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Turn to Jesus (Article)

New Clothes for Ana
Missionaries bring more than material goods to children in need.

a town full of kids
Missionaries with children from the town.

By Erin Rockenhaus

At the end of the street, there is the family of the “little naked boy,” a name given to little Gerardo for his streaking around town without pants.  I wanted to find out who he belonged to, and so asked the neighbors where the naked boy lived, and a little neighborhood boy led me and two missionary companions to his house. 

A ferocious barking dog greeted us and kept us frozen at the gate until a girl’s voice called out from behind the house, “Basta.”  That was the first time we met little Ana, who would become our shadow for the rest of our days in that Mayan Mexican town. 

“Can we meet your family?”

She poked her head out from around the corner and looked us up and down.  Then, there was a glimmer of recognition in her eyes, she skipped out and led us up to the side of the house. 

“I don’t know if my Mama will answer because she’s been in there all morning. Do you want to meet my brothers?”

“Is she asleep?”

Ignoring my question, she led me to a concrete side building, a room that served as the bathroom and storage place.  In the middle of
two kiddos
Two children sit on the doorstep of a family home.
the room stood “little naked boy,” still with no pants, playing with a power cord that hung from the ceiling. 

“That’s dangerous!” one of the American missionaries, a mother of two girls, said as she grabbed the cord and tied it up out of the boy’s reach.  The little boy started swatting the air to grab the cord, and then swatting the jeans of the lady who had taken away his toy. 

The kids were dirty.  Their clothes were dirty, and in the middle of the room on top of the hammock was a huge pile of unwashed laundry.

Ana knocked on the bathroom door, “Paco, come out, the ladies from the Church are here to see us.”

We heard an angry bang on the other side of the door, and then heard a scuffle as the little boy climbed up to peer out at us from the top of the door.  “No!”

“Are you shy?” I asked.

An angry look, and he slid back down the door.

As we began to leave, the door creaked open, and Paco sneaked behind the group, keeping his distance and sizing us up.

Outside, a woman smiled nervously as she greeted us. 

“Are you the mother of the house?”

She nodded.

“We came to visit the family and see how you are doing.”

“Come in,” she said as she led us in to the main hut. The hut was spacious enough and even had wooden furniture, although everything was dusty. 

She motioned us in and started to tell us about the kids and how hard it was to get them to behave, and, how her husband wasn’t there, and how he was away right now. 

Gerardo came running across the room eating something, while Paco and Ana chased after him.  “He’s eating the dog food!”  They snatched it from his hand, and then Ana took a bite of it.  Paco hit her in the arm, “You lousy dog!”

“See, these kids just don’t behave.”

I had seen more than enough, and anger welled up inside me. I had to fight off all the judgments that started to come to my mind about this mother’s family.  I don’t even know the history here, so how can I judge? As a visiting missionary, you walk into people’s lives mid-story. You come trying to show them a way out, but you can’t hope to solve their problems.

I tried the persuasive approach, “Come and talk to me this afternoon at the Church.  It helps to get out of the house so you can see things more clearly, and the missionaries can keep the kids busy with the children’s activities we have.”

“I have my brother-in-law coming over…” she said, looking away non-committal.  She was hiding something, and I couldn’t help her until she wanted to help herself.

“Well, at least the kids can come.”

“Oh, sí, that, yes!”

As we were walking out, suddenly the kids were clinging to us, “Don’t go! Stay!”  Even the cautious Paco was clinging to my legs.

“Can we take them to see the Church? Maybe we can bring some new clothes for them afterward.” 

She smiled gratefully, “Of course.”

Ana pulled some pants over little Gerardo, and took my hand.  The missionaries accompanying me scooped up the other two, and we were off.

Ana led me forward ahead of the others. 

“Ana, how are things at home? It’s hard sometimes, right?”

She nodded.

I held back angry tears, and we walked in silence a few minutes.

“You know something, Ana?  Even if we feel like people don’t love us, even if everything is all sad, there is someone who always loves us.  You know, God is your Father, and he loves you even if no one else seems to care.  He is always with you, so you can talk to him in your heart, and he hears you.  Did you know that?”

She nods, and a tear ran down her cheek.

“Come here!” I lifted her into my arms.  “Let’s go!”

She must have been seven years old, but she was all skin and bones.  Her blue jumper left a dusty imprint on my blouse. 

Ana got a new outfit that day, a blue skirt, blue tank top, and yellow blouse, all of which hung off her little frame.  But she was beaming, giving a full smile as she colored with the other children in her new outfit. 

As I took her back to her house, we stopped to look at the wild flowers growing by the road, and to touch them and smell them.  “See how beautiful the little ones are!” I said to her.  She smiled as she picked one and gave it to me, “It’s for you.”

Ana and her brothers were the first to arrive at all the afternoon activities in the Church those next weeks.  Even though, Ana returns to the same situation, there is the hope that she will remember that she is loved unconditionally, that she has a Father, that people do care about her, and that the Church is a home for her.

Author’s note: This June and July, I spent a month on a humanitarian and evangelizing mission to the Mayan part of Mexico with the Mission Youth Corps International Volunteer Program (  The account written above is true, but names are changed to protect the privacy of the individuals.



Related links

Helping Hands Medical Missions
St Rafael Guizar y Valencia Missionary Center

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