Friday, November 29, 2019

Learning more than I teach. . .

With the move to a new locations, I was concerned about how our women would adapt, especially since they would be living away from me for the first time (though I am only 20 min. away). They love their new home, especially the outdoor areas, and, as far as missing me, the workers tell me they ask about me, but then pray that I am not lonely! They are far more concerned about me being alone than they are themselves. This is a snapshot into the character of these young women who teach me so much every day.
From Griselda, I learn what a spontaneous servant's heart looks like as she unhesitatingly steps in to care for Chepa with kindness but firmness. She has taught me so much about "innate intelligence," for though she has Down syndrome, she often is able to see a need and problem solve it without assistance. Though I had known her for years at the school, I never saw this side of her until she came to live with us. She has taught me how much I might be "missing" when I only look at our special folks though the context in which the live, rather than searching their hearts and minds for their potential.
And, oh, sweet Chepa. She has taught me what it means to quietly and serenely fight daily to accomplish things you have always believed were too hard. When she came, she would often respond, "No puedo" (I can't) when asked to do something. I would consistently respond, "Todavia" (not yet). Chepa has taught me the power of hope and "todavia." She has progressed not only in her physical abilities but in her social competence and independence in so many areas. Not one of these things has been easy for this young woman who has physical challenges as well as epilepsy, but she continues to fight and more and more wants to do things on her own. She has the heart of a warrior.
The God Who Heals is manifest to me daily in Caty who came to us from a friend's children's home. This is an excellent home where she was loved and cared for, but the staff struggled to meet her individual needs as she was the only "special" child in the home and now was more than 20 years old. Recognizing she needed more, they asked if we could accept her.
Caty had experienced a life of suffering prior to coming to the children's home. She endured every type of abuse imaginable, and was wounded to her core when she came to live with my friend Carrol. Years of patient and consistent love had brought much healing to Caty. When she came to us, however, she seldom looked anyone in the eye, rarely spoke and was so very timid. Previous attempts at placing her with families had failed, so I was more than apprehensive at her coming. How foolish I was!
Today, after living with our women, she grows daily in confidence. She communicates freely (in fact, one Sunday, we had to take her from the church service for talking too much!). She take pride in caring for herself, especially being able to wash her own clothes, and voluntarily helps with household chores. Caty has demonstrated before my eyes the healing power of Christian community through the power of the Holy Spirit. I can only stand in awe.
Petronila has taught me a lot about bicultural living and facing struggles. Though she comes from Santa Maria de Jesus, only 7 km from Antigua, she comes from an environment completely distinct from how we live in Antigua. Wood burning stoves and hauling water from the local "pila" (community water faucet) are a way of life there and the social climate is unique. Santa Maria is a community where resentment and jealousy are the norm, and if someone has a bit more than you do, you covet what they have.  Direct communication and transparency are avoided at all cost. Unforgiveness and gossip pervade the town, and it is reflected in the violence and alcoholism you see there.  You can imagine the challenge to learn to live in community with other women quite different from herself presented to Petris (as well call her.
I believe growing up in an environment like Santa Maria makes it difficult to trust enough to reach out to pursue your dreams.  Petris (as we call her at home) has many dreams, but struggles to follow them, I believe out of fear. Decision making is hard for her, and we struggle with her to help her discover what she desires for her future and what she is willing to do to achieve these desires. While living in Santa Maria severely limits her options for the future, she misses her family (especially her father) and the day to day rhythm of life in this village. She shows me the challenges of living in two cultures, and helps me with the challenges I face living in Guatemala as a North American.
These young women bless me daily, and help me continue to grow into the woman God would have me be. I hope reading their stories has encouraged you to continue to grow, too.

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