We walk the desert, uphill past a mama dog lounging under a gray sky feeding her pups. We climb past brightly colored homes made of wooden planks and sheets of plastic.
When we arrive at the house a little girl cracks the door and says, in Spanish, “I’m not mama.”
We wait for mama and when she comes she’s barefoot. Her hair is pulled back and her son’s sweaty face rests in the curve of her neck.
She opens the door and we walk through. Her house is a facade opening into a roofless courtyard. In the courtyard are laundry lines draped in grandmother’s hard work hung out to dry. And a room made of scrap wood, scrap metal, scrap plastic. Inside the room are two beds where three children, mama and her husband sleep.
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Layla kneels before big sister, smiling, asking what the dog’s name is. “Mickey Mouse,” she laughs. And we laugh too.
Layla asks the best questions, really listens, asks some more. So she unearths the best story.
Mama was poor once – in every way. She was hungry, unable to feed her children every day. She was pregnant and sick. Her husband drank too much.
Then someone from a local church – Christ Leads Church – knocked on her door and told her about Compassion International. Soon she was seeing doctors, given the nutrition a growing baby needs…and wanting to know more about these people who were helping her. So she started going to their church; just curious.
And curiosity lead to faith. And faith spread to her husband. “Through prayer he no longer drinks and together our family goes to the church now.”
Mama smiles retelling it all; raking that sweaty baby boy’s hair away from his face with her fingers.
“Thanks to God,” she says, “we now have a better life. We live! We breathe! We eat!”
Later, I remind the team that Compassion’s goal isn’t to turn the poorest of the poor into middle class. If that were the goal? Then Compassion has failed mama.
The goal is to meet her most basic needs – physical, social, emotional, cognitive, spiritual.
And for Mama to give thanks.
When the offering was collected from Corinth for the starving in Jerusalem, Paul said he was passing the plates to bring help to the poor and thanks to God.
You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us [this offering of yours] will result in thanksgiving to God. This service you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. – 2 Corinthians 9:11,12
This is why I have more than enough: I have been made rich so that I can be generous toward others so that they can live and breathe and eat and give thanks to God.
This is why Compassion serves the poorest of the poor through local churches in twenty-six countries: When God’s people give, He gets thanked.
We hold hands in a circle, bow our heads and listen as Layla prays. She asks God to bring work to Mama’s husband, to help Mama’s children become all she dreams for them. “Amen.”
“Gracias,” Mama smiles.
The two women kiss cheeks. “Chow.”
“‘Adios’ is goodbye forever,” the translator explains. “‘Chow’ is goodbye for now.”