You stand so resolute in the dust and the smoke, your weary eyes watching every small movement of the trucks filled with refuse. They back to the edge of the ravine and dump the bags – the garbage you’ve painfully paid 25 quetzales a week to sift through in the hopes of finding at least one good thing that might put food on the table. It’s the life you’ve always known, the life passed down to you by parents and grandparents.
I choke as the fires dance to my left, unworthy to be standing on ground that would be mocked in my homeland. The answers would come so easily there, you know. The let me show you how to fix this and the you just need to get a real job would flow like water there, in the land where opportunity and freedom thump their chests with pride. But here, the words clang together like hollow buckets.
I have nothing to share with you, Elena. For you are the warrior here. And you are the sage. You stand in the ashes with vultures mocking overhead, unafraid. This is holy ground. You, warrior, are changing history.
It was only recently you learned to read and write – a gift given you by two kindly neighbors. They brought chairs and whiteboards to the Ravine, and sat with you and the other moms. Your father never allowed you to attend school and your husband believes education is worthless. But you know better now.
And so you stand in this holy place, waging war for your children.
Every morning, you make sure they attend the Ravine school opened by those same neighbors and supported by strangers who believe in you. Every morning, you look at your children and say “You fight, my loves. You fight for freedom. You take the chances given you now – take the blessing and don’t let go.”
Your children model you, Elena. They work hard at school and they work hard at home. The afternoon trucks drive in with your boys on the back, and they dig their hands into the pain of this place alongside you. This life is all they’ve known too. But you, momma – you look in their eyes and tell them there is a better sacrifice being made now.
You now see life beyond the dust and smoke. You see a future expands like the sky. Your hope is greater than the trucks. Your children will redefine a generation in your town.
Your bravery redefines mine. You remind me of just how humbling and powerful it is to be a mom.
Thank you, warrior.
The Centro Educativo Cristiano Mi Especial Tesoro (also known as the Ravine School) is a free school teaching mathematics, reading, writing, art, and the Gospel to children whose families work at the Ravine, a local dump in Chimaltenango, Guatemala. More than 100 children now attend the school. It is the prayer of Cesar and Carol – the caregivers at Mi Especial Tesoro (a girls home that offers sanctuary to young women rescued from abuse and neglect) that the school will glorify God by changing history in their community. My friends at Orphan Outreach provide sponsorship opportunities for the students at the school as well as mission trips to visit and work at the school. You can learn more by visiting their website, orphanoutreach.org. I’d love for you to join me in Guatemala and meet the incredible people there – people like Elena.
Thanks to Courtney Nowakowski for capturing the beauty of Elena.