Those who follow Claire Boggs, Felis Patlan, or Amy Block already are acquainted with our Manna Int. program that provides lunch to 45-60 children five days a week.
You may remember Estela; one of the Manna cooks was diagnosed with a tumor in her abdomen. She had to give up her job at Manna and undergo surgery, which revealed a large grapefruit sized tumor, which thankfully was benign. Estela has recovered 70-80 % but still doesn’t feel strong enough to return to Manna and thus is unemployed.
Claire, Felis and Amy tossed around several possible jobs for her to earn money because they earnestly wanted to see her prosper. Estela’s husband Javier works for the construction and maintenance part of the Nido del Aguila, (Eagle’s Nest) they attend our local church Nuevo Nacimiento (New Birth) along with their 4 children Sara Miriam Elmer and Clara Luz. Because of this relationship, the girls really wanted to help.
Finally the plan was hatched and after presenting it to Estela and Javier, the girls decided that our teams visiting Eagles Nest might really be interested in personally visiting a Guatemalan home, seeing how they live, how they cook, preparing and even eating their food. No convincing Estela was needed as she added a typical Guatemalan touch to the meal, and informative explanations of how to use the primitive tools and furniture in their home.
If the wood burning stove and less than modern toilet facilities weren’t enough, Javier’s mother gave the first team visitors a quick glimpse of her home and her even more primitive cooking utensils. No stove, just 4 small rocks helped to contain the small sticks of her fire on the floor. Actually no fire this day, but they saw the small woven mat that she kneels on while cooking her meal and the variety of clay pots used to cook with.
Well, the lunch was a smashing success with all team members enjoying their food and being mesmerized with a style of living only known to Americans in the “Wild West” movies.
None of the above, however, speaks to the title of this article. It was Javier who ended up touching my heart. He came to our apartment and asked if he could talk to us for a moment. After thanking God and thanking everyone involved in the project, Javier said. “If you have time brother Larry, I would like to tell you a story about my youth”.
I would like to share Javier’s story as told less than an hour ago.
My dad was always a drunk when I was a boy and my mom suffered a lot. We were extremely poor and my memories are of him constantly being drunk. When I was 11 my dad said that he wanted me to go with him to work. I was excited because I hadn’t spent much time with him and I figured we would earn some money. We left home to work and after 2 days walking we arrived in a place that was hot and dirty. I wanted something cool to drink but there was nothing and I began to feel really hungry. We entered into a small warehouse where there were discarded tortillas on the floor and on the table. We gathered them up and decided to wash them off in a stream. He said that they were many days old, which probably means mould, hard and dry.
It had been over two days without food and his dad said, “no son, there’s no food today”.
Another day walking and we arrived at a cotton field where I learned to harvest. It was sooo hot and miserable. I never thought about it when we left, but my dad didn’t bring any change of clothes for me and so we went for more than a month working and sleeping in the same clothes. I of course wore the typical pants and unfortunately after a month I tore one of the legs. I couldn’t wear them that way so I scrounged a nail and a piece of wire and twisted the wire to hold the material together.
Javier said to me that yesterday, when he stood in their little makeshift dining room he watched his wife beaming with pride as she served our small American team rice, gravy, chicken and finger bananas for dessert. “I was so thankful” Javier said, thankful to God for providing this opportunity; thankful to Eagle’s Nest, Claire, Felis and Amy for helping this project become a reality.
At that moment my mind went back to when I was eleven years old in the cotton field with my dad, and I realized, said Javier, that my children would not have to go through the extreme poverty that I had experience. They would not see their dad wasting their meager earnings on liquor. They would not know the pain of going to bed every night hungry. That’s why I’m thankful to God for what He has given me. When we gave my mother part of the money given for tips, she grasp the bills in her hands, placed her hands in prayer to heaven and gave thanks.
That's where this man of God learned to be so grateful, from his Godly mother.
I was so amazed to see what Javier has endured and see how he has led his family to love and trust God. I was overwhelmed by the human drama in Estela and Javier’s life. Finally I was humbled to see such extreme gratitude for what we might judge to be “little blessings”.
I didn't expect what Javier said next, but it was the clincher. He thanked God that about one year before his dad died he gave his heart to Christ, becoming a new creature and a Born Again Son of God. All the other stuff, from hunger and poverty to heat and intoxication instantly became insignificant. I realized that the God of the universe loved and saved my dad and He has taken every step necessary to take care of me, His child, in Sololá Guatemala.
Thank You Heavenly Father for letting me be a missionary in Guatemala and for letting Claire, Felis and Amy touch my heart by loving Estela and Javier and all the Guatemalan people we serve.
* Photos courtesy of Amy Block