If you keep up with my blog or follow me on any form of social media, you know that I went on my third mission trip to Las Matas de Farfan. You saw the pictures of us and the kids and my sister and I riding horses and my mom’s new pet chicken, Suzie. You heard or read a little story here or there about something that happened.
Unless you were on that trip, you probably do not know of the miracles God worked while we were there. You did not see the gallons of tears shed by the 12 members of our group and the people whose lives we were able to change forever. You may think we brought some clothes and books to some people in need and ate some great food (which we certainly did) but we were able to, by the grace of God, change the lives of a few people who are incredibly dear to me.
This has been by far the most emotional trip for me. I am crying tears of joy and weeping simultaneously as I write this. Any time I think of the horrors that are taking place in that little village I love so much, I choke up. The past few days have been especially hard for me.
Before going any further, I would like to say that this will a moderately graphic post with a lot of sensitive content. If you would like to simply see pictures, refer to my Facebook Album.
To understand why this trip was so important to many of the missionaries (and people in the community in which we serve), you must know that one of the missionaries who has been working with our group for over a decade passed away suddenly just over a month ago. His name was Bill, and although I did not know him very well, any interactions with him were very positive. I remember him as a really silly guy who brought light to the room.
His son and wife joined us on the trip. On the first night of the trip, I had recurring dreams of Bill’s face. I woke up and went back to sleep several times, yet he was consistently there. This was strange to me since I really did not know him well. I told one of the other girls the next morning and she said that it was really strange because the reason his wife had decided to come last minute was because a friend had told her of a dream that she had in which she was talking to Bill and he mentioned that his wife and son would be going on the trip without him this year.
The faculty and students of the guadaria put on an amazing memorial service in his honor. The gave us each a white rose and a card in his memory. We also let go 12 white balloons in his honor.
God works in such mysterious ways. Many donations were made to the mission in honor of Bill. These funds would end up being put towards something simply wonderful.
I met Eddy, Joselito, and Chino in 2015 during my first mission trip. They showed me such pure love by always bringing me fruits, carrying my backpack wherever we went, sharing inside jokes, and holding my hand to guard and keep me safe. One of the missionaries has provided them with phones to keep constant communication with us. We text all the time (even though sometimes it is hard to understand because Spanish is not my first language and I do not always understand their slang and dialect.)
Recently, Eddy’s home situation has gotten bad. His family took in Chino 5 years ago, even though they were very tight on space and money, as well (we’re talking an income of probably less than US$50 a month to support at least 8 people in a two bedroom home.) Joselito is Eddy’s little brother who has moved 4 hours away to work, meaning school was no longer in the picture. Not one of them has graduated high school yet, but the father is trying to persuade them to drop out, work, and continue the cycle of poverty.
Eddy, being the leader of the group and a very positive role model to the others, really wants to stay in school. He was unable to work and go to school because of the lack of resources (transportation and job opportunities) and the inconvenient hours of his school. (Schools in this area cannot afford to hire a lot of teachers so middle schools and high schools share buildings and teachers and operate on a 2-3 session schedule. For example, middle school will go from 7am-12pm and high school will go from 2pm-7pm.)
Eddy has been close to giving up but members of our group have been pushing him to stay and pray. About mid-week, talk of the situation arose during morning prayer. We told him we wanted to help but he said he could not leave his best friend and “brother”, Chino, because he feared that he would drop out and go down a bad path. We were talking housing and school paid for, and this incredible young man refused to take it if it meant his best friend’s future being at stake.
We did some asking around and came up with an incredible home for the to rent out. The treasurer of the Catholic high school and her husband have agreed to rent out a small apartment for the three boys to live in for only US$109 a month! This is only temporary though, we are paying them US$2100 to finish an apartment on their property for the boys to live in, which they will deduct the rent from until the sum is reached. This family is willing to guide and mentor these boys.
By the grace of God, we were able to get them into better schools which would allow them to attend the morning shift and we got them “volunteer” jobs at the guarderia which will pay them enough to buy food. They were be able to do their homework during work with assistance.
Last Thursday, these boys had little hope. They did not even have beds to sleep in. They are set up for a much brighter future and I cannot thank God enough for that.
I have talked before about my love for the “street kids” we serve as part of the mission (this group included the three boys mentioned about). We used to have at least 10 kids accompanying us every day but this year we only had Eddy and Chino. The rest of the kids have vanished, all for very heartbreaking reasons. In this list I will not include their names because this is not to exploit them but to bring to light issues that are very real in this world.
13 y/o boy: known for theft in the community; uses cocaine and marijuana
16 y/o boy: know for theft in the community; uses cocaine and marijuana
16 y/o boy: in jail for drugs
17 y/o boy: in jail for drugs
12 y/o girl: prostitute and dancer in the club
16 y/o girl: prostitute and dance in the club; battling AIDS
18 y/o boy: uses marijuana; pimps out his 12, 16, and 20(ish) year old sisters and mother
These are just a few of them. These ages are all so real. Why is a 12 year old selling her beautiful little body? Why was her innocence stolen so young? Why is the little 13 year old who I met and loved as an 11 year old addicted to drugs?
My heart breaks for each and every one of them. I gave them so much love. I have fed them. I have given them the clothes off of my back and the shoes on my feet. I have prayed with them and sat in the pews of the church with them during mass.
Our group has become more and more involved with two little communities about 45 minutes out of the village where there truly is nothing (not even electricity.) The people of these communities has such an obvious strong rooted faith.
During my senior year of high school, I fundraised with a club to fund the building o a chapel in one of these communities. Last summer, I helped dig the physical foundation of the building and this summer was the first time I had the opportunity to see it finished and celebrate mass there.
The chapel was such a lovely gift to give these people. I had never seen their old chapel but saw once very similar on this trip in a community about 15 minutes away (by car for us…or 3 hours on foot for them.)
As you can see, this chapel is nothing but sticks and a tin roof. When we arrived, the chapel was full of goats. A man came and shooed the goats away and called for a child to bring a broom (made out of straw and a large stick) to sweep the goat poop away to give us a clean area. The entire community was so welcoming. We gave these people a ton of clothes and shoes.
I used to think the hard part of mission work was walking 10 miles a day in the scorching sun with no relief in the house at the end of the day due to lack of AC and bathing with buckets of cold water and having babies throw up on me. This time, I did not miss the comforts of my privileged life once.
I felt so small. There are so many people who need help. I want to help but I am just one person. I cannot help them all. I cannot change the world. I am simply 1 in 7.5 billion.
Last week, somebody mentioned a quote by Mother Teresa that really struck me. She said, “God does not require that we be successful only that we be faithful.”
I have never felt more called to serve the “least of [His] people.” I am only small when God is not by my side. God will always be there for me when I call upon Him, especially if I am there when he calls upon me.
I do not feel that I have personally made a significant difference in any person’s life yet, but I do know that the group I have been a part of has made some crazy differences. I am trusting my Lord and Savior because I know His plans for me are big.
I am happy to do His will and I am very happy to have been part of the trip in honor of the dearest Bill. I am proud to say that I got the chance to be part of laying the foundation for his legacy. Every moment of our trip went to celebrating his life and it was very special. I hope that one day, I can leave such a positive impact on the lives of others.