I never ceased to be amazed at the goodness and faithfulness of God and the openness of the people we are meeting. Yesterday afternoon has to be one of the most touching experiences to date.
We left our accommodation in the morning and Anderson took us to a different area of the district to a visit a school. This was a school for children with special needs and learning difficulties. The teachers and staff are all specially qualified and trained in different areas to help the children achieve their full potential. There where different rooms, focusing on different areas of specialism and need. The first was to help children develop their speaking abilities. The second room was a relaxation room to help over active children to calm down and be quiet, the third was a physiotherapy room, the fourth a psychology room, the fifth a pastoral room and the sixth an arts and crafts room. The dedication of the staff is tremendous.
After this we went back to San Pedro Mission (the church we have painted) for the compassion project. This is a project funded by Compassion International and allows sponsored children to come to the church to have fun, learn about God, develop learning skills, play and eat a meal. We divided ourselves into pairs and 6 went to classrooms, 2 to the kitchen and I stayed with Rev. Anderson and taught a bible class on Mark 6 – Jesus walking on the water. This is what our translator Elaine Colgan thought of the day:
“Last Saturday evening we played a game with the young people. I won’t tell you the full procedure involved, I’ll let Mark teach that when he gets home, but essentially it involved passing a pen around a circle whilst saying “this is a cat”. Believe me when I tell you it was a lot more enjoyable than it sounds! Right from the outset of our trip this game said to us that things aren’t always what they seem.
Two days ago we were handing out some biscuits and fruit to children passing the church, largely due to the fact that the Sisters in our convent are looking after us so well we can’t manage to eat it all! I spied a man standing around behind some of the children we had just given food to. My instant reaction was he wants food. Pastor Anderson came to talk to him; I couldn’t hear the conversation but I caught the word “roller”. Ah, I said to myself, he wants our painting rollers when we are finished. When the man left Pastor Anderson informed us that he works for the council and was offering us tools to use if we needed then. Mark has already shared this on his blog, but for me not only was it a lesson in ‘things not always being what they seem’, but a lesson that in this area where people have so little, there is a strong community culture where everyone looks out for one another. If you saw your neighbour painting his house would you head out to offer him a paintbrush, or even a hand?
Yesterday we had the immense privilege of spending an afternoon with a group of children in a Compassion International project. The children are sponsored, mostly through sponsors in the US, a bit like World Vision and others do in Northern Ireland. They had no activities planned for the children for a number of reasons, so a few of the team played games with them for two hours. Julie spent an hour getting her hair played with by 5 or 6 girls, and Barrie’s face was treated like plasticine. It was exhausting for them to say the least! Our reaction was one of frustration, why couldn’t they have told us nothing was planned for today to allow us to prepare something? Afterwards the Director of the scheme thanked them for playing with the children, and allowing them to hug then and show them affection, because for these children they don’t get that very often and it means a lot to them. Things aren’t always what they seem.
Thankfully, I was with the teenagers yesterday. We chatted a lot, but at one point I asked them do they enjoying living here. Without exception the chorus rang out ‘yes’. There was no deliberation or doubt. It was almost like I’d asked a stupid question, why wouldn’t they like living here. I asked why. The answer – because their friends and family are all close by. For these young people the size of their house, the clothes they wear, the food they eat, the money they have, none of these things are considered part of what make life good or bad. The only thing for them that mattered is having friends and family with them. Things aren’t always what they seem.”
After the bible class was over Rev. Anderson, Noel, Joanne, Derek and myself went to visit a couple of homes. The first was the home of Angelica and her children. Her husband Carlos is an alcoholic and only comes home when he is drunk. He is abusive towards her and there is domestic violence, and her children are witnessing it. She is a Christian and has a strong faith, her bible is covered in highlighted verses, but her husband won’t let her go to church. She told us that if he knew we had been in the house he would be really cross. Rev. Anderson is trying to convince her eldest two daughters to go to the Church’s youth camp next week. Her house has to be the worst that we have seen yet.
The second house was only five doors down the street and was like a mansion. I have stayed in worse on holidays. Carmela lives her with her daughter Ebetsy. While we visited Anderson and myself had the opportunity to share a simple Gospel message with them. Before we left they both accepted Jesus as Lord and Saviour. This was a special moment for us all and I am so humbled and privileged to be a part of this sacred moment. Ebetsy told us that she dreamt someone from Ireland would come and tell her the best news she would ever hear.
This morning Barrie led us in our devotions:
Matthew 14:25 – 33 ~Jesus walking on the water
Peter’s boldness – Firstly, Peter had an extraordinarily leap of faith in stepping out of the boat and walk on water. We need to follow this example and jump out of the boat in faith and with boldness. Secondly – Peter went from having boldness to having doubts. But Jesus was there to take Peter’s hand and help him back into the boat. God will call us to jump out of the boat but he will always be there to catch our hand.
Please pray for:
- Angelica and Ebetsy as they begin their journey of faith, pray that the enemy will not steal their joy.
- Pray for Angelica and her husband Carlos and for a deep conviction of the Holy Spirit
- Please pray for the children who we met yesterday
- Pray for protection and health of the team
- Pray for the people of San Pedro Mission as our work there has completed