|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
“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
the room stood “little naked boy,” still with no pants,
playing with a power cord that hung from the ceiling.
|Two children sit on the doorstep of a family home.|
“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
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.
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.
“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
“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!”
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
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.
at least the kids can come.”
“Oh, sí, that, yes!”
were walking out, suddenly the kids were clinging to us,
“Don’t go! Stay!” Even the cautious Paco was clinging to
“Can we take them to see the Church? Maybe
we can bring some new clothes for them afterward.”
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?”
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
She nods, and a tear ran down her cheek.
here!” I lifted her into my arms. “Let’s go!”
have been seven years old, but she was all skin
and bones. Her blue jumper left a dusty imprint on
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.
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 (http://jfmisionera.org/usa/missioncorps/241.php).
The account written above is true, but names are changed
to protect the privacy of the individuals.