These are my friends at Compassion project GU-479 in Cantón Paxot II, Guatemala. They wanted me to take their photo while leaning against a motorcycle outside, and when I showed the photo to them, I said, “muy guapo” (very handsome). They thought this was so funny that they spent the next several minutes giggling and punching each other. I actually checked with a Spanish speaker to be sure I hadn’t said the wrong words, and I hadn’t. The boys just thought it was funny that I called them handsome.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” – Matthew 19:14
Visiting families living in poverty is not easy. Often I fight back emotion throughout the visit, overcome by the difficult circumstances in which the family is living, then leave with a heavy heart, resigned to the unfairness of their situation.
But the visit to a home in the little mountainous community of Cantón Paxot II in Guatemala was unlike any I’ve experienced.
Our adventure began in the back of a pickup truck, much to the delight of the two teens in our group. We traveled bumpy backroads in the truck, the got out and climbed a narrow, steep dirt path to Santiago and Clara’s home.
There we were greeted warmly by the family, which had covered the courtyard floor with fresh pine needles to welcome us. This is a custom usually reserved for celebrations, and the scent was wonderful.
As we visited with the family, asking about their lives on the mountainside and sharing about our own lives as well, it became clear that this was a strong family, united in faith and love. They were happy to share their lives with us, and wanted to learn about us, too.
Santiago works as a day laborer, while his wife, two sisters and mother sew and embroider skirts to be sold at the market.
Clara showed us her kitchen, complete with wood-burning stove and corn boiling in a large pot for making corn tortillas and tamales. The family also has a water filter provided by Compassion and water from a faucet.
Their three daughters, Shirley, 7, Ashely, 5, and Melanie, 3, were quiet and shy throughout most of the visit. Because they are Mayan, the children haven’t learned Spanish well, yet, and speak Kiche instead, so our questions to them were translated from English to Spanish by our translator, then from Spanish to Kiche by their parents. We were told the younger children in the community could only speak Kiche.
Shirley and Ashley are both in Compassion’s sponsorship program, which often indicates special need by the family, as Compassion usually registers only one child per family.
Shirley excitedly showed us the letter she has received from her sponsor. Ashley hadn’t received any letters, yet.
Shirley’s parents proudly presented her report card to us as well. She is excelling in math and a subject called “citizen education,” and she told us she likes school.
During the visit, the women taught Todd and his daughter, Anna, to sew, and seemed pleased with their efforts.
After we presented the family with a gift of grocery items, and posed for group photos, it was time to say goodbye, and Santiago extended an invitation to us to visit again anytime.
And I walked away feeling very positive about this family, with this verse in my mind:
“But as for me and my household, I will serve the Lord.” – Joshua 24:15
After quick hugs and photos, the boys were off and running, making good use of every minute of their short day together.
Logan and Osmar have shared letters through Compassion International for about two and a half years, and they finally met in person last week in Guatemala City.
It was no surprise that the two were instant best friends. They have many things in common, including a love of sports and big smiles. Both love to help their mothers cook meals. They even share the same position in their families: third child, with two older brothers.
Within minutes of meeting, they each wore the same blue Dodgers baseball hat and jersey as well.
They filled the day playing soccer, air hockey, basketball and ping pong, racing through an obstacle course several times, and pausing only briefly for lunch. They hugged often and always were smiling, having fun even when a translator wasn’t around to bridge the language barrier.
After lunch, the boys exchanged gifts before they were running again.
Logan sponsored Osmar in February 2013, and this was the day that brought that sponsorship to life. He had traveled to Guatemala with me and spent the week visiting Compassion projects around the country, learning how the program works and playing with children at each stop, but today was the day that mattered most to him.
And when the time came for goodbyes, it was clear the day had impacted both boys greatly.
Tears and hugs followed, and after our initial farewells, Osmar managed to find Logan in the crowd again, running back for one last hug.
Logan already is making plans to visit his Guatemalan brother again in the future.
The devastating loss of a husband, a father of four beautiful daughters… it happened almost two years ago.
The date was Sept. 9, 2013, and it was the same day Compassion project GU-492 opened in San Martín Jilotepeque, Guatemala. It was a day that would change the lives of 9-year-old Delmi and her family members forever.
As our small group walked to visit Delmi’s home, project workers explained the family’s situation to us. They said Delmi’s mother, Adela, had a very difficult time after her husband’s death, including dealing with depression. They told us Adela continued to struggle, and that her daughter Delmi would receive more help when the project hired a new counselor.
So we walked up the steep path to the family’s hilltop home, and we didn’t know what we would find there.
