It’s Tuesday night – or to be perfectly honest, it’s very early Wednesday morning. Though I should be asleep, my head and heart are full as I reflect on a painfully precious day. It’s Independence Day here in Guatemala, and in every city, town, and village, the celebrations have been taking place for days. Concerts, fireworks, torch runs, marathons, festivals, dances, parades – it seems the entire country joins in the festivities. That liberty, however, wasn’t celebrated in the places we served.
We returned to Cerecaif, our van filled with bags of supplies. A small army of boys ran to our van, and then carefully carried the duffel bags and sacks into the orphanage – one smiling and singing “Leche! Leche” when he saw large bags of powdered milk. Part of our team completed a painting project we began on Monday (see “Beauty for Ashes”) while others distributed humanitarian aid, school supplies and groceries.
The heartfelt gratitude of the workers was precious. Saying “goodbye” to the children was painful.
We travelled to Antigua, where we visited the Hogar de Ancianos– or the Cabecitas de Algodor , loosely translated as The House of Cottontops.” Three of us had been to the home for the elderly before, and each had special memories of residents there. For Courtney, it was a former architect, disabled after a construction accident, who loved to draw. For Stacey, it was a wheelchair-bound gentleman with a passion for good conversation. And for me, it was a 102-year old woman who loved Jesus and loved to tell everyone she met about it.
The heavy wooden door opened into the entry of the home, and we stumbled over two beds that had been set up where plants and a bench had once been. Large piles of clothing, old mattresses, and wheelchairs dotted the walkway around the small center courtyard. Something had changed.
Courtney immediately saw her “boyfriend,” who greeted every woman on the team with a sweet kiss on the cheek. She presented him with a portfolio of draftsman tools, and his eyes filled with tears of joy. Stacey’s gentleman quickly engaged in a deep conversation about history with Jim, himself a history buff. And Ryan was introduced to the now 103-year old woman was sitting outside her room. Other familiar faces sat in chairs or shuffled across the courtyard as we gave away the slippers and caps. Many shared stories of days gone by, of careers and families and life in other places.
As we neared the rooms, the stench of urine and feces was overwhelming. Rooms that once held two or three people now were filled with six or seven beds. Most residents were in those beds, many unable to walk or care for themselves at all. Some beds had sheets and blankets ; many had nothing to cover the bare mattress. We learned that two other homes had been closed, and residents from those homes had been transported to the Hogar des Ancianos. Some newer residents had simply been “left” by family members. With little to no financial assistance, the House of Cottontops has been struggling to keep its residents fed.
Holding the withered hand of a sweet grandma was precious. Knowing that grandma has no family visiting her was painful.
So, I lay here – my heart aching for the fatherless, no matter their age. Knowing the Lord God Almighty says “I’ll be your daddy,” and wanting desperately to comfort each and every one. I’m so thankful for those who are here in Guatemala, caring for the fatherless day in and day out. I’m thankful for the amazing team here with me this week, living out their faith. And though it’s sometimes difficult to say, I’m thankful for the painfully precious days – it’s through them I am centered, refined – and focused on Christ alone. And it’s through them I’m reminded He is Lord, He is Healer, He is Comforter.