We are anxious to receive our first permanent residents at Casa de Esperanza, but we also want to do what we are doing well. It is with this in mind that we decided to do a “trial run” during Semana Santa (the week before Easter) and invited three residents from Hermano Pedro to spend the week with us.
The residents who have families would be spending the week at home, so it was very easy to get permission from the administration for Fidel and Don Antonio to come to be with us. Fidel is the young man we hope to have as our first permanent resident, and Don Antonio is a mature man (a little older than I am) who is blind. Both we excited for the chance to spend a week outside of an institutionalized setting.
Fidel Don Antonio
Moises, a fifteen year old who attends a regular school in Antigua, had been invited, but is pretty timid about new things and declined our invitation.
This seemed a perfect time for a trial, since Holy Week is a holiday in Guatemala, and the schools are closed. A number of Dick’s boys from Chimaltenango who have expressed interest in serving as assistants in the were free to give it a try this week. Carlin, who has worked with the young men at the November camp run by Hope Haven and Bethel Ministries International, was free to come and help train the “newbies,” and Miguel, who may become a permanent resident assistant was able to get the week off from his current job as a barber.
So, Monday found us (Miguel, Fernando, Esbin, Calin and myself) heading over to Hermano Pedro. This was our car’s maiden voyage into ministry, as we took her to bring back all the luggage, and provide transportation for Don Antonio.
Checking out the guys took the better part of the day, which, being in Guatemala, I guess I should have expected. I still find myself surprised, though, that the nurses waited to pack the guys till we got there (I wonder if they weren’t sure we’d really come?), and then each of the guys needed to be seen by the doctor to make sure they were healthy enough for a week away.
Though we had obtained permission the week previously, I spent about a half an hour in the Social Work office, filling out the required paperwork, and signing forms. This, too, was not begun until I was physically present. . .
While all this was going on, the boys who had come with me were playing with Moises. He was having a great time, and decided he’d changed his mind and would like to come with us, too. Ugh. . .I didn’t know if this would work. (Evidently Moi had thought it would be just he and I spending the week at the house. I can’t imagine why he wasn’t interested in spending a week alone with an old lady! LOL)
Being unsure of how to proceed, I went and found Xiomara, the director of volunteers, and chief advocate for the residents, as well as a good friend. We talked with Aura, the head social worker, who was thrilled that Moi wanted to go, but we would have to talk with the social work in charge of his ward.
This is where it got a bit sticky. We were given a flat out, “no,” since we had not asked for permission previously. Xiomara explained the situation, and did some might fast talking (I stepped out in the hall to let the social worker “save face” if she said yes), and finally it was agreed that if Xiomara could get Father Jose to approve, Moi could go. Evidently, Father Jose had not problem with this, since Xiomara was back with the approval in about two minutes.
(On a side note, Xiomara is one of the most amazing young women I have met in Guatemala. She is intelligent, educated, bilingual, and competent. More importantly, she is totally sold out to Jesus and loves his people, especially the “least of these” who reside in Hermano Pedro. It is not her job to be their advocate. Sometimes I know it gets her into a little hot water doing so. But it is her “calling” and she does it fearlessly. How fortunate we are that she is helping us!)
Thank you, too, to Moises, the nurse in charge of the boys ward, who took so much time explaining Fidel’s diet, his medications and his special needs. This gracious young man even took the time to show the boys how they help Fidel with his personal hygiene in a manner that is most comfortable for him. He even gave us his personal phone number in case we needed any help during the week, or had any questions. Another staff member going above and beyond to help us make this week successful!
So, in short order, we were ready to go. Don Antonio was seated in the front, the luggage in the trunk and he, Esbin, and I were off for the house. Fidel and Moises would walk over to the house (about 14 blocks) with Calin, Miguel and Fernando. I have to admit, it was difficult for me to let the guys go on their own. I could claim it was because I had legal responsibility for Moi and Fidel, but, if the truth be told, it’s just my controlling personality that was getting in the way. I realized that if this model of community living was going to work, I was going to have to let go and trust my co-workers to do their jobs.
I joked that it was an “Easter miracle:” Fernando voluntarily cleaning his room to make space for a bed for Moi. Moises is special to Fernando. They are the same age, and, as Fernando says, they have grown up together.
I am proud to say that all five young men arrived at the house safe and sound and in a timely manner. The looks of accomplishment on their faces made me glad I had let them do this on their own. This set the tone for the weekend. . .supported independence.
Just for fun:Since we hadn’t planned on Moises being with us, we had to borrow and extra bed from Mari, who lives about a half a block away. The boys carried it down the street, joking that they were having a “gringo procession” to celebrate the opening of our house! What goofballs!
We are off to a good start!