What follows is a highlight of my trip to Guatemala in July 2014 with my friend Tiffany Lee (Plumb) and her family of 5.
The day I met Jaqueline is one I will never forget. Jaqueline is 5 years old and lives in Santa Cecilia, Guatemala. Santa Cecilia is a small mountain village in the northeast corner of the country, a forgotten place to most of the world. As many as 80% of children under 5, in this area, suffer from chronic malnutrition (the second highest in the world). What was so special about this little girl?
We didn’t know what to expect when we approached the house – it was up a steep incline, just a small trail leading to a very humble home. Dirt floors, rays of sunlight creeping through the many cracks in the wall and the cutest litter of puppies you’ve ever seen playing just outside the front door. We were told that Jaqueline was a special needs child and that the local Food for the Hungry staff had been walking alongside this dear family since she was born. But, that would not be enough preparation for what we were about to experience.
The theme of our trip was “Stories of Hope” as Tiffany [Plumb] prepared for her fall tour of the same name. We talked about how Hope is everywhere, that even in the midst of the worst circumstances there is a sliver of Hope. God in his mercy offers us Hope around every corner. Every heartache. Amid suffering. And even in our confusion and doubt. (Romans 5:1-5)
But, I have to be honest, I sat on that dirt floor praying and pleading with God, ‘Where is the Hope? They’re going to ask me, what am I going to say?’.
I sat there in awe as Jaqueline’s father, Don Jose, told us that he felt ‘unworthy to serve his community helping to overcome malnutrition because he had a daughter who was not well. Who am I to help others when I can’t even take care of my own daughter?’.* I had never seen such humility and overwhelming need anywhere else. After we walked out of the home it was quiet. What could we possibly say? The heaviness weighed us down and my questions gnawed at me as I tried to regain my composure.
But, revelation did come.
I would only wait a few short minutes.
Once we got back down the hill, Tiffany shared this with me [watch the video below, it’s only about 90 seconds]:
There it was!!! God had spoken in that home, the Spirit of God was beaming through every crack in that house. He was with us.
“…the last will be first and the first last.” Matthew 20:16**
We serve a God who puts Jaqueline first. What a profound truth. This frail little 16 pound girl in a faraway mountain village of Guatemala is known, cared for and in the Kingdom of God will be first. What we see in front of us is not the end of the story. He is undoing all the sadness, all the brokenness, redeeming what may appear (even to the faithful) hopeless.
God’s character and love as a Father has never been clearer to me. That is why I will never forget the day I met Jaqueline. Thank you, Father, for showing us Hope amidst brokenness.
*Jaqueline was born with a congenital brain deformity that prevents her from walking, talking and eating solid food. Her malnutrition is the result of not being able to eat solid food and repeated illnesses. Food for the Hungry has been working with this family for all of Jaqueline’s life. There has been a major turnaround in the parents’ life due to a huge effort on the part of the FH staff, so that the parents see Jaqueline as having value. Don José, Jaqueline’s father, has taken a leadership position in the community teaching about health in large part because of the way FH staff have walked through this situation with them.
**This is to say nothing of the fact that I named a ministry after this verse over 4 years ago.
You can share this video here: http://vimeo.com/111438458
For more about Food for the Hungry and the work we are doing worldwide visit FH.org.