Playing at La Limonada Today
Last night we sat around with our #LIbloggers team to become better acquainted and listen to the Lemonade International directors, Bill and Tita, shared their hearts about the time investment they’re making in the La Limonada community. I was amazed to learn that Lemonade International is the only organization dedicated to serving only the people in La Limonada, a 1 mile by 1/2 mile settlement in a valley in Guatemala City.
Today I experienced probably every emotion I can imagine. We were witness to stories here of people in this densely populated community who experience different types of tragedy on a regular basis. To say all of these stories is a lot to take in would be only scratching the surface.
We greeted and observed so many children today in the Lemonade International academies – they were singing, played games with us, smiled from ear to ear, and hugged us. You would never guess some of these children walked into their school this morning past the scene of a crime. You’d never guess that many of these children have witnessed things I couldn’t imagine surviving. Everyone was grateful to be alive, to go to school, and never complained.
In between school visits, we stopped into the homes of people in the La Limonada community to whom Tita and her team minister regularly. I sat in the one room home of a woman who had major surgery placing pins in her arm after being shot next to her brother-in-law this past January. He died. Less than two months later her husband died. Just 12 days ago she gave birth to a beautiful little girl who look like the referral photos we have of Mackenzie at a young age – gorgeous face, big brown eyes, and a head full of dark hair. I held this baby and cried today. I thought about Mackenzie’s broken story and this newborn’s already difficult start to her life. I looked at this new mother, her brothers-in-law, her sister-in-law, and her mother-in-law with whom she now shares a home. They were smiling through their pain. They welcomed us warmly and we had a good conversation. Before we left, I had the opportunity to pray for this family. They asked for nothing – they simply wanted the community and spiritual advice and support that Lemonade International team provide each week. The people of Lemonade International are building relationships that are breaking down gang lines.
Moments later we were ushered into the home of a woman who is paralyzed from a gang shooting. She is only 31 and many of her siblings have died. She is raising nieces and nephews on her own. This woman told us a story of extreme illness that made my stomach turn, yet she shared she is grateful because one of her nieces is a sponsored child in the Limon academy, meaning she is educated (gets a Bible lesson every week day, gets to brush her teeth, takes a vitamin, and receives the love and support of a community of teachers who are passionate about investing in young children in this urban slum so they don’t grow up to choose the life of being in a gang).
By day’s end, I wanted to cry. I feel a great pressure to convey how much hope there is in this community despite what is visible to someone who doesn’t take a second glance. I wanted to cry for the similar situation Mackenzie’s birth mother Telma was in when she chose to put her up for adoption. Everyone in La Limonada has difficult choices to make…choices you and I cannot likely understand. The education and relationships provided to sponsored children at the La Limonada academies can prevent today’s elementary aged children from even facing some of the difficult circumstances their parents are facing today.
What blows my mind is that – on the arms of the Lemonade International team – we are safe. I cannot express the peace that rests in the Lemonade International locations. Everywhere we walked today, we were greeted with warm holas and smiles. We heard stories of children enjoying their school work and staying in school beyond grade 6 (which is not common in the La Limonada community). We met licensed psychologists who work full time to help the children in these academies process the symptoms of growing up where they live. We saw a classroom of children ages 11-12 working on a Bible lesson about forgiveness following the recent crime in front of their school.
Perhaps most overwhelming was listening to a woman tell us in her home that she is most blessed because her children are sponsored to be in school. She’s a widow, is caretake for her ill sister, and has 4 children and 1 grandchild. There is a small store (“tienda”) at the front of her home on the street that is her only source of income. Were her children not sponsored, they would’ve stopped being educated after 6th grade. Today her daughter dreams of being an accountant. After we prayed for her and her family, she told us she prays we are all blessed. How incredible!
If you’d like to make a difference in the future of a child in La Limonada community by investing in this generation of school-aged children, please click this banner below to learn more.