“My story is very hard and gives me a lot of pain” were the first words out of Suyapa’s mouth as she began to recall her story to us. I had just been extremely vulnerable about my struggles and things I am dealing with in this very moment. I could not wait to hear her story, to hear her open up, and most of all to encourage her in her struggles after she finished. Sometimes things go absolutely nothing like we plan. OK, most of the time here. That’s what happened on this day, but it was for several reasons especially hard to take in.
Suyapa was born here in Campo Llano to a very very poor family. Many times for dinner her father would give her water, salt, and one tortilla. At nine years old she began to work for a woman cooking and cleaning, a very normal job for a lower income girl here. This would mean no more school which would mean no chance of ending this cycle of poverty. The lady she worked for would feed her and give her some money that she would give back to her family. When Suyapa was 18 she left to go live with a man. She had two children, boy and girl, with him. When she was 21 her husband was murdered. Financially this was too much to handle. She was suffering even more now. Her children were hungry. She went to find work again, but instead found another man to support her. She just could not watch her children suffer. She had 4 more kids with this husband before he was shot 4 times in the chest. The suffering and financial stress continued to build. She tried to go back to her parents and see if they would support her. Her parents took her in along with her 6 kids. She again marries a man and has twin girls with him. This new man treated her children very bad, abused them, and would not allow her to use his money to take care of them. He would buy rice and beans and instruct her to give them each one spoonful of rice and one spoonful of beans. The kids cried of hunger. She left him and began to wash clothes for someone to support them. Her kids continued to grow. She continued to not have enough money. She struggled to pay bills and had threats of losing her one room “apartment”. She begged the owner not to kick her out. This room has one mattress that a few kids share and everyone else shares the floor. She wanted to build a very small house at the end of the community where everyone will have a bed. Her children did not have anything to eat this morning, but she thanks God for life. She may be one of the poorest of Campo Llano, but she thanks God for life.
It sounds like a perfect heart wrenching story to turn into a blog and show tons of Americans the struggles of growing up poor in Honduras, right? Well, maybe, but that’s not what this blog is for. Their Stories were meant to start conversation, to get the gospel worked into that conversation, and to change stories.
I went into the conversation with Suyapa knowing hard questions were coming. So, I began to ask them and they got harder and harder. The content of the questions did not change much at all, but I was so agitated and discouraged that I could hardly speak.
What is your biggest fear?
I only fear God.
Do you have any regrets?
No. God lets all things happen for a reason.
Do you have fears for your children?
No, my children are my biggest blessing and I trust God.
Some of you are responding with: “Wow, the people there trust God so much.They are so happy with so little.”
Honduras is full of some wonderful believers that trust the Lord for everything and are joyful in the midst of suffering. But I hate to tell you that you are dead wrong. These answers do not show a happy, trusting woman that has turned over control of her problems to God. These answers are like a recurring nightmare of my biggest fears coming true.
This culture is crippled by this very problem. I am a white American missionary, so the walls in her life just went from sandbox to the Great Wall of China. She’s a missionary, so she’s got it all together. She’s a gringa, so she wouldn’t know struggling if it smacked her in the face. Regardless of me being a missionary or an American, Hondurans do not share their struggles. There is a word in Spanish (presumido) that is used to describe a person who pretends to have more than they do. This is an epidemic. Straighten up. Fake a smile. Just hold it together in front of them. We definitely do this as Americans, but the culture here amplifies this problem times a million.
My heart aches.
I looked at this woman, broken, alone, searching, scared, and hungry. With tears in my eyes I said please know that as an “American missionary” I have deep pain in my heart. I have so many fears and regrets. I truly hope someday we can talk about yours.
The truth is I do not have it all together. Honestly, I fall apart more than I’m proud of. I can’t even tie up this blog with a perfect answer and a pretty bow. However, there is one thing that I have an answer to and maybe it is the pretty bow. We must be real. We must be broken. We must be vulnerable. If we do not learn to show the reality of our brokenness they will never share theirs. If they don’t share theirs, chances are they will never be introduced to the One that can make all things new. Jesus did not come for the Holy Rollers, Bible Thumpers, or the missionaries. He did not come for the people that have it all together. He came for the sinner, the broken, the messy, and the person whose life is falling apart.
An analogy that has come up a few million times in the last year as I have fallen head over heels in love with brokenness goes like this-
Imagine a mirror. Now shine a light on that mirror and watch as the light shoots right back at you. Now imagine a mirror that is shattered to pieces. Shine a light on that and watch as the Light shines into countless places, dark corners, and valleys. This is the Gospel. If you only let people see your perfect little Christian life it will effect a very small circle of people. However, if you allow people to see your brokenness, your dark corners, your fears, your regrets, eventually the light of Christ will invade theirs too.
I can’t end this with some profound truth or tell you that Suyapa opened up with her deepest secrets. That didn’t happen. Brokenness and transparency is a process, but I am begging you to start that process. Tell your story. Share your struggles. Across a border or across your kitchen table.