The girls have found my love for cats… In my first week here, we discovered that a cat that belongs to a family who live right above us on our little hill had kittens. One night after dinner when one of the nannies was visiting with some of our neighbors, one of the little neighbor girls who also attends our school came with kittens in her hands! She began handing cats to the girls, but I was unaware because I was working on homework with a few in the other room. Soon after the kittens were beginning to make their way into our house, the girls began shouting,
“Carina, close your eyes!! Close your eyes and reach out your hands!”
I did as they said, opened my hands on the table I was using and a moment later there was a little furry-squirming-something in my hands. When I opened my eyes, I couldn’t believe it! A little kitten! I screamed and all the girls laughed… They were elated. They told me it was the first day the kittens had opened their eyes so you can imagine how little they are, especially here in the barrio where cats seem to be two sizes smaller than the average cat in the states.
That night I named that little cat Pepper, and they all thought it was hilarious when I told them the word in Spanish… They couldn’t believe I would name an animal after a spice, and then I followed with telling them I have a cat at home that is called Noodle.
So that is my little joke with the neighbors. Every time I walk outside and walk up and down our hill when I come and go I’m always asking, “where’s my gatito?! Where’s my pepper?!” At least I used to ask them all until a woman who is a self proclaimed witch and the grandmother/mother of many that live near us told me it was HER cat, not mine… But that is another story….
After my love for cats was discovered, others started sharing with me the different pets that they’ve had over the years. It’s sad because many animals die young because of diseases, malnutrition, and different bugs they catch here so many of their stories don’t end well but I understand why after all of the street animals I’ve seen here.
Throughout all the story telling one of the girls, let’s call her Emily, told me that their dog just had five puppies the other week, and I squeeled with excitement myself, “oh my gosh you have to bring them here!!!” She smiled and laughed and told me,
“Oh I don’t think I can do that, but I will ask my grandma if you can come with me and see them.”
I wanted to ask her again, just to make sure I heard it right. “Oh you mean, I can come see them?”
“Yeah- I think so! Just let me ask.”
I was bursting with excitement and wonder… I began praying… This was something I had dreaming of- getting to meet these girl’s families, seeing more of the barrio, adventuring and exploring alongside ones that live a life outside the walls I see them in day after day.
The next day Emily came to me,
“Carina- my grandma said you can come! So, when can you? What would be a good time?”
Oh wow, I thought. The opportunity is here. Before confirming a time, I wanted to wait and check with Joy to make sure this was something safe and I was able to engage in. In the next couple days I let her know about the invitation and she gave me the go. I made plans to go the next week to see Emily’s puppies and meet her family. She doesn’t live with us full time but attends school during the week with her two cousins that also attend here as well. They live together with their grandparents and two brothers in a home far and high up on a hill overlooking the barrio. Joy told me it would be a trek, but that the view is so incredibly beautiful.
So Monday came and when Emily arrived she asked me, “My grandparents are ready for you today, you’re still coming right?”
Was I still coming?! Of course I was… I was in prayer over this visit, I had great anticipation, I believed the Lord had something in store and I was committing it all unto Him and asking that He would pour out favor and beauty into these new relationships.
After Emily’s classes finished at New Hope in the afternoon, we left after I ate a quick lunch and headed for the hills. The barrio is a beautiful place, but unfortunately everywhere you walk garbage is littered every which way… In the road, in the grass, outside of houses and in every walkway and storefront. We made our way down the less-chaotic afternoon streets in the high noon sun (it has been INCREDIBLY hot here lately) and finally found ourselves at a path that went straight up. Truth be told, it wasn’t as far as I thought it would be, however, we began a hike to her house that is situated high on a hill.
As we were walking up it began sinking in… This is brand new. I’ve never been on this path before, I’ve never seen these faces, this was a new part, a new experience, and much more was unknown. I prayed that the Lord was behind it all and that His protection would be over us, but I also remembered that Joy permitted my going and I believed it would be safe.
When we arrived at her house, I was amazed! The house wasn’t as I had imagined- it was beautiful! Unfortunately, I have seen too many run down, broken down, tin can made houses around here that I was expecting the worst.. However, their house was made of wood, had a good roof, and the surroundings were astoundingly beautiful. The hillside left me in awe and I wasn’t even able to take it all in because I was quickly ushered into the house to meet everyone.
I saw the other two little ones that attend school at New Hope first. They had left ahead of us and were just finishing lunch outside with one of their brothers. Their smiles were shy but warm- it was probably a bit strange for them to have me coming to their home but they received me so well. When I entered in the first to greet me was their grandfather. He was warm and smiley, but told me that his wife was unfortunately very sick and couldn’t come out to welcome me. I told him I understood, but before I could finish he ushered me into her bedroom so that I could still meet her.
