Only God Knows by Karen

When I look at this photo it seems like
yesterday, but it was actually from 5 years ago.
Time sure does fly when you're having fun!
Back in February, we became aware of some dire situations in which families in our community couldn't afford to buy their kids the uniforms and supplies required for entry into the public schools.  (In fact, I wrote a blog about it.)  In the past, when we encountered similar situations in Peru and Kenya, we bought the kids what they needed without asking too many questions about the families' respective situations because it all felt so overwhelming - and because our language skills were deficient.  I suppose it seemed unrealistic that we could inspire any significant changes in the messiness of their complicated lives and just wanted to make sure that their poverty didn't prevent the kids from getting a proper education.  This time around things felt a bit different.  I suppose that with each passing year, we're getting better at knowing how to help families by working with them to find long-term solutions instead of just using the financial resources available to us to solve their immediate problems.  In the weeks leading up to the first day of school, we met with each family, discussed the details of their situations, and brainstormed ideas for how they might resolve the problem on their own.  In some cases, there were people in the community willing to donate old uniforms and even used supplies from the previous year.  In other cases, it was just a matter of securing childcare so that the single moms could work extra hours without worrying about the well-being of their little ones.  By taking this approach a few of the families were able to get the needed help from others in the community, which is great because this builds unity and promotes the idea that "it takes a village to raise a child."  Sometimes adults think that kids will be embarrassed to receive help from others, but what we've seen is that it actually makes children feel more connected to and loved by their community which fosters a sense of commitment to those around them.  Given the fact that some of the families were able to find other means of support, we had the funds to help those who legitimately had nowhere else to turn. 

I met Marbely in the street at the beginning of the year when she and her daughter were out selling the empanadas they had made.  We talked about their situation and prayed for the Lord's help.  (I now know that they were trying to raise the money they needed for school uniforms and supplies, but I didn't know that at the time.  Marbely simply told me that they were trying to earn the money they needed for some big upcoming expenses.)  I bought empanadas for my family and gave her my phone number so that she could call the next time they had leftover baked goods that they couldn't otherwise sell. 

When Marbely called at the beginning of February it wasn't to sell me empanadas, but rather to ask if I could buy her the ingredients she needed to make empanadas to sell.  I was struck by her strong work ethic and delivered what she needed later that day.  Fast forward a couple weeks and Marbely called again to let me know that their difficult situation had gone from bad to worse.  She had been temporarily laid off from her relatively good job and feared losing that position permanently if her boss found out that she was looking for other employment.  Her eldest son, who had been contributing financially for quite a while, was recuperating from a serious work-related accident that left him unable to walk.  Her eldest daughter had fallen sick and needed medicine that the government was unwilling to pay for, and the prices of everything, including school uniforms and supplies, were rising rapidly even though the local wages have been stuck in the mud.  With each successive misfortune, this family had exhausted the help of their family members and friends, who are also very poor.  It seemed like the only real solution was to buy them what they needed so that the three kids could start school with their classmates, so that's what we did.  When it came time to register the kids at school we gave them money to pay the various fees and made sure they had enough food to last through the end of the month.  We prayed that Marbely's boss would call her back to work and that her son's foot would heal quickly, for her daughter's health and the overall well-being of their family.  As we were leaving we agreed to touch base a couple of weeks later, but I never heard from them.  When I saw Marbely and her kids around town they'd smile and wave but never asked for anything, which left me assuming that things were going alright.  I wish I could say that I continued to pray for this family or that we visited their home to encourage them in the faith, but that's not true.  The busyness of life got the best of me and I kind of forgot about them until two days ago when I saw Marbely in the grocery store.

She rushed up to me with a big, glowing smile, and before I could even ask how things were going she explained that she's back to work, her son's foot healed and so he's also back to work, their daughter has long since recovered from her illness, and her kids are doing fantastic in school.  "We couldn't have done it without you," she said.  "Your family appeared out of nowhere at exactly the right moment, just like angels sent from God."  All I could do was give her a big hug and thank God for Team Carmody which makes it possible for us to do so much for so many.  As we parted ways I thought about how important it is for us to remain docile to the Holy Spirit because only God knows what each person needs in a given moment.  When we initially met with Marbely our intention was to help her figure out who else could help her, not because we didn't want to be generous but rather because we wanted to help her establish a local support system.  It seems that the Lord had something else in mind.  Maybe what her family needed was the help of some strangers, people that were willing to share their resources, not because they're family or friends or even neighbors, but simply because they want to help their brothers and sisters in Christ.  I pray that Marbely and her kids recognize that every good thing is from God (who often gives us what we need through others) and that this family always shares generously so that they can be like God's little angels to others.  I pray that each one of us remains open to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit so that He can guide us at exactly the right time, to do what only He knows is needed in that moment. 

Thank you for taking the time to read what the Lord has been doing in our lives and in our hearts. Blessings, Karen

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