“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
The past few days have left me faced with a range of emotions combined with an even greater range of questions running through my mind. I have questioned whether it was worthwhile for me to have returned to Chimbote for a second time. I wondered if I was making any sort of impact on the community, and after several long days at the Maternidad I longed to return home to Providence to be surrounded by the comforts of home, my family and my friends. I repeatedly asked myself “why am I here?” My answer came to me in a reflection with a friend over M&Ms and Oreos this afternoon. I was called to Chimbote to be a source of love to the people. Through this trip I have been able to give of my heart, to love with all my heart, and to find the place where my heart is filled with gladness as I provide the love and attention that the children and people of Chimbote so desperately hunger for. I was able to realize that I have been called in such a special way by God to serve and to love the people with whom I work each day, and that, despite my hesitations, I have been so very much blessed to have had this second opportunity.
Amor y esperanza. Love and hope. The Materindad de Maria was created to be an oasis of love and hope amid poverty and violence. This week I have been exposed to a great deal of poverty and violence that have left me without much hope wondering where the love has gone. On Saturday I participated in a walk to end women’s violence. Violence against women is a huge problem in this region, and the walk was the first time that the public had taken a strong stance in support of the women. The day after the walk, I learned that one of the women I had walked alongside of was shot and killed by her husband because of her participation in the march. I then traveled to one of the poorest houses that I have ever seen. The family lives in a tiny one bedroom house that is furnished with one twin bed, one light, and one gas burner. The father is a diabetic and paralyzed from the waist down, the children ages two and four are undocumented, and the wife is pregnant with their third child. Ellie and I spent two hours after the visit going from community to community searching for an empty house that the family could relocate to, and were unsuccessful. The following morning the wife gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. I stood beside the mother and child in the maternity ward after the birth and questioned what life the baby boy would have. We returned to the house later the next day only to find that the father had not fed his two children since his wife had gone into labor. I looked at the room and at the children and held in my tears. My heart so strongly wanted to scoop all three up and bring them back to the house with me- to bathe them, dress them in clean clothing and feed their hungry tummies. I instead ran to the market, bargained to get as much food as I could with only one sol, and returned to the house watching to ensure that the father fed his two children. Where was the love and hope in this situation?
That afternoon, despite the morning’s heartbreak, I was able to celebrate Sandra’s second birthday. The local Lion’s Club threw a huge birthday bash for my sweet girl complete with candies, cake, dancers and a piñata. I am so very blessed to have spent the past two years celebrating her birthday, and although it breaks my heart to see her celebrating her birthday in the orphanage, I am so very grateful for the compassion, love, and care that she and the other children receive. As much as I love the home visits, I always look forward to my afternoons with the children. Watching them giggle as we run around the yard chasing bubbles, lifting them high in the air, and dressing them in Providence College gear hoping that they might one day become future Friars brings me so much joy.
Despite the heartbreak, poverty, and violence that surround me the children renew a sense of hope within my soul. They crave my attention and love and they remind me of the things that matter most. I hold the people of Chimbote in my prayers each day as I hope and pray for an end to poverty and violence, and work each day to be a beacon of amor y esperanza as I fulfill my special calling.
With love from Peru,