Sleeping Beneath the Stars

As FMC missionaries, we're asked to go to the ends of the earth to preach the gospel and serve the poor.  We thank God for each opportunity to do that and feel especially blessed when we can do them simultaneously.

We continually ask the locals to guide us to those in most need of help.  Several weeks ago we met Luchita (age 87).  She and her husband live on a narrow strip of land on the outskirts of town. When we stopped in to visit, Luchita welcomed us with the grandest of smiles.  She insisted that we sit in her already broken chairs and excitedly offered us a refreshing drink that she had prepared (from river water which likely has parasites).  As we sat beneath her "techa" (covered outdoor kitchen area), we realized how great their needs were.  Their techa was completely rusted and collapsing in many areas.  In addition to this area, they also had a 10' x 10' dilapidated government-built sleeping area.  As is typical of these structures, it was very poorly constructed and leaks terribly every time it rains.  Also, all of these structures are built with only one small window, which causes oven-like interior temperatures.      

When the boys asked to use the bathroom we realized an additional need.  Their hole-in-the-ground outhouse was at the very back of their property, behind two different chicken wire barricades and a whole host of fallen palm trees.  To access the outhouse Luchita clung to the trees and navigated her way across the slanted, all clay route.  Knowing that the rain would make this route impassible we asked what they do in the rainy season.  She simply smiled and encouraged us to drink more "refresca".     

On Saturday, after Luchita accepted our offer for help, we arranged for the carpenter to take measurements. He anticipated starting on Monday and so Luchita's husband disassembled their whole techa.

Luchita's son heard about the Catholic missionaries who were helping his parents and felt inspired to lend a hand.  He took apart their entire 10' x 10' structure and promised to build them a new house with indoor plumbing.  At this point, please imagine that all Luchita and her husband have is a bed on a cement slab.  (We were shocked to see a couple have so little, but couldn't possibly take a picture.)

Monday came and went - no carpenter.  Tuesday we got word that he was stuck in a distant pueblo and wouldn't be able to get back until Friday.  We rushed to Luchita's house feeling terrible that we had made a bad situation even worse.  We were amazed to discover Luchita as happy as ever sitting in her broken chair enjoying a cup of refresca.  We apologized repeatedly, but she assured us that sleeping beneath the stars in the open air was refreshing.  During the rainy season it rains hard almost every night.  We invited them to sleep at our house until the carpenter finished the techa.  She declined and assured us that rain never killed anyone.

We returned several times to read them the gospel, pray with them and inquire as to how they were managing without a house. To our amazement, they were completely happy and thanked God for their countless blessings.  It was funny ~ they kept consoling us.  They'd assure us that it would all get done someday and that there was nothing to worry about.  

A couple days later, at about 7:30 PM, we stopped on our way to church to see if they wanted to accompany us.  It was already dark and we didn't want to startle them, so we announced our presence by yelling "buenos noche".  There was no response so we shined our flashlight to make sure everything was alright.  Luchita and her husband were already in bed.  They climbed out of their bug net (practically naked), welcomed us and casually began dressing.  Half dressed they pulled up some chairs and insisted that we have something to drink.  A bit embarrassed we accepted and told them we had only come to invite them to church.  "Sure", Luchita said and continued to get ready.  

Later that week Edgardo, the carpenter, finished their techa.

Since their son hasn't been back to complete any of the work he started Luchita and her husband have been sleeping under the techa for several weeks.

If the work isn't completed by the time we return from language school in May we're going to pay someone to build them an enclosed sleeping area.

We're delighted to report that Luchita has been attending the services and activities at church ever since.  She appreciates the company and always thanks us for loving her.  When she's not looking I quickly wipe away my tears and thank the Lord for allowing me to learn from such a beautiful teacher.

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