This blog is brought to you by short term mission team member Cassie P. from Indiana. Cassie and teammate Portia F. are with Sandra and her children, Daniela (polka dot dress) and Isabella (grey sweatshirt), in the photo above.
This is my third trip to Guatemala. The poverty, the plights of the families, it no longer shocks me like it did on previous trips. During our evening devotional yesterday, I shared that I had been feeling less affected this trip, that perhaps I was becoming too comfortable on these trips, becoming numb. And then today happened.
Today, our team was to work on installing stoves in family homes and assist with the kindergarten graduation festivities. Our team installed a total of eight stoves while here. In most of the homes in the Los Verdes community, the women cook in an open fire barrel indoors. There is no ventilation and the smoke fills the small homes causing respiratory distress for the families. Tar and soot accumulate on the tin ceiling. The stoves we install are not only vented through to the outside to resolve the smoke issue, but they also require very little amounts of wood to heat the stove, which saves the family money.
Our last stove installation today was an hour of my life that I will never forget. Our group broke into two teams and set off to install the last of the stoves. My team was made up of six women, plus my husband Jay. Once we received direction from Sandra, the homeowner, on where she wanted her stove, our team quickly got to work. As others were working to arrange the cinderblock stove base, I began my usual conversation starter: “How many children do you have?” Every woman loves to talk about their children! I could talk for hours about my own six year old son.
My “go-to” icebreaker question was met with what started as a typical answer. Sandra explained that she had two daughters but then began to sob as she shared that three weeks ago, her baby—a baby girl—had died. My heart broke. I had met this tiny Guatemalan woman just minutes prior, but felt compelled to embrace Sandra alongside my fellow mom and team member Portia as she sobbed and told the story of her tragic loss. Construction work ground to a halt. Not only was Sandra coping with the loss of her child, she explained that her husband left to go work in the US but she doesn’t know if he will be coming back. She just moved into her home and has no friends or other women to talk to. She has two young daughters whom she cannot burden with her grief and now must support on her own. Meanwhile, she is still healing from the C-Section—which is an extraordinarily difficult recovery—with limited access to medical care. As I held this grieving woman, my heart broke for her as a mother, a wife, and a woman. By this point, everyone present had tears in their eyes as we grieved with Sandra. Jay offered our team’s sympathy as he gently encouraged her with words of God’s love for her and God’s big plan for her life, even in times of great loss. We prayed with her and her children. We prayed that she would find comfort in God. We prayed that God’s purpose for her and her loss would soon be revealed. We prayed that her trust in God would not waver during this difficult time.
After praying with Sandra, we completed the stove and explained how to use and maintain it. We had fun conversations about what meal she would make first on her new stove (spaghetti) and discussed her physical recovery from her surgery. We took a few pictures and then we hugged (and cried) some more. Sandra confided that she feels the weight of grief lift a little more every time she opens up about it.
There truly are no words that could possibly comfort a mother who has experienced a loss such as Sandra’s. In moments of such despair and grief, we are left only with our faith. God has a way of putting us right where He wants us. Today, He put our small stove team, which included two moms, in the exact spot where Sandra needed it most. We serve an all-knowing God. I’ve never felt so blessed to play a part in God’s plan.