Sunday 2nd June 2019
We had gathered in our Centre, as we always do early on a Friday morning, to meet as a team and to pray. Praying helps us all recognise that it does not rely on us and that we can´t take the glory or seek to think that change can come through merely human effort.
There is a knock on the door of our Mentoring Centre and when we see who is happy to join us today we find three children outside. Everyone is welcome, but they have not come to pray, but rather come to seek refuge. They are made to feel comfortable and our cleaner/cook begins to search through the fridge and cupboards to find something for them to eat. We only have 6 eggs, 4 tortillas and a small bowl of beans and so this is cooked and prepared in order to give the three something for breakfast.
I leave them to eat and then return to our lounge to pray. Not long after the children come upstairs and we make a bit of fuss of them and the youngest one, a four-year-old girl, comes and sits on my knee. The two boys grab a quick hug and then begin to tell us that they were afraid and hungry and that they feel safe in the centre.
The little girl then begins to say that she was afraid of her dad who came in drunk again last night and hit her mum. Sony, our Administrator, comes closer to hold her hand and begins to shed a tear as she goes on to say: “mum says we should get another dad, one who does not hit us”. The two boys sit in silence and then go on to tell me what they had to endure last night and the fight that ensued and how they got little sleep and wondered if they would end up on the streets again.
It´s a tough start to the day, but then so many are. We later visit the family and help the healing process by encouraging them all to talk about how they feel and encouraging the father to commit to the AA meetings and make a change in his life. Despite having said the same thing over and over again, the children know that when things get tough or they end up homeless they can come to us and we will help.
I tell this story so that you will firstly get to know that not one day is the same for us in Guatemala and is so often filled with stories of children who have to go through some tough situations. Being there means we can help prevent them taking to the streets, as there are always other options. Secondly, I tell you this story so that you know how your support touches the lives of real children. When you donate please know that every penny of your gift will impact the life of a vulnerable child. Thank you!
Friday to Sunday are the busiest days for me with mentoring and this weekend is no exception as I have 8 boys to visit, take out and support. It all begins when I collect 11-year-old Moses from school at lunchtime. He has been struggling of late but has managed to make a series of good decisions and so they are rewarded with a trip to the cinema. It is not a film I enjoy, but do manage to stay awake till the end and smile and nod at the right moments. The main thing is that he looks at me now and again to make sure I am awake and that I am by his side. He is very happy and returns home skipping, which is always a good sign.
The following day we are celebrating Fredy´s 15thbirthday and the fact he and his brother Jonatan has been with me in mentoring for just over two years. We are joined by Brandon and Kenedy whom I have picked up from their hip-hop dance classes. Fredy and Jonatan have changed so much and I am pleased with their progress and that they are not spending time on the streets, but rather focussed on their studies and doing things teenage boys should be doing together.
We start with some shopping as Fredy wanted to choose his own present and help buy the things for the BBQ. Shopping with four boys is immense fun and it is not that often we are followed by a security detail who are always worried when four boys are in a supermarket together.
Most of the children we work with don´t really celebrate their birthdays much and some don´t even know when their birthdays are. It is only when we get a copy of their legal papers for our files that we discover their correct ages and dates of birth. Today, I wanted to make sure Fredy felt special, loved and that we all cared for him. That he did as we played games, cooked, ate and enjoyed his fake expressions of surprise when he opens the presents we bought just that morning with his help!
The long weekend and more mentoring with the rest of the boys leads into Monday and the goodbyes to all the children at the Centre. I am prayed over, hugged, kissed and told to take care and make sure I come back. 12-year-old Jonatan, still very grateful for what we did for his brother on Saturday, comes and tells me he will miss me as he cuddles into me and says: “I will carry you around in my heart”. Bless him. Goodbyes are never easy.
However, I need to leave, pack and prepare for my flight to the UK the following day. This trip looks like it will be a challenge. The original plan was a to walk from Land´s End to John O´Groats and back again in 14 days - a World Record. However, the four us who make up the ´Camino por Amor´ team for 2019 are not in the best of shapes.
I have a knee injury due, in the words of the doctor, “to excessive exercise”. Joseph has a similar diagnosis, but with the warning that he should not be walking without two weeks of daily treatment. Benjamin has been suffering greatly from an invasion of nasty street parasites that took up residence in his gut and would leave despite whatever was thrown at them. He returned to the UK last week and had to visit the infectious diseases unit in Oxford. Steve is the only one who is able to walk and for the first time in history does not have blisters on his feet!
So, I return to the UK with hope in my heart for what is going to happen, and with a deep sense of gratitude to God for allowing me to serve some amazing children in Guatemala. When I return on the 2ndof July there will be some much bigger decisions to take and these will have to wait for another blog. For now, I want to thank you again for your faithfulness in supporting this work and hope to see many of you over the next few weeks as we travel and walk around the UK.
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