the compassion to go and be the presence of God.

Laurie said...

Hey Jeremy! I'm so thankful that you are where you are, even though we miss you at Impact. May the peace of God surround you as you live each day just as fully as you have the past several. Love you!