Meet Junior - By Lindsay McVety
A young kid who impacted our Canada Christian College Mission Team Leader while she was serving with her group at WMO's Feeding Program in La Churreca (a dump that some call home). This is a message you do not want to miss.
Okay, I think I'm finally ready to tell his story. This is the one that stopped me in my tracks. His face revealed to me that no matter how many times you go on a missions trip or see poverty or tragedy, there are always moments that can break you even more.
When I had to tell him goodbye, my heart shattered. It wasn't about feeling sorry for him or anything like that. I just had this intense need and desire to know that he would be okay after we left. My heart ached, emotionally and physically as we drove away from his home. And here goes...
Meet Junior: This little man changed me. His story is best told through pictures.
Junior lives in La Chureca. As many of you know, this is the city dump. His home is inside the gate of the dump and very close to where people actually scavenger for items to resell or repurpose in order to make a living. When I met Junior, little did I know that this would be the first of many pictures we would share together. He approached me as I exited our bus, and he handed me two pieces of candy. That little exchange was the start to our friendship.
Our next encounter was about 5 minutes later when he asked to use my camera. Our team is usually very careful about lending our electronics, but his smile got the best of me... I handed it right over to him and let him start clicking away. I taught him about the settings and showed him how to focus. He nailed it! He truly was a natural.
Here, Junior sits at the beginning of the service. He was super patient and well behaved. He sat right beside where I was standing, and that was when I noticed that he had picked me. That sounds weird, so let me explain... whenever we go to feeding programs, there are about a handful of kiddos who pair up with the team. It's really sweet because it's kinda like they pick you to be their little mentor for the day. Usually the really young little girls link up with me, so I was surprised to realize that a 10 year old little boy was spending the whole program with me instead of running around playing soccer with the guys in the group.
Here's Junior photobombing :) He made his way into the background of pretty much all of my photos this day. And as you can see, he's just about the sweetest most affection child I've ever met. He would press his little face up to mine when he hugged me. So special. So sweet.
Remember when I said how we dont share electronics, well.... that sweet smile got my iPhone too... He was so trustworthy. Of course I kept my eye on him to make sure my phone didn't walk off, but tbh I knew he was going to be just fine.
He was loving the facebook videos. He and his little friend Justin searched "Lions" and watched video after video. They spent the majority of their time doing this after they finished eating.
That face! Makes my heart melt.
Taylor helped him search other things and showed him videos of other animals.
Ryan told me later on after this picture that Junior started walking around with my phone saying "Lindsay" several times. I had wandered down the street to meet with another family, being the responsible person I am and leaving my phone behind. Junior kept it safe though and tugged on Ryan's pants repeating my name over and over again. Ryan realized he was looking for me and walked him over to the house I was at. He said that when he saw me, his face lit up and he started running towards me.
This was the next photo... right after we were reunited :) He returned my phone and went on to talking about the program. That was when he realized all the gifts had been given out but he had not received anything. See, he had been so busy hanging out with us that he had forgotten to get in the Christmas line and get a toy for himself. A little tear came down his face when we realized we had given everything out, and about the same time a matching tear fell from my eyes. The toy was a really small thing, just a teddy bear from the dollar store, but to Junior, it was much more. It was a connection to our team. It was a way to remember us. It was an act of love and a representation of our friendship.
We ended up not finding another teddy, so we gave him the only thing we could find which was a couple of snacks. I could see the disappointment in his face when he said thank you. He was fighting the tears and trying to be thankful. He walked away to his house, and just when he was out of sight, I saw Ryan's soccer ball. I immediately ran to Ryan, frantically asked to give it away, and without hesitation he said yes. Since Junior was already gone, I sent one of his friends to get him. When he came back, I handed him the soccer ball. We don't have a picture of that hug, but that moment was priceless. The moments that followed weren't photographed either, but they were the moments defined our relationship. Junior went on to tell me that he was 10 years old and lived in the dump. He explained that his father had abandoned him in the dump years ago and that he lived there with his mom. She works in the dump scavenging for treasures to sell on the street. Meanwhile, he stays in the dump with his neighbors and friends. I was able to learn that he is a Christian and attends the church in the dump every day for his meal and is learning how to read. He asked if he would ever see me again, and I assured him that one day, he would see me again, but that I didn't know when. I told him that our team comes down a few times a year and that I would try very hard to come back and see him. I explained that he should keep going to church and learning, and he promised that he would. Then he asked if when I came back if I could bring him a nice shirt and pants. My heart started to break in that moment. He started crying and pointing to his mismatched dirty outfit. I knew that his clothes had come from the dump, and I also knew that was probably all he had. So many thoughts rushed through my head as I agreed to bring him an outfit next time. This one thought has remained with me: Junior is a 10 year old boy who received a soccer ball as his 1 single Christmas gift, yet he asked for clothes instead. As we said our goodbyes, it was intense. The love I had for this child was strong, even though I had only known him for 2 hours. I wanted to scoop him up and take him with us. The thought actually crossed my mind, how can we adopt him and bring him home. That's not what he needs though. He has a mom, and he has a home. It's different from mine, but his home is full of people who will look out for him and take care of him. I shared all of these stories with Ryan yesterday explaining that I was still missing him, and he gave me a new perspective. That soccer ball is going to help him in more ways than 1. He is going to be the glue. Junior has the key instrument to bringing the guys in his community together. He will be able to make friends through playing soccer. He will be able to stay out of trouble because he will be too busy playing soccer. Also, if you've read our team's story about Oscar, then you'll know that he will be cared for because they live in the same community. His pastor is the man I posted about yesterday. Junior is going to be okay because God has placed him around good people. His situation isn't perfect, but right now, it's part of God's plan.
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