I got some time to ask my husband some questions this afternoon as we rested. I asked him about the little old lady who came last night to the school and fed hotdogs to everyone. She was a bit cranky (so a bunch of our group said), and I wanted to know what her story was. Apparently, she’s lived in Puerto Vallarta for 40 years and has been coming into this neighborhood that whole time, twice a week, feeding the same food to the people. She looks at groups like us, and maybe (we didn’t ask her….but this is our guess from the conversations that went on) thinks that we are there more for our own good than for the people there. We didn’t bring any food, we really are not doing anything more than what the people already do, and are just in the way. We come for our little trips and then get to say “look at me! I went and fed the hungry!” Yet, here she is….living among and serving these people for most of her life.
I wonder how much truth is in that attitude. That we are here almost as much to serve our own purposes as to serve others? I know that both my husband and I believe we were supposed to come on this trip, period. Ours is not to question why. But I also know that I want my kids to see how good they have it in the US. I want them to be more grateful for what they are given. And yes, I will feel good about the work that was done while here. But did I come just to make myself feel good? No.
I’m not sure if this lady realizes that without our church, there would not be a school here to feed the people in. She might say that she was doing it just fine for 30 years before the school came around, and will continue to do it long after we are gone. That could be true. I bet she’ll be here doing the same thing until the day she dies, and I so admire her for that determination to do what she can, right now. Yet I still look at the good that has been done, and see the impact that is being made in the hearts of those who have come to serve on this trip. We are extremely blessed in America with all that we’ve been given. Is it bad to see how the rest of the world lives, so that we can be more kind and considerate and giving in our own lives, back home?
Yet the question needs to be asked….what more can we do? How can we show people like this lady that we are not just “here today, gone tomorrow?” Is it just enough to fly down and feed the hungry? In a way, yes it is. Jesus said that if you feed and care for the least in this world, you are feeding and caring for him. But I don’t think there is any harm in asking….are we working in our lives to the highest and best possible use that God has called us to?
We piled back into the vans for another trip out to the school, this time for the afternoon group. Back we went, past the cruise ship, past the hospital, past the shops and people sitting in doorways, past the dogs roaming the streets and the skinny cows in fields. Out on the bumpy, dusty road, and back to the little colorful school that sits on top of one small hill, in the shadow of another, gigantic hill.
This time, things went a little different, and it was so cool! I had brought some beads from home, thinking that girls (and even boys!) love to make nice looking things, and that it would be fun to make “pretties” with the kids. There were a lot more girls this time, and as soon as we pulled the beads out everyone sat down, eager to make their own bracelet. Pretty soon nice-looking patterns started to emerge, and the girls wanted to do more and more and more. We were going to play some games, like we did in the morning, but everyone was having so much fun that we decided to just let them go as long as they wanted or until our supplies ran out. Some girls and boys did five or six bracelets, and wore them all with a big smile!
This type of bracelet can be tricky to tie, and if you are not careful you can dump the beads off and ruin all that you’ve just done. Since I have done plenty at home I ended up tying a bunch of them closed. After a while, kids started to come up to me saying “teacher” as they held up their bracelets, wanting me to tie them. This so touched my heart. I am a teacher, but it’s been a while since I’ve been in the classroom. I know these kids love and respect their teachers. By them calling me “teacher,” I knew that I had just been accepted into their hearts.
When one little girl was finished with her bracelet I pointed to it and said, in Spanish, that it was very beautiful. She smiled, and quickly took it off her arm and gave it to me. I didn’t want to take it, and tried to give it back, but she shook her head no. So I took it, ran around the table, and gave her a big hug. A little later another girl came up to me, and I also commented on her bracelets. She had two, and wanted to give me both. I shook my head no, and again she insisted that I take both. I couldn’t take both from her, so I said just one. She took one off and gave it to me. I then hugged her and told her, “Tu es muy bonita,” which means, “You are very beautiful.” Her shoulders sighed in my arms, and I knew it was something she had needed to hear.
It touched me and many of the others here to know that, even though these kids had virtually nothing, they were willing to give to us the bracelets that they had just made.
I will cherish my two bracelets for a long, long time.
We sat there under the trees until it was time for dinner, making bracelet after bracelet. It probably went on for a good 90 minutes, and yet the kids still did not want to stop. One little girl held the bag of beads and told me that she didn’t want me to take them away. I smiled at her and told her that I was leaving all of them for her teacher, so the school could use them. She smiled at me, knowing she might be able to make more after we were gone.