Before me there was a hurting, sick woman with a nasty fever that is going around right now in the barrio. There are several of us that have been sick in the last week and it seemed as though it had hit her too. She told me how much pain she had in her body, but she was still grateful that I was in her home and meeting the rest of her family. I began sharing what a privilege it was to be there, shared a bit of my story about how I had come to her country, and how much I enjoyed her granddaughters. I also asked her if she had any medicine to help with her fever and offered to send some with her granddaughters when they came back to school in the afternoon.
Moments later after visiting with their grandmother I was being led outside by the girls to finally greet the puppies that they had been waiting for me to see… Afterall, they were the whole reason for my adventure up the hill.
They led me to their dog that was chained outside, a very skinny mut and next to her, under a tin-scrap-pile-turned-house were five little puppies who all started pouring out. They were very young and so incredibly precious. We were holding them together and loving on them and I was just taking it all in. I couldn’t believe where I was. I finally got the chance to look around me and their house truly had a view of the whole barrio and surrounding green hills around them. It reminded me of my house in Costa Rica that took a while to walk up but was always worth it because of what was waiting for me at the top.
They showed me around to their pig pens, chicken coop, and I even saw some horses in the distance. We checked out the trees, already plotting whether or not I could bring my hammock for them to enjoy one day and found some potential locations. I just sat there with these girls, with puppies in hand, telling them how much I loved being with them, and I was grateful to feel that they were safe with their grandparents.
We walked back into the house and I continued visiting with the girls and their grandfather. It is always so nice for me to be able to use my Spanish with others outside the house because I can get but with very sloppy/half-sentence attempts at communication but when I am out and about I am pushed to understand and really express. Unfortunately, they offered me food and drink that I was unable to eat because of my various food restrictions but I felt loved and welcomed regardless.
In talking with the grandparents I learned that their house had actually been completely destroyed, I couldn’t figure out exactly how/why but just a few years ago a group from a school came and build the house they are now living in from the ground up, providing practically everything I was seeing in their home. It was amazing for me to be in such a place as this because I have heard of these kind of stories for years of families losing everything and teams coming into give aid and supply, but to actually be in one gave me a greater gratitude for the honest, good things happening in our world… The moment’s where God is winning and heaven indeed is pushing through darkness.
Before I left I got another moment with the grandmother, I wanted to say goodbye before she left. I saw her there in the bed and she looked and sounded worse than before. There was a presence about her and I felt that she truly had a faith in the God, and when I asked her if I could lay hands on her and pray for her in her sickness that God would bring healing and restoration she welcomed me next to her and I began to pray and plead in the name of Jesus.
It was a powerful moment, a moment of ministry, a moment of provision as this woman and I cried out to Jesus together. I prayed both in Spanish and English, and I felt that both of our spirits were in agreement as I fought for her health and wholeness. After we were finished I left her there with the promise that her grandchildren would bring back medicine that would help break the fever while also trusting the Lord that He had the power to heal and could pour out that gift of healing in any moment over her.
When I returned from that visit my heart felt the weight of the glory of God. These were the experiences I dreamed of. These were the moments I prayed for. I knew it was small, I couldn’t have been there more than two hours, but the fact that I got to enter in…
It was intimate, it was special, The grandfather made sure I got a picture with each of the girls before I left, they showed me around their home, they let me into the places and spaces of life. They told me I could come back, that I was welcome there.
The unfortunate reality is not each of our girls get to go to a home that even compares to the one I stepped into. Some of them don’t even get the luxury of seeing their parents, maybe once a month, but I watch them struggle and moan and cry and miss their moms like crazy. I’ve realized that these lives they are living aren’t as orphans, but rather estranged from the ones that they so desperately want to be loved by, who are sometimes the only ones they are willing to receive love from.
That is what breaks my heart. That is what is hard about this road. When they reject and push away those that want to enter in and speak life and hold their hands through the mess and the pain and the regret and the way sin has infected their wellbeing and families… But one thing I rejoice in is that God’s design truly is the best. That He is in the business of restoring the broken and bashed-up, the scared and forsaken.
It isn’t just about these girls getting out of at-risk situations and giving them a good education and seeing them be able to eat at the dinner table without using their hands like they are so accustomed and desperate to do… It’s about God’s Kingdom. It’s about what He wants. What He can see. And all that He has yet to do and release. And I believe that the desperate cries to be with their families sheds light on God's heart to restore and make new and flip upside down these busted, beaten, and hurting relationships. We just have to trust Him that He can do it.