One of our neighbors in the apartment complex sits outside in the courtyard and plays his accordion every. single. day. Naturally, my bedroom window faces out perfectly so I will never miss a note. This is especially fortuitous when being serenaded with the “Happy Birthday” song TWENTY-EIGHT times.

At least that is how many refrains I counted before I went insane.

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

La Familia Baez: Valentina

September 26, 2011

She glanced at me with distrust. It was almost a cold glare. Everyone else was greeting me with the customary two kisses and some children were even snuggling in already, but she just stood and stared, close enough to get a good look but still far enough that I couldn’t reach out for her.

When she did approach me, it was only to ask strange questions like, “Is J (who is a Caucasian grandmother) your mother?”

“No, she’s not my mom.”

“ARE YOU SUUUURE?!?”

“Um…yes. I’m fairly certain she is not my mother.” (Ha.)

She continued to mostly avoid me except to ask the mother question over and over. Then we paid a visit to the Baez house (um, shack?), and suddenly she was my best buddy. Not ten seconds after I greeted her sisters, she had climbed onto my lap, commandeered my arms to wrap around her, and nestled her face in my hands. Her nappy hair taunted my cheek and for a second, I thought I saw some crawlies, but the little muffin sat with me for almost an hour without moving. I didn’t have the heart to worry too extensively about what I could be taking home with me later. I wondered though if she could count the snuggles she had received in her lifetime on one hand.

A scuzzy man stumbled onto the compound. He was unkempt in every aspect and clearly intoxicated. He gave me the heebies. Valentina meekly crawled off my lap and to my horror, walked over to give the man a halfhearted hug. I glanced back and saw her sad eyes glaze over. Joana quietly informed us that he was in fact Valentina’s father, and had only recently started coming around to see his daughter. She also confided in a low voice that normally she does not allow Valentina to go with him when he is drunk, but he was going to buy her dinner and she was not about to refuse her sister her only meal of the day. I cringed as Valentina clung to his arm and crossed the street.

They returned thirty minutes later and went straight into the one-room shack. I shuddered as every terrible scenario passed through my mind, knowing no one else was inside to serve as a buffer and understanding full well that despite the sinking feeling in my gut, I had no right to go in and rescue the child. Every passing second he didn’t leave was agonizing. I felt nauseous. The stories I heard at my last job┬ásometimes catalyze my worries unreasonably, but in this instance, the dread in my soul felt so real. The only thing I could offer were desperate prayers to the Lord for justice to be manifest in this dark corner of the world.

God knows what happened in there. The likelihood of abuse weighs heavily on my heart. Why must this be reality for a seven-year-old (or anyone for that matter)?

“Dinner” was a glass of milk and she didn’t come out to say goodbye when we left.

Life is so stinking unfair.

La Familia Baez: Introduction

September 25, 2011

J and I went out to visit the Baez family tonight. They are essentially who we call our resident orphans and together they are seven in number. Valentina is seven years old, Juan Carlos is nine, Vanessa is twelve, Ruth is thirteen, and Jessica is fifteen. Joana, the oldest and the one who takes care of the entire brood, is just seventeen years old and has her own one-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Karina. All the children have different fathers–some fathers are unknown, others maintain minimal contact at best–and their mother has abandoned them to live with another suitor. Karina’s father is also not in the picture.

Their aunt, who has her own set of family problems (volume of blog entries for another time…), allows them to stay in the one room shack behind her “house.” I didn’t go inside on this visit, but from where I was seated, I could tell the quarters were cramped, filthy, and of course, devoid of anything resembling electricity or clean water.

On weekdays, the five younger kids get two free meals a day at the comedor by school. Joana works seven days a week, nine hours a day to try to provide food on the weekends. But between daily bus fare for everyone, diapers for the baby (K’s butt is constantly rashed because they can’t always afford to change her diaper…), and daycare also for the baby, this doesn’t always happen. They scrounge where they can and starve when they can’t.

We sat and visited for awhile, watching as the children filtered in and out, bathed in grime and so severely hungry for affection. Heartbreak is far beyond the poverty that is both cruelly physical and emotional. I had a difficult time writing this entry. It is hard to express in words the desperation I simultaneously witnessed and felt in the face of such lacking. But these are the situations God has somehow called me to and the stories America needs to hear.

Instead of the usual initials, I have included names in this entry, so that you can pray with me for each of these children specifically. Whether you believe that there is a God or not, send some love–in thought or prayer–to Paraguay. And pursue joy and dwell in thankfulness because we are so richly blessed.

Flamingo Pink.

September 21, 2011

They really know how to pick their colors here.