Yesterday I returned to my brood of 11 after spending several days in the Villa and all I have to say is it is definitely a circus out there! A wonderful circus! So much happens in the span of one day. I came home feeling like I had been in the trenches and that there had been great victory. I am not sure how it looked from God's perspective but from mine, things looked good, very good. Three women still in the program, all 9 children alive and accounted for, all the volunteers still on board, and some cards finished and ready to be sold that the women had made. This is what happened yesterday.
Tuesday July 13
I take our three new women with me to a place called Potrerios. It's where the mayor's office is situated and we go there due to a land dispute. Our land to be exact. Some of us call them "those pesky farmers" but recently they have become more than just pesky. They have become downright difficult. The whole problem stems from their properties being without access. The original owner sold off his land in parcels and was not thinking ahead so the farmers insist on entering our property to get to theirs. Not a good situation in any scenario but especially in our case since our whole purpose in having the Villa is to provide our women and children with a reasonably safe and secure environment. We simply cannot have farmers trapsing through our property on a daily basis. We arrive at the Mayor's office after transversing about 20 miles of dirt road surrounded by beautiful pine covered mountains. The tiny village of Potrerios is picture-postcard lovely and totally quiet. The Catholic Church is the most prominent building on the square and the melon colored paint only makes it stand out more. The Mayor is attending someone else so we drink refrescos (sodas) at the tiny pulperia(think seven eleven in somone's living room) in front of the municipal building. When he finally is ready to see us, I notice a stack of unmarked folders on his desk. I greet him as warmly as is culturally acceptable and state our purpose (to get a copy of the purported paper that the farmers claim to own which give them rights to a portion of our property). The Mayor starts shifting through the folders, opening them one at a time, slowly looking at each individual sheet of paper, all the while stating that he is sure he had the paper several days before but now has no idea where it might be. He begins to make noises like, "I hope this thing doesn't get ugly" and his tone almost seems threatening. I make different noises. I tell Him we are not expecting "ugly" because God has always protected us and that we don't expect Him to abandon us anytime soon. The women just look at me wide-eyed. The mayor continues to shuffle papers in a half-hearted way and I finally realize that no amount of our sitting there is going to help produce the paper. I ask him, "Are you the mayor" because it occurs to me that this extremely disorganized person might be a clerk and perhaps we need to ask to see the mayor. But no, he is indeed the mayor and stands up at my question and shakes my hand in a very political way. Finally we agree that he will leave the paper at the police post close to Jericho Villa. I pray this is not just some empty promise.
On the way back to the Villa, one of the women spots a mango tree. It's full of very ripe reddish green mangos, especially at the top. She screams for me to stop the car. I am obedient because it's a long dirtroad ride back and the women could use a diversion. They are so thrilled that we have stopped. They secure permission from the ancient looking woman who appears at the gate to use the whittled branches near the trees to knock down the mangos. They scream like children as they bat at the upper branches sending the mangos flying every which way. They come running back to the car with their loot and tell me to give the elderly woman some money for the mangos. They say 20 lempiras when I ask how much. It's just over a dollar. The woman now waving at the gate seems happy. The women are ecstatic with their stash of newly aquired mangos. I wonder to myself if there is a fruit in my life that I would get that excited over. Wild raspberries....maybe. We leave the car halfway up the road to Jericho since it is impassable due to road work. They have to carry the mangos up to the Villa by hand. Some of the mango excitement starts to wane but not much.
Back at Jericho we settle down after eating mangos to study the Scriptures. The women are very giddy and are laughing with a tone that seems tinged with more mockery than joy. As we start the class with praise songs it becomes obvious that they don't want to sing. As we pray it occurs to me that there is a spirit of derision present. We pray against that and the whole tone of the class changes. The class is on deception versus truth. We take turns sharing some of the deceptions we have been privy to. I share about how I believed that if I could just find one man who would love me more than anyone else, that I would be OK (I think I watched too many cinderella type movies). I share how I made many bad decisions based on that deception and how God's Truth set me free. He is the One person who loves me more than anyone else. And His love is safe. One of the women shares how she felt like she had really arrived when she became the girlfriend of a major gang leader. She confesses that she loved the feeling of power because she could just talk to him if she had an enemy and he would send his thugs to do her bidding. She says it was a terrible deception but there is a curl about her mouth that betrays her. She is still tempted by this untruth that anger and violence will bring her well-being and control. I will see this fully come to light later in the day. We share more and then end the class with confession and prayer.
