When staff writer Bonnie Vanak travels, she meets many mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers in the depths of despair. She sits with them and listens as they share their struggles, their dreams and their prayers. Today, Bonnie shares the story of a mother she met in the mountains of Guatemala while on assignment with Food For The Poor.
The road winding up the mountain to Odilia’s home is flanked by dry, brown grass, telling the story of Guatemala’s drought. But the dead fields also speak of another story ― of Odilia, a mother with little ones to feed and nothing to give them.
Odilia lives in a tiny, one-room shack without electricity, running water, or a pantry stocked with food. There is only hunger, which is like a growling beast stalking the children and their mother.
The name she initially gave us was Rosalinda. Later, when we inquired about land where Food For The Poor could build her a house, she admitted her name was Odilia.
Giving a false name to strangers is typical for poor mothers in Guatemala. Many mothers regard strangers with suspicion, wondering if they will steal away their children and sell them overseas to wealthy couples. The mother’s real name is guarded closely, because it’s all they have as a defense. If there is no correct name, then the mother can become a ghost, quietly vanishing into the night with her little ones.
Odilia had been sick the day we visited. Coughing and hacking with a respiratory infection, she was too weak to trudge up the mountain to gather wood to sell. Her daughters had visited the neighbors, their palms outstretched as they begged for a cup of rice. But no one had anything to give them.
It takes tremendous humility and courage to beg for food. It takes even more to allow strangers into your home, and pour out your heart, sharing your most personal trials. And it takes humble faith to cover your face with your hands and cry out to God from your soul, as Odilia did on that day in her tiny shack.
Her plight, as well as her hope and her faith, is best summarized by the fervent prayer she uttered:
“Please help me God. I’m a woman and I’m alone and I need You. God, You are big and powerful. Please have mercy on me and send Your Holy Spirit to bless my family. I am giving thanks to You God, asking for your blessing, knowing You will listen to me. Glory be to You, God. I’m down on my knees and I give the glory to You, God. You can do miracles. Please help me. I am worried and hurting now. God, please provide food for my children so at least we have something to eat today.”