Broken Hearted


Unpacking what I see on the field is the most difficult thing of what I do at Amor. While it is not the first time I’ve seen poverty it still gets me. Not the kind of poverty in which people simply can’t afford “nice things” but the kind that submerges them in despair and hopelessness. The kind of poverty that has experienced all kinds of horrors. The kind of poverty that is the result and the cause of the way they live. The kind that nearly has killed all the faith. The kind where you can’t help to question where is God in all of this. God forgive me, I thought I knew, but I had no idea and I know your heart is heavy for your people.

When I talk to our families, I usually get the feeling their stories had been waiting to be told.  Sometimes a question can lead to a confession, a secret of the soul, a pain so big that tears my heart.

Yesterday was particularly difficult for me, among the people I met was a woman victim of sexual abuse by her grandfather, a former gang member with death on the eyes and a tattoo that confirmed it, a group of children abandoned all day by their parents, who are aware of just how poor they are, a child hurting by the divorce of her parents, a single teen mother who wishes she could’ve been a doctor and the guy at the border who lost his limbs in a factory accident.

By the time I reached the border my head was trying to make sense of it all. In every story, there was hope, and I was excited that at least in some way Amor had played a part. Yet, it felt like it was a burden I did not want to carry. What purpose will my writing have? What do I say? How do I say it? I’m so small God, and the problems so huge.

God called me to each one of those families. Picked at random I arrive to an appointment ready for me by the creator of the Universe. My calling is to be a witness to their suffering. Suffering I thought I knew, I’ve seen before, I’ve read before,  but really I can’t  wrap my head around. Because I can’t understand it I haven’t stopped crying.

Yesterday I had company. I’ve described how scary is to ride some of the roads in certain neighborhoods, so I asked someone to go with me and drive me around since I’m a newbie. I’m not sure how much she got out of the stories; we really didn’t talk about them. While we were moving from family to family we were more distracted on how to get from point A to point B without ending on a ditch.

At every home, I’m biting my tongue not to ask the question in my heart, should I ask? Should I ask what’s behind the burnt scars in her hand? Should I ask about his dad? And even when I don’t ask, as I put away my camera, and made them laugh with my silly antics, their eyes will tell me everything. Sometimes, is a please-don’t-leave just yet, sometimes a thank you, every time a kind of strength I know I don’t possess. At that moment all I can offer in return is prayer. Their faces will hunt me long into the night. I could never do it alone. Thank you God for showing me through, thank you for showing me what breaks your heart, thank you for my calling even if I don’t know the outcome.  Thank you.


Living the Forrest Gumpy Life

Yesterday was my first day on my own negotiating the streets of Tijuana, with only a hiking GPS and my instincts to direct me to which path to take.

I knew the day would come, but I didn’t expect it to be so soon. My mission yesterday was to gather information about  the families that Casa de Amor sponsors. Like my past visits to TJ, I expected to go with a chaperone/driver. But my ride to Tijuana had meetings all day, so I decided it was time to go on my own. After all how hard could’ve been right? I mean, I know how to drive (in a straight line); I had a GPS (the old hiking kind); and I could ask for directions without a language barrier (following those directions a little bit more tricky).

It took me 45 minutes to find the first home in one of the most challenging neighborhoods in Tijuana (unfortunately I’ve been told there are worse ones). The worst part was figuring out if what laid before me was an attempt of a dirt road, or a path created by surface runoff. I’m not a very confident driver, but when I saw a truck making it through the treacherous road, I had to trust that it was intended for driving and that all I needed was to follow the way the other driver had taken.

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The experience got me thinking of how life is a bigger version of those 45 minutes (I had a lot of time to think on my two hour border wait on the way back to the States).

In life, we don’t always know what’s around the corner or like an even more cliché yet fabulous metaphor: “Life is Box of Chocolates. You Never Know What You are Going to Get,” Forrest Gump’s Mom.

Life might require course corrections, backing ups and turn arounds. Some times we get ourselves in trouble for not asking for directions or because you can’t remember if you were told whether you needed to turn right or turn left at the second tree whose leaves were facing North, or did they say South, or was it the fifth tree?. (Maybe facetious, but if you’ve been given directions in Mexico you know what I’m talking about)

Sometimes we have to deal with the blind spots, broken AC, and bad radio reception… Ok, the last two are not really metaphorical and really a little bit of a complaint of yesterday’s experience. But seriously, we have to double check the blind spots in our lives otherwise we might run over someone if we are only focusing on where we are going and not where we are.

And some times you just have to go for it. Of course it helps to find those with the experience to mentor you, in order to follow their tracks so to speak to reduce uncertainty and risk. Yet nothing is guaranteed and no one is going to make it across the ravine for you.

Of course I could’ve gotten stuck in a hole and more than once I thanked God that it wasn’t raining season, that would definately could’ve make it worse.

Our journeys in life are often times delayed by difficulty designed to make us desist in our journey (I considered re-routing to the next home in my list in an easier neighborhood or to come another day). But when you got a clear mission. In my case yesterday was to get at least five interviews. The farther you go the harder it is to quit, and in some cases even if you try there is no going back.

And even if no one would’ve been home at the time, at least I would’ve known how to get there next time.




