Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Dia Cuatro- Darkness and Smiles

Day four. One would think after spending a few days in the ghetto that the heartsickness would taper off just a little, allowing some relief for the feelings of dread and pain of seeing people living in such conditions. This wasn't the case. As I made the trek into the ghetto to La Escuelita Mandarina, my heart quickly began to ache once again.

Living in a nation with a more stable economy and an active, albeit declining, job market, it is hard to comprehend the poverty seen in the ghetto of La Limonada. This section of the city is seen as an embarrassment and is largely ignored by the more fortunate population on the outskirts of the ravine. Even the work that is being done in the ghetto by Tita and Lemonade International is largely funded by churches and individuals in the US. There is not much concern by many of the natives of the city for this desperate ravine that holds sixty thousand people.

Today, I saw an even darker side of the ghetto. We visited a man who was shot twice over the weekend. He had been involved in the gangs, but had walked away from them and returned to his faith in God. In the past year, he stumbled in his walk with God and started mixing with the wrong crowd again. On Saturday, he was shot once in the abdomen and once in the thigh. After less than 48 hours in the hospital, he was back at home, surviving through the pain on only ibuprofen.

His house consisted of two rooms,that are separated by a walkway covered only by corrugated metal, each containing two double beds. Seven people share the space, 3 of which are children. The one boy, I sadly cannot remember his name, was born with Down Syndrome. The kids' faces and clothes look like they haven't been washed in at least a week. Dried mucus covered their noses and lips, and their coughs came from deep in their little chests.

Its incredible, though how, amidst all the constant hardship and pain of living in the ghetto, the children continue to smile. Their faces reflect the glow of the love that they are given at Las Esquelitas Limon y Mandarina. Leah will sometimes point out one of their smiling faces to me and tell me how that child never used to smile. One would never know that now.

Amidst the darkness... there is light.

"Let your light so shine before the world that they would see your good deeds, and glorify your Father, who is in Heaven." - Matthew 5:16