She climbed into the van with her baby boy clutched to her chest. Her eyes wide open, wondering if she could trust these people she had only met yesterday, and worried about the answers she was about to receive. She knew her son was sick, she just didn’t know how sick.
That was a year ago on October 23.
Stefany was the first teenager we received at Village of Hope, and I have to be honest- we were scared. Everyone had warned us- telling us to stick with little kids because they were easier. The second day she was there, we woke up really early to go with Stefany and her son Angel to the hospital. I sat with her for 12 hours that day outside of the intensive care unit, and we talked. She was just like any other 16 year old. She liked listening to One Direction and watching TV. She wanted to be an attorney when she grows up, and she loves eating pizza with her friends.
The more we talked and she shared her story, the more I saw her scars and just how deep they were. She told me about her childhood and the abuse that had become normal. Expected. Taught. She shared with me how she felt unwanted, and that she looked everywhere- anywhere- for love. Those same abusive qualities that she had grown up with- she found in a boy. She didn’t know what love meant anymore. She told me about finding out that her baby growing inside of her had trisomy13, and how everyone told her that she should have an abortion, but she chose life.
On November 19, 2013, at just 5 months old, Angel passed away.
I hugged her as she received the news. I will never forget the sound of her sobbing. We walked side by side into the morgue, where she hugged her baby boy for the last time. Her strength amazed me. I held her as her son was laid to rest- something no mom should ever have to go through.
For several months after that, Stefany struggled, feeling like she had no purpose. There were times when she would cut herself out of desperation, or she would run off and hide, saying she wanted to escape. Sometimes I wondered if things would ever change, and I worried if we really could make a difference, knowing that time was the limit.
But, sometimes, in order to heal, you just need someone who will pick you up when you’ve hit rock bottom and be there to point you to the Rock.
So I would find her, and we would talk. I told her that God had a plan for her life. I told her about the opportunity God had given her, but it was up to her to take advantage of it- to use the gifts He had given her. We talked about boys and finding the right one. One who treats you like a princess. We talked about love. We talked about second chances. We talked about forgiveness.
In February 2014, Stefany gave her life to Christ and was later baptized. She now has hope and purpose. She has learned how to put others before herself, and her joy is unexplainable. She loves using her talents of singing and dancing for the Lord, and she tells everyone of what He did in her. Stefany radiates His love.
Stefany will soon be 18, which means she will be given the freedom to decide what happens and where she goes. Last week we talked about her thoughts and her decisions. We had both been praying hard about it. She cried as she told me how she had come to Village of Hope with Angel and was now facing leaving without him. We assured her that she was always welcome here, that no matter what she has a family and that we love her. She told me that she will never forget the lessons she learned, and the relationships she made, that if she leaves the first things she will do are to find a church and enroll in school, and she promised me that she wouldn’t settle for less than what she deserves in any relationship. I knew she was torn. She shared how much she would miss Village of Hope if she leaves, but that she misses her mom while she’s here. We prayed the same thing we had since the beginning- that God’s will be done. I stand confident knowing that Stefany had been given all the tools she needs. She knows what is safe, she knows what is right, and she has people that will love her and support her no matter what. I know that God is using her for great things.
A lot can happen when someone is willing to walk with you and show you truth. A lot can happen when someone believes in you and patiently and lovingly lets you heal.
That’s where I fit in at Village of Hope. I’ve been provided a unique experience that enables me to understand both the American and the Guatemalan culture. The past three years that I have served in Guatemala I’ve seen more pain than most people do in a lifetime, and I have been privileged to walk alongside many on the road to healing. I have wept with those who weep and I have mourned with those who mourn, but mostly, I have loved. And I have seen tremendous healing come through love.
After graduating high school, I prayed a lot about what I was supposed to do. Most of my friends were walking across their college campus for the first time; I was walking across the mission field. I was already doing what I wanted to do for the rest of my life- using my life to point others to Christ. So I am staying in Guatemala to continue serving and walking alongside the least, the lost, and the lonely. They may be in a crisis, but I believe that crisis’s can refine life. In the midst of the crisis you discover who you are and what you live for if only you have someone to help you make it through.
So now it time to step out as an adult missionary. My role will be as a crisis counselor-ministering to Guatemalan and American youth- to show them the One who carries them through the storm.
As I continue on this journey, I would love for you to partner with me.
To make a donation go to: http://www.cten.org/addisynblock/