Monday, July 25, 2005

12 in a Room?

Dear Friends and Family,

Last week I shared a room with 11 kids and one teenager who all live in Zone three (a zone that shares a border with the dump). I shared a valley with 120 kids and roughly 20 counselors in addition to roughly 20 gringos surrounded by lush green mountains (mountains that share a border with the sky). I shared a country with roughly 12 million people (A country that shares a border with Mexico, Belize and El Salvador). A country full of juxtaposition. Hundreds of single room shacks on the side of a breathtaking volcano wearing the clouds for clothes. A garbage dump filling a glorious gorge. Beautiful women carrying bags of garbage on their heads, wearing a creased smile on their face while harboring years of misery, of abuse and of deadly diseases in their bodies. The richness of the land here is indescribable a screaming contrast next to the poverty of the people.

Friday was the last day of camp. Camp was a chance to see an inside view of another aspect of Potters House’s ministry, the children. A definite high point of school is camp, located roughly three hours away, completely surrounded by mountains, lies Chiquimula. A town of roughly one hundred thousand people and one hundred degree weather. Near the town is the camp. Even seven weeks ago when we first arrived, the excitement for camp was building. Children and teachers both constantly asking if we were going to go with. For many of the children, this is their first time out of the city. Everyone is excited for the pool, even the teachers. Virtually no one knows how to swim. If you want to imagine it, picture 100 kids all packed into the shallow third of an averaged size hotel pool and a practically vacant deep end with a few gringos here and there teaching kids to float.
Camp is a chance to get away from work, from the time these kids can walk they have been helping their parents scavenge, unlike in the states, vacation days at school are sad for the kids because they simply mean another day working the dump. Camp is a chance to use a shower and to have your own bed. (Many of the kids share beds with brothers and sister, for example the first night my campers felt lonely by themselves and slept three to a bed.) Camp is a chance to get away from the dump, the idea of a trash can is a foreign concept to these kids. When you live in a dump, it doesn’t matter where you throw your garbage and so consequently, by the end of camp, our floor very much resembled home for the kids. Even the teachers (many of whom come from the dump) don’t understand the concept of littering. For example, after collecting the garbage from the bus, the teachers proceeded to throw the bags out the window. Camp is a chance to learn about Christ, the theme of camp was Mission Possible, and the children were taught the values of obedience, service, and thankfulness. The final night they prayed for all the things they had to be thankful for and it was very touching. They remembered those less fortunate than them, those who had no food, who didn’t have a place to sleep or someone to take care of them.
The school is a chance for hope in the future for the kids. These kids don’t know anything more than the dump, when I asked Rigo, an 11 year old in my cabin, what he wanted to do when he grew up if he could do anything, he responded that he wanted to be a teacher at Potter’s House. If he decides to follow through, he has a ways to go ahead of him, after finishing six years of school at Potter’s House, he will have to complete 3 years of basic school and then 3 years at a university for a teaching degree. In return, he will be able to apply for a teaching job. Which, should he secure a position, will award him with roughly 7 dollars a day. This in itself would be a huge improvement for him, but in addition he will get the chance to change the lives of hundreds more kids surrounding the dump, have meals provided, and have a safe and healthy place indoors to work.

While there are many good things going on here, there is still a huge amount of suffering. The other day while we were out in the city collecting for Vida Nueva, we came across Lesbia who is dying from cancer, she has spent all her money on doctors bills and is unable to repay her loan. So we pray for her but what more can we do? Past that what should we do? The questions are difficult, can we cancel her debt? Everyone who can’t repay has a very touching story, but Vida Nueva is already under pressure from it’s donors to show results, to continue towards self sufficiency. Maybe you can help? (If you really want to help let me know and I’ll get you the information you need to help out). The next house we visit is the home of a single woman, her husband was a bus driver but was recently murdered in a robbery, now she works a small business and at the same time tries to raise her two very young children.
Last weekend, while me and a friend were walking down the street we witnessed a homeless man walking slowly across the street, a car became impatient and started honking. After a few more seconds, the driver apparently had had enough and drove off, hitting the man as he left. The striking part was that nobody seemed to notice or care. A few people stared out of store windows, but we all have enough to worry about simply to survive, how can we help you? The man attempts to stand and fails. The people here are too poor, perhaps too calloused by their own pains to help out. Are we too rich, too calloused by our own comfort to help? I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, thirsty and you gave me something to drink. We give the man some money and he stares up at us in confusion. Too many nights on the street and years of sniffing glue have broken his mind, and now his body is broken too. My friend phones the hospital but it is closed so we leave and make our way back to the home of my friend Lazaro. Quit staring at me, what more do you want me to do?
The four room building is home to 11. Kept very clean and neat, Lazaro spends his weekends working with his dad to make additions to the house. During the week Lazaro’s dad works various construction jobs in the neighboring cities, his mom has a job as a cook in a ministry for AIDS children. Senor Pirir pummels me with questions about the Bible as their children serve us dinner. They are a beautiful and pious family and consider themselves blessed. I am touched by their hospitality and it really sinks in how little we really need to be happy, as well as how little time I have left here.
With only two weeks to go I am becoming exited to return to America but also am sad to have so little time left with these people. I have come to love the people I work with as well as our host family. The Rivera’s have been a huge blessing to live with.
It’s getting late, only 4 and a half hours until the rooster crows. So I should go to bed. Please pray for Nery (our Papa and seemingly full time Chauffer) as well as Tracy and Shane, all who are feeling a bit under the weather.
Thanks for taking the time to read this, I love getting your replies.
God Bless,

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