Haunted by their faces

I did 26 hours of travel on two hours of sleep. I don't recommend this. My body and mind feel sundered--torn apart. This afternoon I started shaking. I'm so tired--physically, emotionally, mentally--that my body started freaking out on me without sending a warning note first. Mariela's face haunts me:

I met Mariela at the special-needs center in Colomi. Her uncle, in the words of Mariela's mother, "es muy malo." Very bad--meaning, his special needs are severe, overwhelming for a family already entrenched in deep poverty. Mariela wouldn't let go of me. She held my hand, asked me to draw pictures for her, kissed my cheek repeatedly. Mariela has no father. Her mother is a single parent, recently returned from Argentina where she tried to find work. Mariela was too skinny for her age. But she knew how to love. She caressed my hand and stared into my eyes.

After she poured confetti on my head (the traditional Bolivian way of bestowing blessing upon someone), she finally smiled for me:

Mariela doesn't have a sponsor, her mother hasn't even registered her yet for sponsorship. I begged her mother to register her--because I will be her sponsor. Most of the children in the Colomi ADP do not have sponsors. In the video that Matthew Paul Turner and I made, Mariela is sitting on my lap. I'll never forget how light she felt. Too light. Too thin. I didn't want to squeeze her too tightly because she felt breakable.

And now sitting so many thousands of miles away, I can only pray for her, hoping against hope that her mother will register her soon.

My hands are trembling as I type this. It's my first day back and although the love, joy, kisses and embraces of my family help make this transition easier, I am filled with a deep, penetrating grief. I didn't do enough.

This is how the poor cook: a beat-up old pot over an open fire. So many children are malnourished that 10 year olds look like they are only 5. Lord Jesus, forgive me, it has taken me 34 years to finally care about the poor of this world.

Anne Lamott writes that nobody gets into Heaven without a letter of recommendation from the poor. I have a lot of work to do--and I'm thankful that I now know exactly how to do it: sponsoring a child doesn't just save one life, it saves an entire community.

And so, for the sake of children who do not have running water and must bathe in buckets outside their homes:

And for the children with battered shoes and dirty feet:

And for the mothers who take in abandoned children--despite their own impoverished conditions:

I will speak, I will write, I will love.

To earn YOUR letter of recommendation from the poor, please click HERE to sponsor a child. (And when you sponsor a child, send me an email so I can thank you personally).

And now.....

my wrecked, ragged body must rest for awhile. Will you carry on the work?