For a person who has lived at Inhaminga, “in the bush”, where when it doesn't rain 70% of the population go hungry, poverty shouldn't be something new. But the impact urban poverty has in my heart reaches deeper, and makes it ache to the point where I feel it tight, almost wanting to pop inside my chest.
It is true the people in the rural areas do work a lot, walk long distances, and have many struggles. But there is something about the bush that is comforting to me... I don’t know if it is the beautiful landscape or the stronger sense of family life and community… or maybe it is just the lack of trash lying all around! I think that’s it!
The crowed cities: the noise, the lack of privacy, the bad smells, trash everywhere, lack of security… all these things have always made me avoid city life!
When God brought me to Nacala, my greatest comfort was that the school was 7km away from town and the campus was at the beach, where we could have a taste of “bush”, out of crowded civilization!
But need always takes us in, to downtown, to the middle of all that mess! What can we do? Each time we go, it is the same fight... kids begging, kids leading blind people begging, old people begging, blind old people begging!
In the beginning you don’t know what to do. Sometimes you give, sometimes you don’t! When you give you feel bad because you know that a coin is really not what they need! When you don’t give you feel even worse thinking if that person will get enough to eat that day! There is no way out of feeling bad!
Quickly you discover that if you give to someone, soon enough you’ll have a multitude of beggars around you everywhere you go in town. Like vultures around dead meat the common thought seems to be: "New meat in town, let’s take advantage while we can!"
At this point you are losing your patience, because amongst the beggars there are always the thieves, and even the ones who aren’t professional thieves will rob you if they get a chance! You stop giving anything to anyone. You find out that if you are very rude to everyone, never give anything to anyone, gradually you get bothered less; you can do your shores quickly! But something else, that you might not notice soon, also starts happening: you stop noticing people, you only see them as obstacles you must go through to get “what you need done”!
And one day you wake up and notice that even though you came to that place to help people, your heart is so hard and your attitude is not helping anyone!
So then, what do you do?
I went through each of those phases and finally came to understand that I must be attentive to the Holy Spirit! I have no obligation to give anything to anyone, but I’m also not forbidden to do it. I must listen to the whisper inside, pay attention to whom that whisper is directing me and most and foremost: LOOK AND SEE PEOPLE!
When that happened to me, I didn’t see beggars and thieves anymore. I started to look deeply and see WHO was in front of me. That changed everything...
I started to see the old people, who really had no more strength to work. Jesus said that the poor we would always have with us... these old people are that kind of poor!
I started to see kids... teens! They are everywhere in the city; the little ones making “hungry faces”, asking for a coin, wanting to “watch your car” or clean your windows with a dirty rag.
Soon they stopped being just random “kids” to me... they started being Abubacar, Cinaro, Sanito. Each one with their own smile, their own personality, their request, their history (full of lies, most of the time).
Abubacar was the one who moved my heart. He is about 9 or 10 and is very smart. He runs every time he sees my car. I let him watch my car a few times and every time I met him back there, quietly watching the car. He asked my name, where I lived and if he could come with me. I always turned the questions back to him. He said he didn’t have mom or dad… but I knew it wasn’t true.
Soon, more than just seeing, I started to care, really care. What would be his future? What will he become, just roaming through the streets like that? Probably a thug, like so many others that are already there. His perspectives weren’t promising... no study, no skill, no job, no money! Even as a thug, competition is pretty high in Nacala!
I started to look for him every time I went to town and took him wherever I went, to “watch my car”. Between one shop and the other I asked other questions and tried to find out more about this sweet funny kid!
Finally this year I decided to go a step further. But first, I counted the cost. So many of them need help… but even so, only a few make good use of the hand extended to help them change their lives. But if we don’t start with one, if we don’t believe in one… what difference will we make? I weighted and decided to move forward.
I set up a day with Abubacar to go to his house. By this time he had admitted he had a mom. I couldn’t go the day I had set and he spent a great deal of the morning waiting for me and thinking: “What’s wrong with this lady! She said she would come, but didn’t” Another day I looked for him everywhere but couldn’t find him!
Last Friday, I was going with Rito (one of the teachers) to see some schools he was interested in studying at... and I found Cinaro (another street kid). I visited his family and found out he has a dad, a mom and 4 siblings. His dad is a very uneducated man, very rough but with a good heart.
They live in complete poverty, as I described above...
On that same morning, I met Abubacar on the street again. He took me to see his house and we found out he is Cinaro’s neighbor! His mom complained that he doesn’t behave, is never helping at home and always runs to town to beg! Sometimes he brings a few coins but never much! He doesn’t shower. So I gave him a small loving lecture! :)
None of them go to school (Cinaro and two of his brothers that are old enough to study and Abubacar and his older brother). None of them have documents and none has ever step foot on a classroom… but the school is less than two minutes from their houses! We agreed to make their documents this week and put them in school next year! We set a date and place to meet!
When I arrived at the set place this morning Abubacar came in my direction: “I was looking for you… where is that lady?”, but with a huge grin in his face he shows me he is not a bit upset! I meet his mom who is also ready to go to the registry. The other family is a bit more complicated, but we gather everyone and there we go!
Nothing works at the registry BECAUSE NONE OF THE PARENTS HAVE DOCUMENTS EITHER!! What a weird situation! But it’s local reality! Now we are on a fight to get documents to the parents, so that the kids can have their documents and next year can go to school!
One thing really encouraged me today though. It was Abubacar’s mom encouraging Cinaro’s mother when someone told her that if they are enrolled to school they will run away from it, she said: “Since the day this lady went to my house, Abubacar has been showering every day and even combing his hair! It is possible for their hearts to be changed!”
I want to be guided by Your Spirit, Lord!
I want to see them as You see!
I want to follow in Jesus’ footsteps
And love them with Your love!
I want them to know that You love them,
I want to see their future transformed!
I know I have no power in myself,
But You are the One that can change the heart!
Written on October 2010, but translated to English just now!
Written on October 2010, but translated to English just now!