Minerva and her Baby

Five years ago we met a girl. 
She was new to the orphanage.  Her and her brother had recently been dropped off by a Mexican version of child protective services.  She had freshly bobbed hair, and was perpetually sad.  

Somehow she and her brother were absorbed into our family.

She was tiny and beautiful.   She had no idea how old she was or even when she was born.
Eventually her birth record was found and she was thrilled to discover that she was 13.

After a while she and her brother returned home to their mother and younger siblings.

This little girl has grown up a lot in the past five years.

A couple years ago we celebrated her Quinceanera.  Her 15th birthday.  

Minerva is resilient.  
She lives this life with poise and strength. 

Life doesn't slow down.
In her Triqui culture it isn't uncommon for young women to become wives and mothers very young.  
The demands of adult life begins early, if childhood ever existed in the first place. 
Work in the fields, have babies, scrub clothes, make tortillas....repeat.
None of those things are wrong, just different.  Sometimes I have to remind myself of that.  
They just are. 
but it's not an easy life.

There are other patterns at play in this corner of the world that I cringe when I think about. 
Things like absentee fathers, abused children, mistreated wives, addictions, hopelessness, desperate physical and spiritual poverty...
those things are wrong, and they are way too common here.  
Like writing on the wall that I desperately wish I could wipe clean. 

On this trip we met Minerva's first child.
Beautiful little Luz Maria.

Her and her husband (who is even younger than she is) rent a tiny room.
It has plywood walls, a functional roof, and a dirt floor.
It's new construction and quite adequate (for local standards).  
She keeps it immaculately tidy with every scarce possession perfectly in it's place.  
I know she enjoys the independence of keeping her own house, and caring for her own baby. After all, she has been keeping house and caring for her mothers babies her whole life.

She is such a sweet and nurturing mama. 
She beams with pride as she shows us her daughter. 

"Tio" looking like a proud grandpa. Minerva was abandoned by her own father as a little girl, but God brought another man into her life to give her a glimpse of what it is to be loved like a daughter. 

Little Luz Maria, as your name suggests, you are a bright light to your family, to your community, and to this world.  We pray that you will someday know the Savior and be a beacon of His light in the dark places.

You are precious.
You are loved.
You matter.

"In the dark of the night, I have seen His face and I have known His promises to be true,
and I know the Light is coming.
And I want to be brave enough to hold out the hope of the Gospel To a world that is hurting and alone and afraid.
Not a hope that is the absence of pain or heartache or suffering, not optimism disguised as hope that waits for the best-case scenario or happy ending, but a Hope that is the knowledge and full assurance that our Savior is on His way.
It's not light yet, but I know Him, the One who is the Light.
and so in the dark, I will sing"
Katie Davis

Soli Deo Gloria,


Our Last Day Together

Five years ago during our six month stay in Baja we met a family that somehow became our own extended family.  Not through blood, or lineage...but simply because God brought us together. 
If you have been following along here you likely know which kids I'm referring to.
I often refer to them as "our" kids from Santa Fe, or the kids who call me Tia.

This is Carmela the year we met her. 

Below is Carmela now.  A beautiful young lady.  She is responsible, intelligent, serious, and loves all things girlie and pretty.
At 11 years old she spends her days washing clothes, keeping the house, tending a fire, cooking the meals, and taking care of the little ones while their mom works long days in the fields.  
This is the only childhood she has ever known.  
She does it all with astonishing maturity and skill.
No school.  No going to movies. No birthday parties. No playdates.  No bedroom filled with pretty things. 

I ache for lost childhoods, and patterns that never change. 
I hurt for little girls who know more than a child should know, 
who have to tie their doors shut for fear of intruders, 
and who have no one to protect them.
I wish more for little girls that have been given no options.

She is a girl with a spark that life seems determined to extinguish.

Alvaro on the right has grown from a little boy into a man these past five years.  At age 15 he gets up and goes to work in the fields (currently raspberry fields) at a ridiculously early hour .  He works 6 or 7 days of hard labor a week to help support his family. 

It's such a different world down here.  
I'm proud of him, and yet my heart breaks for him, 
and for the cycles of pain and poverty.  

I grieve for too many boys growing up with out real Dads, or any positive male role models. 
The enemy is eager to fill that void and soothe that wound with gangs, drugs, booze, sex without responsibility....
anything to feel both numb and powerful. 

I wish I could transplant them into a different reality.
To a place where the lure isn't so strong.
A place where kids can be kids.

It makes that desire even harder to bear when both this young man and his mom asked if he could come live with us.  She knows we farm and wanted to know if he could work in Canada. 
If there weren't pesky things like border crossings, visas, and laws...
I would have brought him home to Canada.  It kills me that I can't and I wish there was a way.
It just feels so hopeless where he is.

He is such a sweet kid, who's had such a hard life. 

Each year we come down.  We spend time with them.  We always bring a bin of clothes that my kids have outgrown or that I've collected for them throughout the year.
All we have to offer is couple months out of the year, and a few trinkets and essentials.

Does that change anything for them?
Not really.
I've come to accept that.  We are compelled to keep loving them, and continue to invest in these precious little lives...but I can't change their circumstances.  I wish I could.  I wish we lived closer and could be more of a constant influence in their lives, but we're not.

We do what we can, and trust God with the outcome of the little we have to offer. 
Is loving a child who needs it ever wasted effort? Is hope a frivolous thing?
I don't believe that it is.

They aren't a project, they're our kids.
We are called to love them, not qualify our love with expectations.

Because we were living in a camping trailer this year we weren't able to have them over for play days like we have the past couple trips.
We had a few visits at their place but hadn't really spent much time with them, so on our last Sunday in Baja we picked up the six kids and drove half an hour south to a park.

For about a dollar a person we spent the afternoon at a playground that had actual green grass, manicured flower beds, and pavement.  All of those things are a novelty. 

Speaking of novelties...I had to chase them out of the bathrooms a few times.  They were quite impressed with the flush toilets, and running water.  The bathrooms even had a shower (there is a pool that opens in the summer) which was apparently super fun to play with.  There are knobs that turn water on and off...both hot and cold.  So many things we take for granted.

For just one day we were able to transport them somewhere where they could just be kids.

We soaked up the sunshine and we soaked up time spent together. 

Baby Carla played hard.  
I guess the sand is as good place as anywhere to have a little rest.

Louisa is quiet and shy but she's a risk taker.   She's a climber, and a flyer. 

Elijah figured out how to stay on a swing by himself!

Little Carla LOVED the swings.
This little Strawberry girl is so plump and sweet I could eat her up.

Little Gabriella is a character.  She's sassy and silly but very cautious when it comes to strange new playground equipment.

I'm pretty sure the kids had never seen a trampoline. 
It was so fun to watch them enjoy a simple childhood pleasure.
It was great to see the serious faces melt into smiles.

It really is incredible to witness how well these kids take care of and protect each other.
It's them against a hostile world.  Quite literally.  They live in a pretty rough neighborhood, where adults are scarce during daytime hours. 

Sleepy baby.

My playful pup Ramiro.  This guy has grown SO much this year. He still has a spark of mischief and is unreserved in his enthusiasm and affection but I noticed this year it was tempered with maturity and gentleness.  
He was such a good helper.  
He just desperately wants to know he matters to someone.

They do matter.  All of them.

This was our last day together.
At least for this year, 
although there are never any guarantees.
I pray it won't be our last.

I miss them already.

Soli Deo Gloria,