Tuesday, March 15, 2011
One story: Franci was a 14 year old girl I fell in love with in the Dominican Republic. Something about her caught my eye the very first day we were in La Canita (that is the little village outside La Victoria, it means "little cane" because Sugar Cane is plentiful there). She wouldn't make eye contact with anyone and she seemed skiddish around everyone who got within close proximity of her, even the other women in her village. A few days into the trip it occurred to me that she acted much like the homeless dogs that wandered around the streets. To approach them is not wise as they are only used to being kicked, beaten or mistreated in some way and may lash out in self protection to bite those who come near. They even rejected little scraps of food we tried to hand them because they have been conditioned to receive abuse and do not know that good things could come from the hands of humans. And so it was with Franci that we had many thick walls to break through to let her know we wanted to give something good to her, that we were safe. Trust wouldn't be handed over easily. The thickest wall of all seemed to crumble just a little, it was the one that has taken her captive and tells her that she is not worth knowing, is not worthy of love, and was made to be used and discarded.
Franci has a four month old baby and was kicked out of her home by her father because he refused to pay to take care of them both. Homeless, she sought refuge in the home of an old man named Emilio, a mentally ill, if not demon possessed alcoholic who appears to be about 70 years old. He rapes her every night. If she refuses to sleep with him, she gets beaten. She was very closed to me most of the week, even after taking her and her son to the hospital to be treated for severe burns. But day by day she seemed to come out of her shell as we poured out love on her. By Friday, she had even begun to sparkle a little, like a fourteen year-old girl should. We washed her feet, massaged oil into her little legs, took her to the beach and held her baby for her while she splashed in the ocean. We taught her how to give her son antibiotics and wrap his wounded little hand, how to make jewelery to sell and how to save money to buy more supplies.
It appeared that when we arrived, she was very shunned by the other girls (also teenage moms with no men to support them) and they kept their distance from Franci, kind of like we learned to steer away from the stray dogs. But something broke loose off of this young mother this week that opened up a possibility for connection with others. We have no illusion that Franci is out of harm's way. And to leave this young mother, this child, in the home of this disturbed man, Emilio, broke our hearts in places we didn't know we had. Only one week. Only several voices speaking of her dignity that competed with the many others that have always told her that she is worthless. Are we crazy? To think we could come for a week and make a difference? But something tells us we did. A Voice beckons us forward, to lean into the places of pain where it would be easier to shut ourselves off, easier to not enter into this grand story of epic pain and loss. But we showed up, and in faith believe we made a small difference. Believe we are supposed to be part of this larger story. A seed planted. Hope spoken. The second all women's trip completed. And we promised we will be back. And we will. The women of La Canita now forever hold a place in our hearts, that is reserved just for them. And I dare to hope that we have earned a place in theirs as well. We will be back.
There is a small story...more to come.