The yellow-painted brick home sat on a hillside, overlooking the community. It felt fresh and clean on that hill, after walking the busy streets below. There were trees offering refreshing shade, a worn bench on a covered porch looking out over countless tin-roofed homes. Potted plants with flowers added color, while chickens wandered and pecked the ground beneath brightly colored clotheslines.
It seemed to be a peaceful refuge.
And there we met the family. Adela, the mother, introduced us to her daughters, Dulce, 15, Delmi and Fatima, 4. Her oldest daughter wasn’t home at the moment because she was studying for school, but we would meet her later in the visit. We also later met the girls’ abuela, Adela’s mother who lives nearby.
We visited with the family while enjoying a special orange drink Adela had prepared for us. During that time, I saw a strong and courageous woman in front of us, a woman hurting deeply, possibly shattered by her loss, but forging ahead for her children.
Adela supports her family by selling snacks at a nearby school. Her own mother does the same job.
She spoke glowingly of her mother, whom she said taught her the value of hard work, raising her own family without a husband. Adela said she prays every day that her mother will never leave her because she doesn’t know how she will go on without her.
She clearly receives a lot of support from this woman and loves her very much.
Adela shared with us that she reads out of Psalms from her Bible every night; that she can’t go to sleep without reading it. She said it is difficult when her youngest daughter is upset and cries for her daddy; that it hurts her because she feels helpless.
Delmi, who entered the Compassion program when it opened, showed us the medals she’s won playing basketball. She makes good grades in school and wants to earn a science degree. Adela’s hard-working example obviously is rubbing off on her daughters.
And much too soon, it was time to say goodbye to this special family. We prayed with them, loved them, took photos together and said our goodbyes. And while there doesn’t seem to be a tidy, happy ending to wrap up this family’s story, there is reliance on God, love of family, and Compassion’s support, which is more than many hurting families have.
If you are interested in sponsoring a child in Guatemala, or in any of the 27 countries around the world where Compassion works, please click here.
We made the 15-minute walk through the busy, dusty streets of Joyabaj, Guatemala, to visit Sylvia and her family in their home.
The sidewalks were narrow, and the bumpy, brick-paved streets were noisy with traffic, the smell of car exhaust in the air. We often had to pause our conversation during the walk as the noise drowned out our words. It was the same walk that Sylvia makes each week when she attends her Compassion project, GU-892.
When we arrived, Sylvia and her younger sister and brothers were waiting for us. Giggling, they led us through a narrow passageway between gray brick walls, turning right down another narrow path before coming to their home at the end.
Sylvia’s stepmother welcomed us into their one-room, dirt-floor home, where we found seats on the two beds, where this family with five children lives.
There in the dark room, we learned some of Sylvia’s story, while the shy 10-year-old stood in the doorway, listening, her hair pulled back in a ponytail, one piece constantly falling forward and needing to be tucked behind her ear, in the same manner as my own 10-year-old daughter.
We learned that Sylvia enjoys attending her Compassion project, that her favorite activity there is making crafts, and that although she is 10 years old, she is behind in school, only attending first grade.
We also learned that Sylvia’s mother is an alcoholic, who neglected Sylvia and her younger sister, Julessa, 7, often letting them roam the streets, dirty and hungry. Her father and stepmother gained custody of the children earlier this year, and her stepmother recounted how difficult it had been to tame the wild girl.
She said at first, Sylvia only wanted to run in the streets, but over time, she learned to stay closer to her new home, where she was being taught how to care for herself, to do chores, to be a little girl who is part of a family who loves her.
This love was evident in the eyes of Sylvia’s stepmother, who told us she used to see the girls on the streets when they still lived with their mother, and she would clean them up and feed them. We commended her for her obvious love for the girls, and she explained that she herself had been an orphan; that she loved children, and had always been drawn to the children in her village, who loved to hear her stories.
In front of us stood a woman, prepared by God through her own difficult childhood, for this time in Sylvia’s life. Who better to care for and love this motherless girl than this woman, who also had been motherless?
Sylvia’s stepmother’s name is Esperanza: hope.
If you are interested in sponsoring a child in Guatemala like Sylvia through Compassion, or in any of the 27 countries around the world in which Compassion works, please click here.
In just 10 days, my son Logan and I will leave for a 7-day Compassion tour in Guatemala! Today, we spent some time packing the gifts we are bringing, and vacuum-sealed some backpacks, clothing and cloth bags to make more room in our suitcases.
I bought these bags last year in preparation for a Compassion tour to Nicaragua. I was able to find them at Costco in a package of six bags, two each of three different sizes. The bag in the photo is the largest size.
They work well for freeing up some extra room to pack even more goodies!