I spanned rows of dark faces while wild applause surrounded my search. Our team felt like celebrities stepping into a poverty-ridden world. These children had been anticipating this day for months. So had we. Our $34 monthly investment radiated in the smiles (and hardy claps) of over a hundred Honduran children. Meeting our sponsored child was worth more than the dollar a day we gave up. It was life-changing, and a small investment sure to bring great returns. For us all.
Once my eyes landed on one of our girls, I couldn’t get to her fast enough. Emma Valicillo’s face lighted up as she saw me pushing through the aisle to get to her. Jumping up from her chair, she hugged me like she’d never leg go. I led her out the door to meet up with David, and she draped herself around him like a human necklace. Chatting endlessly like we understood Spanish, she pleaded with us to take her back to the states. She wanted to be a Cooper. Shocked at her request, I told her she could never leave her momma. But she nodded as if it would be the easiest thing in the world to do.
Fourteen year old, Karen Corea, had grown up since last year. Once a mischievous little girl who loved to tease, she was now a reserved young lady not as anxious to show her affection. I’ll never forget visiting Karen’s home on our first trip to LaCeiba. Chickens and other varmints roamed freely in and out, then nestled in the backyard close to the outdoor kitchen. (Did they have any idea they might be the family’s next meal?) Her mother asked us if we would take Karen back to the states if something ever happened to her. I was shocked at how easily they trusted us. How easily she would give up her daughter to someone she just met!
This was our third year in LaCeiba, and the air was buzzing with excitement. Tomorrow the children would spend the afternoon with their sponsors. Pizza and shopping! Not many had ever been out of the village before. I could hardly wait to experience this with them. David and I were there to bring a little hope into the lives of Emma Valicillo and Karen Corea. One child matters. And both of them would have gladly jumped in our suitcases if at all possible.
But my excitement was shattered when I found myself perpendicular to the ground. The anticipated shopping spree came to a screeching halt as the lady who wanted to give these girls the time of their lives lay flat on her back. They didn’t come near me. Fear in their eyes, they looked helplessly at the one who was supposed to change things for them…even if for a day. Racked with pain, I found it hard to focus on my intended mission with these kids. I was devastated.
Hopes and dreams came smashing down. Not only for me, but for our Karen and Emma. It was only day three of our trip. I would not finish out the week. No more home visits; no more games; no more Bible school lessons; no more interaction with the children. My part was over and done.
Because my medical evacuation was delayed for two days, I remained flat on my back in the Honduran hospital. This did allow David to accompany the girls to Pizza Hut and the mall. He got the joy of buying them new shoes and dresses. I missed it all. But I’m so glad the girls did not. (What an experience for a dad who had two sons)!
Probably most of us have had our plans shattered at some time. Disappointments aren’t rare in life. Sometimes our circumstances take an immediate turn for the worse.
How do we respond when life hits us hard, without wallowing in self-pity and depression?
Personally, I have to look up. To the One who is the Strength of my life. To the One who has never failed me yet. To the One who turns all things for good, even when it doesn’t seem possible there could be any good.
When I look to Jesus, He supplies grace when I need it most. He restores hope when I’m disappointed (and in pain).
Even when I’m doing good things…
Even when there’s a turn of events…
Even when things break (like a hip)…
Even when a mission is cut short (like day three)…
Even before I can make a difference in someone’s life…
The choice is alway ours to make. I had to decide whether to live in resentment and bitterness. Or set up my camp in hope. It was battle for sure.
God calls to us in our pain. Come to me!
Return to your fortress, you prisoner of hope.
I have pitched my tent in the land of hope.
Over four months later, I look back in amazement at the goodness of God. He saw me through my disappointment. He saw me through my healing and restoration. Today I’m walking up to three miles without pain. Because I pitched my tent in the land of hope, because I returned to my fortress (the Rock, Christ Jesus), something beautiful happened. Not only on the outside, but on the inside. You see, perfect peace and rest took over my soul…because I looked up to Him.
There’s no place I’d rather live than in the land of hope! Where are you pitching your tent?