Saturday, October 28, 2006

Today was a difficult day...

Today, it was the knowing it would be the last time for a long time that got me to the top of the steps. I have no idea what got me up there every other time for the last three months! But I'll tell you what...I will beat any of you at a stair-climbing contest at 11,000 ft. Eso.

Yes, it's a long way to the top (of both sets of steps), but what awaits us up there is well worth the climb. In the last few months, the ministry at San Marcos has grown from from an average of 30 kids to an average of 50! And if every one of them came every week, there would be over 70 children involved with us!

Today was a special day. It was my last Saturday with the kids in San Marcos. So rather than split up into groups to tell a Bible story, we all gathered together in the new room we're renting and all the kids worked on a special project. Each of the kids traced their hand on a piece of paper and then they all drew pictures and wrote notes on the hands they had traced. And at the end of the day I got to keep all the drawings!! Well, Tracie kept them anyway, I haven't gotten to see them yet. She says she's doing something special with them. I can't wait to see what all my precious friends drew and wrote for me! It was a really fun time. I got to go around the room and help all the little ones who are normally in my group. They couldn't trace their own hands, so I went around with markers and traced their hands for them and put their names on their papers. It's amazing how many names I have learned! I remember being worried I wouldn't remember any because there are so many kids! Some of the kids said goodbye to me and gave me notes or little gifts. Angelica said goodbye and gave me a note that said it was from her younger brother and sister, but I'm certain she wrote it for them.

After everybody finished their drawings, we all went back over to the park where we played more games and had more fun. We stayed in San Marcos a while longer today than we usually do. I was really grateful for the extra time with those kids. Especially with Wilber. I have grown to love him so much in the last few months. Not just Wilber, but his whole family. It is easy to see that Wilber comes from a home where there is no shortage of love. He and his brothers and sister are some of the most well-behaved kids. They are always smiling and laughing and they don't fight with each other. We have had the priviledge of getting to know their mom, Rosa Maria, as well. She is a great lady with a good heart. She seems to want to get involved with the children's ministry in San Marcos. She came by the room we are renting up there a couple weeks ago to check on the progress we were making with all the improvements (finished roof, cement floor, painted walls, ect.) and we got to spend some time just talking with her that day.

We also were blessed with a bag full of clothes and shoes that had been donated to the church here, and were able to take them up to Rosa's house yesterday morning to give to her and the kids. I had never been inside their front gate before. I had walked the kids home once before on a Saturday, but had said goodbye at the gate. When we were invited in yesterday my heart sank. I knew that many of the people who live in San Marcos are poor, but Wilber and his brothers and sister are always dressed nicely with washed and combed hair...and Rosa has such perfect teeth, and she and her husband take such good care of their children...I assumed they weren't quite as poor as the others in their community.

But they are poor. Niccolas, the oldest of the kids answered the door and invited us in. They don't have much of a house; just a tiny, weather-beaten shack with adobe walls, a bad roof, and a curtain for a door. The floor is just dirt, and where there are boards to walk on, they are rotting away. Wilber and Lupe were both home that day too, wearing dirty clothes way too small for them. Little lupe was wearing tights for pants, and her big toes were sticking through the holes in the feet of her tights. And no wonder Rosa has perfect teeth...she puts them in every day!! I didn't recognize her at first when she came outside to greet us. Almost all her real teeth are missing. She looked like a different person. Lupe and Wilber are sick. They've got sores on their faces and their parents can't afford to buy the cream to put on the sores. Rosa says Wilber's nose bleeds every night. Yes, they are poorer than poor, and my heart breaks for them.

And yet my heart rejoices that their home and family are built on love. They lack money and posessions, but they do not lack the things that matter for eternity. They share enough love in their home to cover over all the poverty.

I got to spend a few wonderful moments this afternoon with all the kids in the family. Niccolas, Christian Walter, Erik, Wilber Rodrigo, and little Guadalupe. I will never forget these kids. I will never forget how special they are, and how precious and perfect they are in the sight of God. And I will never forget how much they have come to mean to me in this short time that I have spent here. What an amazing gift God has given me in these kids. I am always impressed with how much more I see the blessings in my own life when I am doing what I can to bless others. I feel so sad to leave. But I am certain I will see these children again one day. God bless them so much!

God bless all the kids here in San Marcos!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

My 2nd To Last Saturday.....

And it was such a fun day! It was bittersweet at first, because I knew I wouldn't have much time left with these kids...but I told myself to just enjoy it...and I really did! Wilber swung with me on the swingset, and he kept laughing and shouting "Higher!! Higher!!!"

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Fireworks and Pan de Guagua

Who knew the month of October would be so full of surprises?? Surprise number one was the wake-up call I got on the 1st of October. I was startled awake somewhere around 6:00am by a series of the loudest fireworks ever (they were set off outside...not actually in my room, as I first suspected). At first, I thought maybe it was just some kids messing around or something. Then when the second set went off a few minutes later, and the third a little while after that, I thought..."That's interesting...must be some sort of celebration today in one of the cathedrals." (I have seen the cathedrals shoot off fireworks in the day here when they are celebrating something).

