The hill sloped steeply down. Stepping carefully across trenches and natural folds on the side of the mountain, it was hard for me to conceive this was the front entrance to anyone’s house. Yet, it was.
I stooped and bowed to get my head under the sharp edges of the metal roof and had to pause to allow the pupils in my eyes to adjust to the sudden darkened shade. In these high altitudes, the sun is unusually bright. Sunscreen is a necessity.
The house was dirt floor, made of stones, cornstalks and tree branches, covered by the metal roof. There was no electricity. Food was cooked over an indoor fire pit, giving everything a smoky smell. Water came downhill through a hose from some unseen spring higher on the mountain. The hose terminated at a filthy outdoors wash tub.
A mother and her three children greeted us. She meekly smiled, lowered her eyes, and motioned for us to sit on the tree stumps next to the house.
She had been boiling leaves inside, over a charcoal fire. It was lunch for the mother and her under developed children.
Yeah. Boiled leaves.
As the realization of malnutrition set in I looked up at the outside door and noticed the skin of a rat had been pinned on the wall. Obviously it was all that remained from a prior meal. It caused me to shudder.
Through translators, we were able to hear this woman’s story. She was a single mother raising three children under the age of eight. She had a husband, who fathered one or more of her children, but he drank to excess and just disappeared one night, never to be seen again. She had a boyfriend, who fathered another of her children, but like her previous relationship, he had hit the road, too. She had no income, no job, and three children, none of which were registered at birth or enrolled in school.
Mom had reached out to local churches in the area. None of them would talk to her, or throw her a lifeline, because of her reputation with men. Times like these, it is embarrassing to be a pastor, let alone a Christian.
What is she supposed to do? She was like the skinned rat pinned to the wall; forever trapped in slavery, eventually skinned to death.
Our team had brought a 90 pound bag of food, expertly packed with food, vitamins, and essentials to help a family of four live for a month. Just add water. The mother had to be taught how to open the child proof bottles.
We also made certain that the local pastors and church leaders who were part of our team and who provided translation between English, Spanish, and Myan, were willing and able to follow up with this woman. She and her family were welcome in their church. They would visit her weekly. They would help find her a job and overcome legal problems to get the kids enrolled in school. A social worker was assigned to this mother and her family.
“Come up to our trucks after we are done praying,” we invited this woman. “Let’s get you and your children some new cloths.”
A glimmer of hope began to sparkle in her eyes. Someone loved her. Someone cared. She had friends who were reaching out to her family, expecting nothing in return. As we surrounded this woman and prayed for her and with her, I thought to myself; yes, Lord. The skinned rat can now be taken down.