Dinner for these kids was simple, just as breakfast was for the other group. It consisted of a small plastic cup of some sort of soup that had hominy, chicken, and onions in it, plus a cup of juice. It smelled absolutely horrid, yet everyone there ate it and was thankful for what they got.
After dinner the ice cream man showed up! My husband was just waiting for this moment. 🙂 I was helping to clean up the beads, but got the story from him afterwards. Apparently, when the ice cream man showed up, they talked and agreed that for 30 people to have ice cream it would be 200 pesos (around $17 US). A bunch of our group pitched in money so that all of the kids could get ice cream. Little did we know but the guy was totally keeping track, and when 30 people had come through, he looked at Mark and told him that that was it. Mark knew there were still people who didn’t get ice cream, including the adults from the school, so he looked him square in the eye and said, “don’t worry, we will take care of it. Whoever wants ice cream, gets ice cream. We will make sure you are taken care of.” The guy believed Mark, and kept serving until everyone had a big ol’ cone filled with their choice of ice cream. All total it was about 35 people who this guy served to. Mark looked at him, when all had gone away, and said, “Well, I know we had more than 30, so how does 400 pesos sound (about $35 US) for the ice cream?” The guys’ eyes got big, and he said something like “really?” He couldn’t believe what he was hearing! Mark told him yes, that that’s what we were going to pay him, because we want to be a blessing to him as well as the kids. The guy thanked Mark with a big grin on his face, and walked away, having just made in 30 minutes what he probably would make in 5 days.
As we were preparing to leave, I saw a bunch of our group standing around a pile of rocks that were at the school. It is a pile of 12 pinkish-red rocks cemented together, about 2 feet tall, on a square cement base. I wandered over there to see what it was, and felt the somber mood in the air. Apparently, when Linda Knight came here over 10 years ago, they built this alter as a remembrance. Some of the local people say that she was there when it was created, and others think it was built after her last trip in January 2000. Engraved on the base was a date, but it was covered in dirt and difficult to read. The teacher from the school brought some water over and ever so gently tried to wash it away so we could read what was scrawled in the cement. It looked like it was in 2000, but we couldn’t see what month. We looked around at each other in silence. Even though I’m new to this church, I know what happened 10 years ago, when Joe and Linda were coming back from this mission field. Their plane crashed, and everyone on board was killed. As we stood there we realized that if in fact Linda was present for the building of this alter, it was on the trip right before she was killed. Big sigh…. and a big wow.
I look around again at the massive hill, this little school, the children, the shacks, and all that has been done since that time, 10 years ago. And I see with my own eyes how one person can in fact make huge a difference in the lives of others.
Our vans took us back to our resort, and soon we were all eating again. Over dinner Mark told me that Bill, the guy with the healing prayers, called him out on the carpet for something regarding his diabetes. Mark for 20 years has called it “My Diabetes,” and Bill said, “Don’t claim it.” God doesn’t want you to have something like this disease, so why should you claim it and put that hold on your life? By doing so, you are, I think is what they said, basically prohibiting God from using his power in your life by claiming something in your heart. He’s already healed you….so claim that instead! Bill said he didn’t think Mark would leave with his diabetes. WOW!!! Could it be true? Could this fight be over? Mark and I both think the same thing, even without speaking……that it is almost beyond imagine.
On that note….this morning a young man in our group hit his toe on the cement wall. It was bloody and the nail had cracked down to the cuticle. WE took care of it as best as we could, and told him to be careful. Later that day Bill prayed for his toe. This afternoon when this man took his band aid off, he was amazed! His toe had no blood, no bruise, the pain was gone, and the nail was not injured at all! His toe was healed. WOW!!! I’m starting to believe……
This is an amazing trip. I don’t fully know all that God wants me and my family to get out of this time, but already I see him working in my husband and I. Tomorrow night we go out to the dump to feed the people there. It should be an unforgettable experience.
BTW: With this Crohn’s. I’m doing well so far. I ate the same thing tonight as last night, and it has done well in my system. I have found what I can eat at the buffet, and can supplement with Lara Bars. I might lose a few pounds while here, but that’s fine. I want to get down to a size 10. 🙂 I’m just glad that this Crohn’s has been tame, and that I’m able to function. Notice the language? “This Crohn’s” I’m not claiming it anymore, even if I believe I’m to have it for a while longer. 🙂