Several years ago, Gaby and I hiked up the mountain from our Help & Hope Center in the tiny barrio of Villa Bahareque outside Rubio, Venezuela. Our goal was to climb the 2,000 or so steps to check on the welfare of one of the students at our Help & Hope Center in Villa Bahareque. Maria, 11, had been absent for several days, and was not doing well at school.
On the way up, we stopped at a tiny shack. Inside was an elderly woman, quite frail. She asked us to stay a while and talk, and something told me we should. Gaby and I shared the love of God with her, and we left feeling blessed, but wondering how she’d get down the mountain if she needed medical help.
More steps up the hill, and another quick stop to greet a young mother of three, two children running over to greet us (“Hola, Senor!”), and another child lying in their mother’s lap – a 2-year-old so developmentally delayed she resembled an infant in size. Mom was shy, but wore a wide smile as we said hello.
Finally at the top, we reached Maria’s home – a patchwork of tin and cardboard with a family of 9 living inside. As Gaby and I spoke with her outside the home, we learned the underlying reason for her recent change in behavior: Mom had just had a baby, and as the oldest, Maria was expected to take care of the chores and her siblings. We visited for a while and fussed over the baby.
Villa Bahareque is not a place to be after dark, so we hurried down the mountain as the sun began to set. A couple weeks after our visit, we learned the frail woman, the sick 2-year-old, and Maria’s baby sister had all died.
Life is so hard for the poor. Sharing Christ with them is essential. And showing them that you care about them is showing them God’s love. I am humbled to be able to extend the love of God to our extended family of Venezuelan and Colombians living in severe hardship in the mountains of the Andes.