She greets us at the door with shy hugs. The kids leave and return with plastic lawn chairs to supplement the tattered gold sofa. She wants us to sit. There are no windows, so we strain to see, strain to hear her heart through the rhythm of the rain as it pulses on the corrugated tin roof, crescendos and decrescendos. Music blasts from the street. The sky spits on our shoulders, so we scoot in closer across the cement floor, away from the concrete block wall. Through the open door, I see a young boy playing in the street. He’s naked.
“How has Compassion International impacted your life?” one of us asks.
Juana flounders for words, and her eyes well up. Her husband died only three months ago. Now she alone cares for her five children plus a relative’s. It’s hard. When she’s not cleaning for someone else, she’s selling food in the street. Some days there’s no food for her own family. And her stove doesn’t work.
That Joselyn attends the nearby Compassion program helps ease the burden. She knows that this daughter, at least, eats when she’s at the center.
In church this morning, the pastor focused on Exodus 10:10. He said “the devil wants to minister to our children.” He’s like Pharaoh, he told us, who said, “Sure, you go on and party with your God. But leave your children here with me.” The devil’s strategy, the pastor continued, is to prepare an uncertain future for your children even though Jeremiah 29:11 tells us God has a plan to give them (us) a future and a hope. He tells us of his own mother who, as a missionary in Venezuala, knew her first work was as a missionary within her own home.
But what does a mother do when survival means separation? Who’s watching out for the children in a community where drugs and alcohol and extreme poverty hold people hostage in Egypt? Where teen pregnancy shatters dreams? What does a mother do when she must leave not to party but to provide? When she struggles to hang on to Jesus herself, how does she instill the gospel in the hearts of her family? How does she inspire hope when life seems hopeless?
Juana has a dream. She doesn’t speak of a nicer or larger home that houses one (not two) family or more money or even a new stove. It’s that each of her children could go to college and realize their own dreams.
Joslyn has a dream, too. She wants to be a flight attendant, to serve in the air and see the world. I wonder if she’s shared that plan with her sponsor. I wonder if her sponsor has come alongside Juana to encourage Joslyn in her dreams, if she spoons out hope with her pen. I wish I’d asked.
We say our goodbyes and pick our way back to the Center over broken concrete, up rain-slick steps. As we pass by a street, someone sets off a firecracker. It sounds like a gunshot. We jump, laugh, and check our pulses.
My heart stutters and I realize my own sponsored child wrote she wants to someday be a neurosurgeon. And though I’ve shared that news with family and friends, I’ve failed to spoon hope into her dream with my own pen. I’ve not applauded or encouraged that plan. I’ve meant to. I’ve even written it on my to-do list, but I’ve let time spit on the ink. Weeks have slipped by. Or has it been months? What if her dream withered because I didn’t water it? What if Pharaoh fed her hopelessness while I partied?
Are you a Compassion sponsor? When was the last time you wrote your sponsored child? Do you know his/her dreams? How can you encourage them?
If you don’t sponsor a child, will you? If you do sponsor, would you consider a second or a third? Perhaps you’d consider one from the Dominican Republic, a country where 70% of its people live in extreme poverty, where folks are lucky to make $2 a day.
In the stillness,
Note: You can find all my Dominican Republic posts here.