as our van trampled through the pitted dirt roads i could see the mound of trash burning off in the distance. a mix of machinery and working men looked like figures in a cartoon because surely real humans wouldn't be in that sort of situation.
i closed my eyes and tried to prepare myself for what i knew was coming. it was five years earlier that i had come here and had my heart broken for the first time. i was hoping a repeat story wouldn't unfold. i was quite naive.
there is something about La Mosca that brings out the worst type of christian in me. i feel angry and bitter upon entering its fly-infested streets. it makes me want to slap neglectful parents in the face as i stare at their lonely, unloved children. it makes me want to curse at the owners of the garbage dump who exploit these people and trap them in a pit of poverty. it makes me want to have a conversation, not a pretty one, with the evil one who owns these streets and holds its inhabitants captive.
its dark and it feels hopeless.
i could feel my subconscious working over time to harden my heart, to make it numb. it knows full well that if i let myself feel this place, sink into its grief, i might not be able to pull myself out.
the medical clinic was going great. nothing too serious to report. a few scratches and skin infections but mostly female issues dominated the morning. i felt like i was going to make it. i had successfully visited La Mosca without mourning over them and curling into a fetal position in the corner of the church. but i made a simple mistake. i looked out the window. i saw plates of food being passed. i thought i would go take some pictures.
i rounded the corner to fifty kids sitting on the cement floor with plates of food in their laps. not unusual. i've seen nutrition centers before. heck, half of my summer is spent in them. but i caught her eye. a little girl who looked like the Dominican version of my little girl. let the breaking begin.
i scanned her with my eyes from head to toe. hair disheveled. scrapes on her face and back. scabies scars from her neck to her feet. a pair of shorts, tattered and clearly too big for her. no shoes. and suddenly my own blonde-headed beauty flashed before me. this time with matted hair and calloused feet.
she didn't smile, she didn't react, she didn't play. she just stared. her deep brown eyes staring at the big black thing i was holding to my face. little did she know that it was my protection. i've shed many tears behind my lens, unknowingly to the world. and this day was no exception. they flowed without end, or sound, as i imagined my baby girl sitting on a cement floor, eating rice and beans, wearing her brother's shorts and with itching wounds all over her body. bugs, literally laying eggs in her flesh and clawing their way out after they've hatched. this little girl's reality became my reality. she became my daughter.
pain and suffering used to be something i ran from. trying so desperately to make "light" of something that so evidently couldn't become just a phrase for an optimistic person. more and more God is teaching me to meet people in their grief. hurt with them. suffer with them. dive into their pain as deep as they are in it. its in that place, and only in that place, that we can truly understand what Jesus did for us. what He asks us to continually do...share in His suffering and the suffering of His beloved.
i don't know if she understands the life that surrounds her at the ripe age of two. nor do i know the plans He has for her. but i know something...God keeps allowing me to ache for these little ones and the injustice of their situation. every bit of suffering i feel for them does more and more to drive me to seek justice for those who can't seek justice for themselves.
and after all, even in what seems like the most hopeless of situations, i still got her to smile. just maybe hope is on the horizon.
"For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ." -2 Corinthians 1:5