It was just as well I didn’t speak Spanish, because I had no idea what to say.
Even our host, who spoke the language fluently, fumbled for words. Like me, he was stunned by this amazing Nicaraguan family.
We were there to help, but I felt they had a great gift to offer us too. Spiritually, they were rich, and I considered it an incredible blessing to have met them and been blessed by their example. Standing there in their weather-beaten world of thatch and mud and smoke, they were the perfect manifestation of faith, hope and charity.
To be fair, I’d seen this kind of poverty before. In some cases, far worse. But Francisco and Mareli carried a burden most other poor families did not — they were the loving caretakers of a brain-damaged, wheelchair-bound, nearly mute teenage daughter, Casey.
As we met with Francisco and Mareli, these financially struggling parents showed us a photo of Casey at age 4, standing on her own two feet and looking relatively normal. This memento from a time before Casey’s inoperable hydrocephalus arrested her development and atrophied her legs made me realize the full extent of what they’d lost. But another thing I realized was that Francisco and Mareli were not mourning a loss. They were celebrating a gift.
“God chose us,” they said. God chose them to raise Casey. The child with no hope. The child who wasn’t supposed to reach her first birthday. The child who must be clothed and bathed and taken to doctors and given medicine and constantly tended to by her exhausted parents. The child who, during our visit, uttered a single discernible word among her frustrated moans and shouts: “Momma.”
There’s no telling how many more days or years the Lord may grant to Casey. But one thing is certain —God has placed her in a family that knows how to love her, how to take care of her, how to value her. What a joy that we get to bless this family with the gift of clean, abundant water this year when we launch our upcoming campaign to install a community-wide water system. Just being able to wash their daughter in a modern shower facility is going to be such a relief to Francisco and Mareli, and I thank God Cross Catholic Outreach and our local mission partner can offer them that simple blessing.