Journey to Costa Rica


The aroma of wood and jungle still fresh in my favorite shirt, transports me to the place my soul met its maker.  I must write now, while I don’t think I’ll forget the experience, I know with time my head will trick me into thinking that my memories are a product of my imagination, a fantastic story and nothing more.

First I must start by saying that going to Costa Rica was not my idea.

It all began in January when I had the strong feeling I needed to renew my passport. I couldn’t explain it. Even though, I’ve let it expire for more than three years, during my last visit to Mexico City it began bothering me. Still, I didn’t renew it.

Four months later, during a women’s retreat organized by my church, I overheard a woman who had just returned from living in Costa Rica for nine years. I felt and instant connection with this woman, which I’ll call Blue, that could not be explained. Literally, we only exchanged a couple sentences but I wanted to hear more about her life in the mission field. So we shared our telephone numbers with the promise we would meet again to have coffee. I thought God put her in my life to serve me as a model as I entered the world with Amor. I didn’t call. She didn’t call.

In May, I was in Mexico at a house build with Amor when I met Anne, a young woman who shared with me her beautiful and powerful story about going to Costa Rica in a mission trip with Latin American Child Care. She spoke of the experience as the most life altering moment of her life. And while she repeatedly mentioned Costa Rica, the children and the trip, I only listened to her transformation story, failing to notice the background in which the story took place.

During that same trip, another friend made the first invitation to go to Costa Rica that she was leading. Which I quickly declined, I was head over heals with Amor, and I felt my focus should remain in fundraising for the new chapter of my life, that according to me it didn’t include Costa Rica.

The very next day I returned home and went to my local coffee shop in Santee. I picked up a conversation with one of the customers and our barista about coffee; the conversation took us naturally to speak about Costa Rican coffee. Our barista was from Nicaragua and he had lived many years in Costa Rica. We talked for hours. The rain forest began filling my mind.

That same week, while I was visiting the neighborhood park with a friend and the kids, we met a man who had started a non-profit in Costa Rica.

Despite feeling that perhaps I should consider the invitation, I did not sign up for the upcoming Mission Trip to Costa Rica. Instead I scheduled my Hernia surgery. Something I’ve also put off for three years.

I was on my way to the operation room when my phone rang. I didn’t answer it, but the fact that no name showed up intrigued me.

 “Do you want to go to Costa Rica?”

When I woke up from surgery, I reached for my phone and I listened to the voicemail:

“Hey Fabiola this is Chris E…, I work at Newbreak Church and I’m the High School Pastor…, I got your information from… We are looking for a Spanish speaking female leader for our High School trip to Costa Rica, THIS July. (six weeks to be precise) …if you are interested at all give me a call back to ….”

Although the surgery had been a simple procedure, the pain was devastating. The idea of going anywhere, let alone Costa Rica was unfathomable. But under what could’ve been the stupor of the medication, the visions of all the recent conversations about this place in Latin America swarmed to my mind’s eye.

God had extended a personal invitation to a new adventure once again. Since I started my journey with Amor I had made the song Oceans by Hillsong United my personal anthem, a prayer from my soul. Never I imagined He would respond so literally.

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders. Let me walk upon the waters wherever You would call me.”

I called Chris back and I said, yes.

He couldn’t believe how easy it was to convince me, he had no idea the convincing had been done way before he even had the need.

Within two weeks I was able to get a passport, the pain post surgery was unbearable but subsided at the end of the third week, and my husband was on board 100 percent and even kicked in some money for my expenses.

But Amor called me and asked me to start as soon as possible, which I did, noting that I had a Mission Trip planned.

As the weeks progressed and the date of departure approached I began doubting myself. I felt woefully unprepared to take the leadership of a group of young women, not to mention they still scared me. Although God had healed my heart toward grown women, I wasn’t sure about teenagers.

I was afraid they would see right through me. “I don’t posses the spirituality, knowledge and charisma to be anyone’s leader,” I kept telling myself. What had I gotten myself into?

To make matters worse I finally joined the team of Amor and I was working full time and getting the household going with new schedules. I still needed to find supporters. I had abandoned the blog and taking more time off seemed irresponsible.

It was too late. I was committed and the Youth team already counted on me.

Two days before setting flight to Costa Rica, I attended a Global Missions meeting at Newbreak that I’ve signed up during a slower period of my life and this was their first meeting.

As I entered the room of the meeting, with her wide and warm eyes she smiled at me. Blue.

It couldn’t be more serendipitous. I was eager to share with her about how she had planted the seed that would eventually lead me to Costa Rica.  Yet we ended up talking about Amor, and she shared how it was that she wanted to join an organization working with Mexican families. I gave her a huge hug and we said goodbye. I needed to run back to pack my suitcases.

Next day she showed up at my office. She was checking Amor as I shared that we had a new position available in the staff.

This time we had a chance to talk about Costa Rica. I asked her about phrases, the food and the culture.

Before she left she asked me a favor that if I had the chance during my stay in San José, to visit a woman who she had a chance to meet right before she headed back to the States and say hi.

She could’ve shared any number of names from the stories you can accumulate in nine years living abroad, yet she said: “You have to meet Mary Mahon, you’ll fall in love with her and her ‘Chicas de Promesa’ program.”

I wanted to cry. While I didn’t know what anything meant I knew something was about to happen because Mary was precisely the person who we were getting ready to meet in Costa Rica and it couldn’t be a coincidence.