I traveled to Guatemala on a Saturday with our national senior account executive from Salem Radio, five of my colleagues from Food For The Poor (FFP) and the 13 coolest Christian radio hosts (some also pastors) that one could ever imagine, coming from as close by as the west coast of Florida and as far away as Hawaii…
Part III: Santiago and Marta
|Santiago, Marta and their children.|
We climbed further up the mountain and visited another couple, Santiago and Marta, both 25 years old. The living conditions were almost identical to those of Martin and Isabela – mud hut (even smaller), handloom, no steady income, three hungry, malnourished children, including an infant swaddled on Marta’s back, ratty clothes and shoes on the kids, profound sadness and shame in their eyes.
Like Martin, Santiago spent long hours every day bent over his loom, weaving his cloths one thread at a time. Because he was less experienced than Martin, it actually took him twice the time to produce the same size cloth. Marta and the children took daily trips to the garbage dump to find food, clothes or recyclable materials that they could sell for a small amount of money.
There was a sweetness, humility and dignity about this couple that immediately drew me in emotionally. I think they had the same effect on the rest of the group that accompanied me on this visit.
It broke our hearts when, with embarrassment, he told me that his family was being evicted from that health trap because they could not keep up with the $7.00 a month rent. His shame broke our hearts. Marta explained that they could not feed their children properly or send them to school and their dreams for them were so different to the reality they were living.
In an attempt to help, we asked him if he had any of his cloths ready for sale. He had two. When we were paying him the price that we had paid Martin for his, he asked us to pay him less because he was less experienced than Martin. This from a man who had little more than nothing – we would not be bargained down! More tears… from the entire group.
As the mattresses we brought for them arrived, I was telling him that we were going to pay the next four months of his rent so as to take away his worry of eviction. The relief was so overwhelming for him that he fell immediately on his knees to thank us. I grabbed his outstretched arms and raised him from the ground and gave him a huge hug, totally humbled by his own humility. And again, group tears…
I told Santiago that he had the name of my birth city in Cuba and the patron saint of Spain (St. James) and I told Marta that there was a well known namesake in the New Testament that worked as hard as she did, but who was somewhat quarrelsome. I asked her if she was quarrelsome with Santiago – finally… a smile!
|The family’s “kitchen.”|
Their little 5-year-old son was very serious the entire visit and I had heard from others who had visited before that he was very gregarious. I asked him why he was so sad, he responded, “My daddy doesn’t have any work.”
To be continued…