Down in the salon, which is our big spacious multipurpose room at the Villa, we set up the tables so that we can make greeting cards. This is one of our practical workshops. I have resisted making cards with the women for some time now because many of the ministries to women coming out of prostitution make greeting cards. I've seen many pictures of rescued women from Thailand all seated around a table making cards out of some natural material. It doesn't seem to me to be a lucrative proposition, this teaching card making. The problem is, it is my pride that makes me resistant. We want to be "different". We want to make something of great quality that will sell and help us be self-sustaining. Not a bad idea but God has been providing me with free card-making supplies and giving me design ideas even when I am past exhaustion and need sleep. So we are making cards today and I am very enthusiastic about it. Two of the women really seem to enjoy this cutting and pasting and sewing on of buttons. One in particular is showing some gifts in design. The third woman is restless and does not make any bones about her disdain for this activity. She is the woman who comes from a gang member background. She excuses herself to go and get a diaper for her one year old. She does not return in the time it takes to get a diaper and come back.
We are packing up the card making supplies when she comes running back into the room. She flings her arms around me and begs me to pray for her. The other women look on while I start praying for her. The other women ask me if they can go back to the kitchen for more mangos which frees me to minister to this very agitated woman/child. She is now confessing that she overheard some of the younger girls talking about her when she went for the diaper. Her "old man", the flesh came fully to life and she shares how she almost smacked this girl to smithereens. She brags about how it was easy for her to kill in the past and I do not doubt that. She tells me something stopped her. She thinks it is the Holy Spirit. I know it is the Holy Spirit and I am so glad that He is actually the One in Charge at the ministry. She shares even more about how she used to use violence to control others. She calms down just as Katie, one of our Villa volunteers, comes to confront her because although she has not used physical violence to hurt the young girl, it comes to light that she has pelted her with profanity and lies. This asking for forgiveness does not come easily but it is finally done. Both parties ask for forgiveness and seal it with a hug. I tell them that the consequences of their actions will be that they have to find some tangible way to bless each other everyday for a week.
On my walk down to the car I spot two men walking towards the shed where we keep our construction materials. I recognize one of the men and am overjoyed to see his face since we ordered doors from him back in January and haven't been able to connect with him since. The doors are for the main gate of women's apartments and now that we have women there, we desperately need the doors. As I greet him from a distance, I suddenly see his face contort into fear. Carl, our big grey guard dog, comes bounding behind me towards the men. They suddenly disappear inside the shed closing the door tightly behind them. I have to laugh at the whole scenario. Carl is not vicious but he does take his guarding seriously. His front teeth have all fallen out so he can't do too much damage but he still scares people. After several minutes I convince our doormaker to come out of the shed and he tells me the good news that the doors are done and that he will install them on Saturday. It's been a long wait but I pray that they will actually be in place by the weekend.
Eduardo and two of our Villa boys walk me down to the busito with umbrellas as it has started to rain. Eduardo is Elvia's son and he is volunteering at the Villa for a year before he goes to college. It occurs to me how blessed we are to have this young man in our midst. He is caring for the five Jericho boys and his spiritual maturity is way beyond his years. He delights in caring for these young gents even though they are not the easiest to deal with due to their backgrounds of growing up on the streets. I make a mental note to ask him about how God is working in him and through him.
On the way back into town, I am overwhelmed with a feeling of gratitude. Instead of being put off by the battles, I want more. Thoughts of staying longer the next time flood my head. I am excited to see new patterns being established in the lives of those living at the Villa even if they are only just small steps. The Holy Spirit has definitely made His Presence known to us in the living of the day.