Several hundred smiling Mexican children line the pathway. They shake pink and blue balloons with the same kind of a vigor you’d expect from too much caffeine. As we hike up the path, the children greet us, one by one, with handshakes and hugs. We trek along the cheerful pathway of bouncing balloons and happy children toward a huge arching banner with the words “Bienvenidos” (welcome).
This is how I expect heaven will be ~ a jubilant greeting of happiness and joy full of children and colorful balloons. Perhaps heaven will be a little warmer, as my three sweatshirts did not keep me warm.
I’m in the beautiful, forested community of San Sebastian Rio Hondo, south of Oaxaca, Mexico.
I’m embarking on my second Mexico Sponsor Tour, where our group of nineteen sponsors has just arrived at the Monte de Dios community development center, one of the 185 Compassion child development centers in Mexico. Sponsorship helps children living in poverty by providing education, medical check-ups, nutritious lunches, Bible classes, sports, games, tutoring, music, and for many, a personal sponsor. As sponsors, we commit to their well-being with financial support as well as friendship and encouragement. Only 4% of sponsors actually visit their child, and so as visiting sponsors we represent “all” sponsors as none of us on the tour actually have a sponsored child at the Monte de Dios Center.
In two days we will visit our own sponsored children at a different location. Today, we come as representative sponsors for all.
We listen to the children sing and help them with crafts and enjoy an authentic Mexican lunch of soup with vegetables and chicken.
Before leaving, we’re invited to attend a craft fair to see the handicrafts created as part of an income-generating strategy for the youth. Right away I purchase handmade wool gloves and hat because I’m shivering and need them. I also notice an intricately handwoven basket and decide I could use it as well for jewelry. I buy it also.
As I continue browsing the handicrafts, I begin to think about the small basket and realize I probably won’t use it. I have a jewelry box after all. I really don’t need the basket. Because I had to spend much of my souvenir money on purchasing warm clothing for the cold environment, I regret buying the basket.
When I see another sponsor in our group (a fun lady named Pat who often inspired me during the trip) holding one of the handwoven baskets, a larger version of the one I had purchased, I ask, “What do you use it for?”
Pat says, “You don’t need a purpose.”
It came to me right then. The purpose is not the basket. I’m so in tune with me; how will this benefit me? I forget the purpose is to help others struggling to earn money for their family.
Most adults in San Sebastian Rio Hondo work as day laborers or masons and earn about $146 per month. They live in homes constructed of cement floors, mud walls, and tile roofs. In other parts of Mexico, the homes consist of plywood walls, dirt floors, and corrugated metal roofs. Many don’t have heat or electricity. Their bathroom is a hole with wooden slats.
The mother of my own sponsored child, José Manuel, told me she takes a shower by dumping a bucket of water over her head. That’s her shower.
What occurs to me every time I visit the people living in poverty in Mexico is their joy and their appreciation for what they have. You can have nothing materially, but remain rich in love for others and for God (who they call El Señor).
…I’m back at home in warm Arizona. (I finally removed the sweatshirts. Well, two anyway.) The handwoven basket now sits on my bookshelf where I can see it. It reminds me that there is no lasting purpose in material things, but there is a lasting purpose in God’s love. ♥βω