Well, today when we went to go visit Zoraida, a friend who comes every once in a while to study with us, she started telling us that this month is the month the people celebrate El Señor de los Temblores (the god of earthquakes). The entire month is dedicated to this guy...which explains why I have had the same disturbing wake-up call at the same time EVERY MORNING!!! And I guess I can expect to have the same startling awakening every day until November. So...that's cool.

But that's not the most interesting thing. I have no idea if it's related to the celebration this month or not (Zoraida didn't have any idea either), but during this time of year, all the bakeries start selling bread in the shape of a baby wrapped up in a blanket!! It's called "pan de guagua" (baby bread) and the women carry these bread babies around like babies...and THEN...there's a day when they baptize the bread babies in honey, and then they bless the bread, and cut it up and eat it!!! Can you imagine? They also have bread in the shape of horses; "pan de caballo" (you guessed it: horse bread), and the men carry those because the babies are for the women to carry. (hmm...) I don't know if they baptize the horses or not. haha.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Saturdays and Sundays

Recently, we made a switch with the kids' program and the Bible study that we do weekly. We were meeting with the kids up in San Marcos on Sunday mornings and doing a Bible study for adults and youth on Sunday nights. There were between 30 and 35 kids that were showing up every week to share with us, and maybe 3 or 4 adults and students coming to the Bible study. Most people have to wake up early Monday mornings to go to school or to work, so it was difficult for them to come over on Sunday nights.

We decided it would be good to have the Bible study on Sunday mornings instead. That way, the people don't have to worry too much about staying over here too late on Sundays. We meet now at 9:30 in the mornings. Turns out it was a good idea. There were 10 of us this morning studying on how and why we can and should be obedient Christians. It was really neat to look around the room and see so many faces, and to listen to all the voices singing praises to God together. What a blessing!

So now since we have Bible study Sunday mornings, we go up to San Marcos on Saturday afternoons to be with the kids. This has become my absolute favorite time of the week!! And it turns out this change was great for the kids too. The last two weeks we have gone on Saturday afternoon, and there have been about 40-45 kids! There are so many! It gets so disorganized with so many kids and just the three of us. We have begun to split them up into smaller groups. Ricky takes the kids who are 9 and older with him, Tracie takes the kids between 5 and 8 years old. And I have the priviledge of being with the little tiny ones under 5. Oh they are precious! They don't listen, they are not interested in hearing the Bible story that I tell them, they hit each other, they yell to get my attention, and they eat the crayons...but I love them so so much! And I treasure every second I spend with them. I wish we could stay longer when we go. We're there for a couple hours in the afternoon...but that's just not enough for my selfish self. This week when we arrived, Wilber, who is Lupe's 3-year-old, older brother, saw me from far off, and he just sprinted as fast as he could toward me with a giant smile on his face, shouting at the top of his lungs, "TIA!! TIA!!! TIIIIAAAAAAA!!" (As a form of respect, children call adults tia or tio, which means aunt or uncle) He ran right over to me and just hugged me as hard as he could! I love this little boy so much! I have been spending extra time with him the past few weeks, and I can't get enough of his beautiful smile. He is a treasure to me. It will hurt a lot to leave him.

This week we were blessed with another helper during our Saturday afternoon with the kids. Almost two months ago, when the missions team from Chile was here, we did a presentation in Plaza San Pedro, where we met John. John hadn't even seen the whole presentation...he was only walking by when we were nearly finished and he ended up talking to me while Ricky was praying in front of the crowd at the end. Well I couldn't answer his questions (I was struggling just to hear him, let alone understand him over the loud music and noise of the plaza), so I asked him if he could wait a few minutes to talk to Ricky. Well he did. He waited nearly 20 minutes just to talk with Ricky a little bit, and he has ended up getting really involved in everything we are doing. He comes on Wednesday nights to our prayer group. He comes to our Bible study. He comes over Tuesday and Thursday nights when Ricky teaches two of the younger teenagers to play guitar. He even lent his guitar to Ricky to use with the boys he teaches.

John told us last week that he'd like to go with us to see the kids. We told him we leave the house at 3:00 on Saturdays. I didn't think he'd show... many times, people here don't when they say they will. But he did. He made the long walk up the many stairs to San Marcos with us, and he immediately began to get to know the kids; talking with them, laughing with them and playing with them. He was a natural. The kids loved him, especially the older ones. He even danced with us when we played all the dancing games...I thought for sure he'd be embarrassed, but he wasn't. Hopefully he will decide that this is something he'd like to continue doing. It was so helpful to have him around. And I will only be here a month longer. It will really be a blessing if he sticks around.

I have fallen in love with the kids of San Marcos. I don't ever want to leave them. I want to watch them all grow up knowing the love of Christ in their lives. I want good things for them. I hope that my being here is making a difference. I hope Wilber knows how special he is. I hope Lupe never ever stops smiling. I hope I can come back here someday and see these kids again.