After spending the first part of our trip in the Mexico City area, we flew south to spend the rest of our trip in the state of Chiapas. If you look this up on a map, you will see that we were almost to Guatemala!
On Monday of our trip, part of our group spent the day with their sponsored child, and the rest of us headed to the jungle community of San Jeronimo Tulija. This community is home to approximately 3,500 residents and the children here attend Emanuel Student Center, or ME975. Most of the adults in this community are unemployed, those who do work earn the equivalent of $45 per month by working on plantations. Compassion sponsorship allows the church staff to provide sponsored children with Bible teaching, health screenings, sports, hygiene and health education, community service opportunities, field trips, school supplies, homework supervision, reading workshops, special celebrations, and academic reinforcement.
Of the three centers that Matthew and I had the opportunity to visit, the children at this center were the most receptive and curious!
These children had prepared quite the welcome for us! Once we all had a chance to walk through the crowd of children, we made our way into the church.
Such a sweet little church!
The children welcomed us with quite a few songs.
While the children were singing, quite a few of them climbed up on the 'stage' and sat next to us. Like I said, they were very curious!
After the welcome time, we split up into groups to assist with the children's Bible activity time. The kids in our group were putting together booklets showing how the whole the Bible is laid out. We were able to help the teachers cut up and fold the large sheets of paper the kids were using to make their booklets. Interesting note though, we did not have a translator with our group! Basic Spanish really came in handy during this time! Tres? Quatro? Si!
Matthew had a bit of a motion sickness with the bus ride to this location, so he spent some time with some of the other kids showing them what happens when you put crumpled up paper over a blowing fan. This kept them quite busy with lots of giggles!
Before lunch, a few of us walked over with some of the kids to one of the local parks for a quick game of soccer. I tagged along for the walk and to get some pictures.
Once we arrived back at the church, it was time for lunch. By this time, I was feeling a little overwhelmed with the heat, the humidity (it was very humid this day!), and just everything I was still processing from the trip so far. Tears were streaming down my face and I knew I just needed a break. So I found a spot inside the church to rest.
After the children started finishing up their lunch, quite a few of the girls found me, sat with me, and started asking me questions. Talk about testing my little knowledge of Spanish! We kind of turned it into a game. I would point to something and ask, "Como se dice?" They would then give me the name in Spanish, I would repeat it (and they would laugh at me when I couldn't roll my 'r's'!), then they wanted to know how to say the word in English. This kept us quite busy for some time. A couple of the girls stroked my hair, and they laughed at my white legs. It was a very sweet time!
We had a bit of excitement once we all gathered back into the church. Sharon, one of the ladies on the trip with us, decided to sponsor one of the young girls at this center! Talk about a tear jerking moment!
At this point, we split up into groups again. Sharon, her new sponsored child, and a few of the others went to the child's home for a visit, while the pastor took the rest of us on a walking tour of his community.
The one thing I regret about this whole walk around the community? My camera battery had died! Even though I had another charged battery with me, I had left my camera on the bus. This whole area was so amazingly beautiful (and that water was so tempting to jump into with the kids!), and these photos from my phone just don't do the area justice.
But I am so thankful for the time we had here, thankful for this pastor who loves his community and the children, thankful for the many smiles and hugs from so many children, thankful that Compassion is able to come alongside the local churches to help make a difference for these children living in poverty.
There are more children waiting today, for someone like you, to help change their world.
I have one more day of our journey to blog about, you are not going to want to miss it! Hopefully, I can have it ready for you in the next few days.