It has taken me several weeks before I could write this blog. My life in Honduras is filled with joy. So many adorable children, loving Hondurans, supportive team members, actual miracles and countless experiences of God’s hand at work in day to day life. I often write about them and my facebook page is full of joyous, funny, inspirational pictures.
I saw a tiny little lady slowly walking up the path to our offices at the children’s home. She didn’t belong there, neither a member of our staff nor a vendor delivering goods. I greeted her and gave her a hug. I could feel the sharp shoulder blades in her back through her thin dress. She was painfully thin. I asked her how I could help her. In a tremulous voice, Ernestina asked if one of our social workers was in the office. We walked in the building together and found Jenny, whose nickname is “Pastora.” As Ernestina’s story unfolded I learned she is 70 years old. Her only daughter died of cancer and her son-in-law took off with her only grandchild. She lives alone. She was looking for help. There are countless people like Ernestina in Honduras, elderly with no family for support, no government programs to help, living a desperate life. Even churches, with their own impoverished congregations, have little they can offer. It hurts your heart to see them and to ponder what their lives are like day in, day out. We see this sadness everywhere, every day. It can be overwhelming.
However… As we were talking, Maria, a staff member, passed by and offered Ernestina the knit hat Maria had just received as a gift. Debbie, a new missionary who is in charge of the “bodega” where we keep all the donated clothes and supplies, gently took Ernestina in the bodega to pick out some clothes. Debbie asked her if she needed a bath towel. Ernestina shyly nodded. “What color would you like?” “Yellow,” she whispered. Pause. As Debbie was closing the wardrobe door, Ernestina said, “Maybe violet.” Debbie opened the door and handed her the violet one. “Which do you think is prettier?” asked Ernestina. Debbie smiled, “I like them both. Why don’t you take both of them?” Ernestina nodded and smiled. I love that moment. Like each of us, Ernestina longed for something beautiful in her home. Through the love and generosity of LAMB and its staff, she left with many beautiful things – a hand knit hat, some pretty clothes, a pair of sandals, a blanket, and two soft, pastel towels. She also received a stove that she desperately needed.
Maribel and the Anonymous Woman
Recently, Maribel, a young woman with a long and sad history, asked Suzy to meet with her for an unstated reason. I went with Suzy to meet Maribel in a small bakery. We chatted, while her 3 young children smeared cookies on every table and display case! Finally, she explained the reason she wanted to see us. They live with her boyfriend, a much older man and drug addict, and his mother. Periodically the mother throws Maribel and the kids out and burns all their things. This happened a few months ago. We outfitted the kids with clothes from the Children’s Home and the ministry bought them new beds. Well, yesterday the mother told Maribel she was going to throw out the beds and burn them. Maribel asked Suzy to pick up the beds. So we drove to the house. Her boyfriend was loading the beds into the back of Suzy’s truck when a woman carrying a plastic crate on her head stopped at Suzy’s window in the truck. She was hot, obviously exhausted, and very sad. She started desperately trying to sell us the produce she had in the crate. We each bought manzanilla (fresh chamomile.) Normally, the street vendors move on when you buy something or say no thanks. Not her. She got more and more desperate. Her face got sadder and more beaten down. She waved bulbs of garlic, offered us limes and avocados. The desperation in her face and voice increased. I gave her 100 lempira ($5) as a donation. Again, vendors typically move on after this. She bagged some avocados and shoved them at us. “No thanks,” we said. I said I wanted to buy all her limes. As she was bagging them up she said, “My mother is in the hospital. She needs medication.” In Honduras, in the public hospitals, they literally have no medications. The families have to go find the meds and then purchase them. She was obviously too poor to buy meds and had no transportation to go from pharmacy to pharmacy looking for them. “Why is your mother in the hospital?” Suzy asked. The woman got tears in her eyes and her voice shook. “They cut off her foot. She has sugar (diabetes.)” Her face dropped even more and tears filled her eyes. I handed 500 lempira to Suzy who handed it to her. When she saw it, she burst into tears. “God bless you! This is from God! God will multiply your blessings! Blessings on you and your families!” Imagine, $25 caused her to burst into tears of relief.
As we drove off, she hoisted the heavy crate back on her head and shuffled off looking for her next customer. I couldn’t get the image of the Maribel’s 3 babies sleeping on the hard concrete floor. I thought about the woman who may have received a short respite from her desperation but will still suffer and worry, with no end in sight.
Sometimes the Lord gives us a big dose of sad. It is an opportunity to be His hands and feet for someone. Our ministry in Honduras believes that when the Lord places someone in your path, He expects you to act. To do an “accion de gracias” – the Spanish word for thanksgiving, literally an action of thanks, . As Suzy says, it is a form of prayer. Giving thanks to the Lord by helping others. It is a time to double down on serving Him by serving the least of these.
I believe, as my Honduran friends tell me so often, that the next, perfect life awaits Ernestina, the anonymous woman, Maribel, and her children, and that He weeps with them and walks each step with them.