Broken Hearted

thedoctor

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.

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Journey to Costa Rica

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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.

His Pursuit part 1

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A couple of weeks ago I was prompted to write “my testimony.” When I finished it, I immediately began questioning whether it served any purpose to the goals of this blog, and whether I wanted to get this personal. While my life prior my conversion was not outwardly messy, it was inwardly dark. So I’ve been sitting on my story for a while, but like many things in a faith led life sometimes you just have to obey and let God do the rest. If nothing else for freedom’s sake. So with much love here it is part of my story which I’ve divided it in three installments.  

About 13 years ago I came to United States. I spoke not a coherent word in English and I could barely put the words together to understand anyone trying to communicate with me.

I was living at my step-uncle’s house in Southern California. Although he is a Christian man he felt compelled to take me to a Catholic service on Sundays. Like he put it, I didn’t have to go to his church but I had to go to church. He assumed since I was Mexican, my faith was Catholic.

I never had the heart to tell him not only that I wasn’t a Christian, but also that I wasn’t a believer of any sorts. My heart had been hardened, a learned mechanism of protection from the loneliness, fear and the anger accumulated from my childhood. I became skeptical of anything but things I could see, hear and witness in the physical world. I didn’t need things of the heart or spirit for I had a sound and brilliant mind.

Skepticism was a form of life. Very early on I learned how religion was used to subjugate entire societies. I was an avid reader.  My morality: I believed in personal consequences, a loose understanding of karma, if you will, heaven and hell here on earth. The world, the universe was random chaos, no divine justice or intervention. Religions were lies given by churches, monasteries and mosques around the world to the weak-minded to control them, and I was not going to let anyone, or anything control my life or choose my destiny.

Because I was not ready to have those conversations with my uncle, more out of the fact that I could barely ask for salt at the dinner table, I began attending Catholic services on Sundays and it quickly became my weekly break from the English bombardment at home. It was a time for me to turn off my mind through the predictable movements of Mass, which despite being held in English I could follow: Kneel; stand up; Padre Nuestro (it has the exact same rhythm in both languages); now someone is going to read from the Book that I never put much attention, Credo, line up to eat the ostia (you don’t want to let everyone think you carry an unforgivable sin if you don’t partake), etc..

One Sunday morning, during my cousin’s leave after he graduated from Boot Camp, he invited me to join him with the rest of the family for a service at their Southern Baptist Church. That week I had been feeling particularly lonely and homesick so I decided to join them.

The first thing I noticed was the dozens of cute American “churchy” kids about my age. I joined them to their College group, which it was held in a classroom. It felt like Catechism class all over again, yet instead of stories of mythical gardens, giants and endless repetitions of prayers they were having a conversation in History, Theology and Geography. It went right over my head. I only sat there and smiled, with a little bit of pity for their little minds being brain washed while they felt so academic and important.

Then we went to the main sanctuary where for the first time in my life since I can remember my heart was stirred to be connected to something more, at that moment, God began His relentless pursuit for my heart. (I suspect the pursuit might’ve started long before, but my heart needed to be completely broken until I could let Him in).

My command of English was very limited; the only things I could watch in T.V. were reruns of “Friends” because I knew many of the episodes in Spanish. But during worship, for reasons I could not explain I began crying. Maybe I was tired, but I didn’t feel embarrassed to cry in front of everyone. No one minded. Then the pastor began speaking and I could understand every word. I heard the words as clear as any I have ever heard in my native language. It was freaky, but I figured the sermon was to be understood by the masses so the message had to be a simple one– one that I could understand.

Then I heard “for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deut 31:6b) No sentence ever spoken before by anyone ever felt that personal. I knew he was speaking about the loneliness I was feeling at that moment. It was directed at me as if preceded by “Fabiola… For the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” I can’t explain it: open ears, open heart. It was a promise for things yet to come. Then I felt warmth in my heart, literally like falling in love. 

When the service was over I didn’t share the experience with anyone and I was shocked when in the van on our way home, everyone’s voices became muffled. Their language undecipherable as usual, I wanted to demand them to speak with the speaker’s voice. “Enunciate,” like my uncle repeated it when I tried out his language in my mouth. Staring out of the window His promise “I will never leave you nor forsake you” began circling in my mind. Could it be true that the Creator of the Universe was after me?