Friday, November 18, 2011
Heaven Invades Hell in Honduras
She is less than five feet tall but larger than life. Her name is Maria Isabella, mother of eight children. She is the quiet matriarch. There is no patriarch. Her husband, who apparently regarded himself as a mere sperm donor, left after their eighth child was born. She has been sole provider, comforter, teacher, protector for years. She has raised them alone. She works 60 hours a week in a little bakery. The three adult daughters who live with her lament about growing up alone and left to themselves while their mom was making a living in order to provide for them. There are tears as they look back on those early years.
Two of the three each have two little ones of their own. These eight and several other family members have shared existence in this hellhole of a shack for ten years. It's dark, damp, and depressing inside. They burn wood or anything they can find that is combustible in order to cook and heat. The smoke permeates the shack. The upper walls and ceiling are coal black. And their lungs?
There is no room, no space, no privacy. They can't afford dressers or containers, so everything is piled or stacked. A fish-net hammock is hung inside; I look closer. A little baby is lying in it. No room for a bed, even if they could afford one.
They have been on the waiting list of families for whom Mercy International would build a house. It's been two years. Day after week after month--"Maybe today?" Finally, their wait is over.
We arrived at their little father-forsaken but Father-favored shack last Sunday and we began digging trenches to serve as a foundation for the house of their dreams in an open, barren area in front of their shack. 20x24--or as a friend described it--"a garage and a half." To them, though, a mansion. Saturday, we left and in those 7 days we built them a house that will last them for generations. I wish you could have seen the light in their eyes. Their smiles. Their hugs of gratitude. One of the daughters joyfully confessed, “I don't have words." Another, “I wish I could have a big party for all of you." Maria Isabella thanked God and us.
I gathered several from the team and asked the family if we could pray for them. They welcomed our prayers. I asked them what they would like us to pray for. A daughter quietly said, "Food." I was speechless. I'm sixty-two years old and there has never been a single day of my life when I have ever prayed that I would have food. I was humbled by her earnest request. I asked if there was anything else she would like us to pray for. Work so they have income. Peace in their family.
This family now has shelter. Concrete block, concrete floor and metal roof never looked so extravagant.
I visited a family for whom we had built a house this past Spring. Momma looked good and her 16 year old daughter, Kenya, was full of smiles as she held her two year old, Melbie, in her arms and a growing child in her belly. I was surprised at her pregnancy, though she is not the exception, and saddened. We hugged and re-connected. Just a day passed and I was talking with Momma and she was particularly distressed. I inquired and she told me that in the last 24 hours someone had "deceived Kenya" with a the promise of a job and this stranger convinced her to leave her mother and Melbie and travel with her to the capital city, Tegucigalpa, and work there. Tegucigalpa is a city of 1.7 million people, and a 5-6 hour drive away. Momma doesn't own a cell phone and has no idea what is happening to her daughter. What depths of lies or persuasion--coercion?-- could convince Kenya to leave her little boy and mother on a moment's notice? What will become of Melbie? How does a little boy deal with mom abruptly leaving him? Life was hard enough with her family intact; what worry must now consume Momma each day as she wonders if she will ever see her daughter again and if she does will Kenya be dead or alive? Life had been weighing on her enough and now she has sole responsibility for Melbie, also. It's hell.
Yet, I would not be providing an accurate picture if I left it at that. There are moments of heaven as team members hug all these kids who are often discarded. Glimpses of heaven as the kids laugh and frolic with the team. The team gives their undivided attention and unconditional love and for some moments these kids do not have a care in the world. It's heaven.
Today, I ask you to thank God for what you have.
And ask God to provide for them what they don't have.