April 3, 2007

Central America

We have just got back from a trip to Central America where we visited Managua city (Nicaragua) and Guatemala with Compassion. The purpose of the trip was to see first-hand the amazing work of Compassion and we’ve both come away more convinced than ever that they are making a vital impact on children, their families and communities. We never expected to witness so clearly a break in the cycle of poverty and all done through the name of Jesus.

Our time in Managua was busy, but great, with 3 full days arranged by our host Virna (above) to give us a good look at Compassion in action. This included visiting Compassion projects where the children are tutored, receive meals, medical attention and learn about Jesus….

Nath with some of the children at the project center

Me amongst the littlies at a project. Pick the whitie!

Nath meeting one of the project classes

We also had the chance to talk with several pastors whose churches host the projects and hear their vision for the children. This was particularly exciting as their passion for Jesus and desire to help these children is a central part of their mission….

We visited a small orphanage run by one of the churches...

Plus we visited the homes of three different sponsor children to see the desperate situations they come from and talk with their parents about how Compassion has helped.

One visit was particularly shocking and left our group quite shaken – Eduardo (8) and his family live on the edge of the city dump. As we walked down his street, the smell was overwhelming and only got worse as we entered his little home.

Eduardo (front) and his family

The family lives in two tiny tin and cardboard sheds with dirt floors – the poverty was unlike anything we’d ever experienced.

Outside their home...

And inside.

Eduardo's father works the dump collecting plastic, which earns him about $1 a day. The family will regularly go without food, sometimes up to 3 days.
The city dump next door.
It was incredible to talk with his father, who was born into the same home 40 years ago, about the hope he now has for Eduardo’s future. This little boy can grow-up healthy and plan for a future where his education brings about change. We walked away thankful that Compassion exists to help bring hope. We pray Eduardo's world would be changed beyond belief!

It was timely to have a break the following day, to collect our thoughts and process what we’d seen. We headed to look at one of Nicaragua’s “live” Volcano’s, which was more smoke than anything else! But still very impressive. And we checked-out the local markets...

Our awesome host, Virna

Then it was off to Guatemala City – this is a slightly bigger city, more developed than Managau, with very pretty surroundings. It is also home to our sponsor children, Marta and Edgar - two major reason for our trip!

We took Marta (8) to the zoo with her mum and two sisters, which was pretty special. The only downer was Marta was so excited the night before she hadn’t slept and was literally a walking zombie for most the day!

Me & Marta

Walking the zoo with Marta's Mum and oldest and youngest sisters (Sandra & Beatrice)

It was a great chance for me to talk with her mum Francisca - via a translator - and hear their story. She’s a single mother of 9 (!!), with 6 of her children still at home dependent on her. She was very teary as she talked about her heartache, the huge difference Compassion has made and her amazement at our interest in her child, from half-way across the world.
Her Christian faith was amazing and the strength and assurance she drew from God was not what I expected – it was exciting to know Marta comes from such a strong Christian family.

That evening we drove to Lake Atitlan, which was a special surprise detour! It is claimed to be one of the most beautiful lakes in the world and one of the 1000 things you should see before you die - hopefully that's not a bad omen! :)

We wound up the mountain and down the other side just at dusk. All the little village lights were starting to twinkle around the lakes edge and we could just see the 3 volcano’s that boarder it - the view was breath-taking. We enjoyed wandering the markets the next morning and quickly feel in love with the lively village, before leaving to embark on our last day....

View of the lake in the morning

Main Street of town

Local Markets

Looking back over the lake, with Claudia (our Guatemalan host)

To end off the trip we met Edgar, Nath’s sponsor child – this was by far the highlight of the trip for us. Edgar is 13 years old and a really great kid - he had lots of questions for Nath and had obviously really connected with the role we have played in his life from afar.

They swapped wristbands, kicked around the soccer ball & shared in the universal joy of drinking Pepsi Cola's...

Edgar took us to his little home, situated in a pretty rural community, where on the mud walls, front and center was a little framed picture of us! Too funny... His has 2 brothers and 3 sisters and their small home was so full of life, personality and love.

Edgar & Nath with Louis, Marvin, his mum Julia & little Nancy

Edgar is a living example of the huge difference Compassion makes in a child's life. They help to provide a way for Edgar to get an education, far beyond what his mother ever expected, and bless the family with provisions that means they can survive, even prosper. It was a privilege to meet him, for Nath if felt like hanging with a younger brother, and we can't wait to go back and see the man he grows into!

A few other short highlights:
  • taking a young sponsor girl, Aurora, to Pizza Hut for the very first time!
  • watching kids play Pinjarda, with Winnie the Pooh as the target (Nath was particularly overjoyed, videoed the whole thing).
  • singing "Jesus Loves Me" in English, at the same time as the kids sang it in Spanish.
So that's it... I shall end my ramblings here... There was just so much to share, and heaps that I've left out too. We cramped a lot into one week and are still working through it, talking about what we saw and thinking about the little people we met. On that note - here are a few of the faces we took away with us....

Please sponsor a child if you haven't already... And if you have - be sure to send them a note and tell them they are loved. They are waiting to hear from you and it means the world!
C & Nt