The first few days were rough for me. I am able to communicate in Spanish, however, conversation is different. I was getting really discouraged. We don’t go to the center until Tuesday, and I was feeling really nervous and unhelpful. I do have electricity and wifi, more than most who live in Cochabamba. I felt almost guilty for my nice house, wifi, and shower. The first day we went to the center Joana, my host sister, told me to work with this girl Ruth. We ran outside, played games, but when it was time to do homework she was not obedient. I became really discouraged about my lack of Spanish skills. If I could speak English I would know how to handle this. James told me that God would use my weaknesses, but to be quite honest what does that even mean?
Wednesday morning I began to doubt why I was here. What was I even doing to help? I can’t teach, I can’t speak the language. After some tears I snapped myself out of it and realized that wallowing in my doubt and worry is exactly what the devil would want. I just grabbed my guitar and started worshipping.
With that, I ran upstairs. Joana wanted to talk to me and plan activities for Ruth. She told me Ruth’s story. When she was younger her mother didn’t want her. Because of this, she didn’t take care of her. She didn’t really feed her, dress her, want her. Because she never eats she is tiny and her brain hasn't developed correctly. Her mother isn’t exactly normal, and her dad is a construction worker with little to no education. Joana suggested that they take Ruth in because she wasn’t able to function well in the classroom. She has failed 1st grade twice and can’t seem to listen well. They concluded that there was something wrong with her brain. However, they would need tests to determine what the issue was. Her family didn’t have the transportation or the money to do that. They said she should go to a special needs school, but the father said he couldn’t bring her and didn’t have the money. Her only hope: the center.
As we planned activities, I felt like I had a purpose. Joana and I talked together and she explained how she would be leaving for a few weeks in September. She explained how her brother would help with the main class so I could spend time one on one with Ruth. I gave Joana a hug and that’s when God really slapped me in the face. She started crying. “Lisa, I’m just so worried for Ruth. She has no other hope.”
“But Lisa, I’m so impressed with your capability, and how smart you are. I was praying about Ruth and I believe God sent you at just the right time. It’s just, you are like an angel, God sent me an angel. Now I know that I can leave and that Ruth is going to be well taken care of. Thank you Lisa. Just Thank you.”
I couldn’t help but cry as we prayed healing over little Ruthie. God is going to heal her. God had this plan for me to come at the right time. Why did I ever doubt? Less than an hour after my worrying and doubting he slapped me in the face and showed me that I was needed. Right after I was freaking out he had Joana say that to me! He listens, and he cares, and that was only the beginning.
I was all ready on Wednesday. It couldn’t have gone too much better. There were hardly any outbursts, and we practiced letters and numbers. I started to get to know Ruth. How she loves basketball, how she likes yellow and pink. How she learns, how she laughs, how she runs.
However, Thursday, was a completely different story. I could not get her to do her homework, she was so exhausted she almost fell asleep. Then when we went outside, she pulled down her tights and went to the bathroom on the playground. She had no intention of listening, learning, or obeying and I didn’t have the communication skills to help. I could hardly keep her from kicking and screaming at the dogs at the center.
That night I got to talk to my mom and tell her about the trip. It’s so encouraging to talk to people from back home. She covered me with prayer and got me ready for Friday.
Friday is a fun day for the kids. They don’t have homework so we get to read stories and play games. I didn’t plan as many activities for Ruth, but I did have a few ideas. She did great! She was able to play the games with the other kids and we even got to practice her counting. My heart was so excited when she was finally able to remember that after 56 comes 57! We got to count beads as we made bracelets and it was a breakthrough moment for me. I realized how much she does know. I just need to find hands on activities for her! She was learning. She was listening. She was having trouble with the days of the week, so I taught her a song. All throughout the day, she began to sing the song. “Sol Solicito, caliente me un poquito…” By the end of the day, she was finally able to say all the days of the week.
She laughed a lot at my victory dance for her. But there was no better feeling than to see her smile as she happily named the days of the week in the correct order. She listened when I called and laughed with me. Every day I ask how I can pray for her. She always is so confused, “You want to pray for me? For me?” No one has asked her that before.
Every day they tell a Bible story before homework. The kids are able to learn about God and then some come to church on Sunday! Joana always closes with a prayer of gratitude and asks that “we can learn more about God every day!” Many of the parents don’t believe in God but they want the homework help for their kids. If you ask the kids most will exclaim, “I know God!!” But when I asked Ruth she was confused, “No.”
On Friday when I asked how I could pray for her she responded with something that was so beautiful. She said that her prayer was the same as Profe Joana’s prayer. She was thankful for food, a house, and that she could learn about Jesus.
It was time to go. Most of the kids play outside before the long walk home. They all ran outside, eager to play. I went inside and started sweeping the floors when Ruth ran in.
She gave me a huge hug. She said something quick that I didn’t understand and then ran out the door singing the song I had taught her. Joana turned to and translated, “Profe Lisa thank you for teaching me and helping me understand.”
It was in that moment that everything was worth it. I never heard her say anything like that before to the teachers. She was learning, and she was enjoying it. If I can help her learn one more letter, one more song, or one more number this whole trip is worth it.
It’s worth it to fly across the world to whisper in her ear that she is beautiful. That she is smart, and that God loves her. It is worth the tears, the money, the energy, the lack of sleep. We can't change the world but we can change somebody's world.
Because even though I want this year to be the year that she passes first grade, I really hope that I can show her Jesus’ love, because if she has that, she has everything.