There once was a gal living in Honduras who happened to be in the midst of her search for a specific passion and purpose in life. Her Spanish was mediocre at best. Her direction unclear. One day she was semi forced into receiving a tour of a government home for teenage girls. This is where she saw fifty twin sized bunk beds that slept four girls in each. This is where she learned that most children in government homes don’t have material belongings of their own. She walked through that home and longed to be able to communicate with the girls that stared hungrily as she walked by. What were they thinking? What had they been through? She left that home determined to apply herself more fully to her Spanish studies so that she could return as soon as possible to learn the stories behind those hungry eyes.
And then she forgot.
That may be a bit harsh. Let’s just say she got distracted. First there was Richar. Then there was Proniño. Then street kids. Her world became 99.5% boys. (The .5% is for her little ragamuffin. So, there’s been at least one girl along the way.)
Fast forward to June of 2013 when she learns that three other teams will be in Nueva Esperanza during the week her team of fifteen eager gringos were planning (and approved, I might add) to be there. Well, that throws a wrench in things. The home for adolescent girls was suggested as an alternative. Wanting to be flexible and open to change she agreed.
Three years and five months later she’s spending a week finding out what’s behind those hungry eyes. Oh my. (I’m switching back to first person. It’s getting increasingly difficult to remain in third…) Over these years, I have had many incredible conversations in which boys have confided in me about hard things that have happened in their lives. But I had forgotten that, stereotypically, girls are much more willing and wanting to share about the hardest things in their lives. Girls find talking therapeutic. The conversations we have had have been…intense.
“I started dating my boyfriend when I was 10 and he was 24. I was pregnant by 12, but lost the baby when rival gang members attacked us.” (Points to the scar on her neck.)
“My neighbor went to the police about my dad sexually abusing me. Thankfully, he never touched my sister.”
“My brother is in a gang in our neighborhood and had started recruiting me. My grandmother brought me here to try and stop it from happening.”
“My stepdad has physically abused me since I was four. I finally told my brother about it. He tried to kill my stepdad. Now he’s in jail for fifteen years and I have no one else to live with.”
“When I think about my family, I cut myself with a piece of broken glass.”
This is what I wanted. Hearing these stories. Putting an arm around them as they cry.
Every night, we do ‘highs and lows’ for the day as a team. The lows have consistently been not being able to communicate with the girls as much as they would like. I was in the same place 3.5 years ago. I longed to connect with the girls. I dreamed of this being my life. And I assumed that this was a silly aspiration that would be swallowed up by the life that I was actually going to lead.
But here I am.
And what now?
Think of any movie you have ever seen in which someone is able to grant wishes. What do they have in common? There is always some sort of loophole. The wishes always seem to backfire. I feel a bit like that hapless drifter who stumbled upon a shiny bottle and spoke her wishes without fully thinking them through. I have become very good at being able to sit and listen. That was my wish. But my responses are woefully inept. These girls are allowing me to enter into the most painful periods of their lives. It’s like they’re placing their maimed and whimpering puppy in my hands and all I can do is ponder its wounds while making concerned noises. What can I say to the thirteen year old child who is the mother of a dead baby? The girl who was raped by her father then blamed by her grandmother for breaking up her parent’s marriage?
Know what I said?
A whole lot of not much.
And that is discouraging.
But I know I’m here for a reason. I know that I’m supposed to be doing this. I want them to put that little puppy in my hands. I just want to be able to do more about it. I have gotten to this point by putting one foot in front of the other and allowing God to bring people, resources, experiences, books and hope on this path at exactly the right time. I have come full circle just to find that the circle is so much bigger. More of a spiral really. As I start these next 3.5 years, I’m simply going to wish that I will be equipped for this work. And that I will be able to equip others, who will then equip a few more. If at the end of these next 3.5 years I continue to feel inept, I still have that final wish, right?
Unless I find a way around that “can’t wish for more wishes” rule.