Piura, Peru. Summer 2007.
Love and ambition line the streets, piled under mounds of food, clothing, and amenities that have been used a hundred times over. Malnourished dogs sift through the rubble in search of a scrap of food to keep them alive. Underneath the swollen bellies and bare rib cages there’s a story buried deep within. From the church-driven community to their pets, their hope is the only force pushing them through each day. Our small contribution is appreciated, but what they require is beyond our group’s capacity.
I couldn’t understand why these people were dealt the hand they were. Why in a world with such aces did so many people end up with 2’s and 3’s? As one, our help is limited, a pair and we can help double our impact; all it comes down to is how we play our hand.
Our original mission was not only financial aid but to emit hope. We gave families a leg-up so self-support would be attainable. We bettered eighteen families’ lives in one week; leaving them with a sanctuary of safety, love, and community. But, the shelters weren’t the most profitable exchange. We took the pot; the families taught us how to love and to trust. They were more proud of having nothing than we are of having everything. We missionaries learned that we’re clouded by our possessions. In having everything, we appreciate nothing. The Peruvians are stripped down to survival and couldn’t be happier. We were sent to Peru not to save these people, but for them to save us.
I believe we each have a place in the world. In a game of poker only one person may end up with the ace of spades while the person next to them a hand of faceless cards. The next round a different player may end up with the ace. Life comes down to a string of lucky hands. The story is in how we play those cards for the betterment of the players.
“I want to tell you a story.” said Father Joe, priest of the church in Piura and the people’s link to their Savior. “At the local orphanage there is only enough food for one meal a day, dinner; we’ve picked this time so the girls don’t go to sleep hungry. In the last month the church hasn’t had proper funding to stock the pantry for the one meal a day. Instead of rationing the food to every other day, the older girls have offered themselves up to suffer while the younger girls eat. Their rationale is the younger girls need the nutrients to grow, where it isn’t as important for their health.” A numbing chill began in my heart and spread throughout my body. How can I complain about not getting a pair of designer jeans while these girls sacrifice for the health of their sisters? It’s now that I step back and realize the flaw in my wants.
We can’t control the cards but rather the way they’re played. The best poker players are the ones that can take nothing and turn it into something. Each one of us was sent here to accomplish one task; the people of Piura send faith and hope to every person they encounter, I believe my job is to make this opportunity known. To succeed in the game of life you must know your place on the board.
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