The Failures of Facebook
We had ten minutes until the bonfire started. Session had ended for the night, and I was ready to go talk with some gringos, ready for some English. Sitting through a praise and worship time, conducted entirely in Spanish was beginning to take its toll. Even though I understood the entire thing, I thrived in the environment, we were nearing the end of a second camp, and translating was wearing me down. We were divided into groups, and Leah and Kira, and year older than and younger than myself respectively, were the other gringo leaders to our six girls, all Ecuadorean, all Spanish speaking, all in middle school. We had shared our testimonies earlier in the day. How God used a camp to save Kira, how He helped Leah thrive as a leader, how He used lies that were spread about me to teach me forgiveness and grace and how to love people. It was the last night of camp, and we were celebrating with a bonfire. We had ten minutes before it started.
There was a tiny room, more of a hallway really, that joined the larger cafeteria, (its benches and tables were used for Egyptian Rat Screw, a card game that we played with the Ecuadorean campers during free time) with the chapel room. Against one wall was a wooden bench. Off to the side, the bathrooms, and a door that led to a large stack of wood, slightly wet form the rain (we were in the jungle). The wood had been placed there for the bonfire.
We sat in a circle, two girls on the bench and the rest on the cold tile floor. Dan had joined our little group as well. An American, originally from Atlanta, he had worked as a missionary in Ecuador for the past 13 years. To fill the ten minutes before the bonfire, we asked the girls to share with us their stories, how God had worked in their lives. Dan was there to translate. It turns out, even though I could speak in Spanish and understand everything they were saying, I would be in no position to translate.
I don’t remember who spoke first. I just remember they kept coming, their stories, their tears, their brokenness.
“The day after I accepted Christ, I came home. Something was wrong. My dad wasn’t there. He was in rehab. Then mom got pregnant. She had troubles, and the doctors said we had to choose… our mom, or the baby growing inside her. ” She stopped, her voice breaking. “Dad was gone. We needed mom. There was six of us…. But God let us keep both of them.”
The day after she accepted Christ, her world stopped turning. Would I have that kind of faith? I hope so.
But then another.
“My mom went away on business. We found out that she left us, that she lived with another man, had another family. She called me right before we left for camp, told me that I and my brother were proof that there was no god. She told me she hated me. Her family treats us like we are trash. My mom and her sister tell me they hate me.”
Hearing it once was enough; hearing the brokenness in their voices and seeing their precious faces contort in painful recollection. As Dan translated the story into English, I fought the urge to cover my ears. Why God, would I want to hear that, that story, for another time?
But the stories didn’t stop. And neither did my tears.
The story in Spanish. Their voices crack as they cry, as I cry for them. The story in English. Listening to their journey through hell for a second time.
“My mom was depressed, and poisoned all our food. She was trying to kill us all.”
“I fell off a three story building. Landed on the cement.” She pulled back her bangs, revealing a three inch long, half and inch wide scar.
I had noticed the mark earlier when she was washing her face, but attributed it to surgery. She hid it well, clearly from years of practice.
* * *
We missed the bonfire. Instead, we sat in a circle on cold tile floors, and cried. A conversation expected to take 10 minutes, as a filler, ended up taking an hour and a half. Funny, how openly bearing your brokenness can bring healing.
These girls had the happiest smile and a laugh more melodic than anyone else I have ever met. But they were carrying with them a burden so heavy that it broke everyone in the room, broke us to the point of tears. Broke, and healed.
And convicted. Because it was in that moment, when I felt my heart break not for myself, but for a girl who can’t understand me when I speak, that I knew who I was going to be, who I felt called to be.
A major in Spanish couldn’t possibly be easy. Living a life in a foreign country is anything but stable, predictable, comfortable. But how else could I learn to tell them I love them? How else could I prove it? How else could I show Jesus?
Facebook can only do so much.