The world looks different from the back of a pick-up truck.
We have been driving for 15 minutes away from the Mount Zion Christian Church, home to Compassion's Child Development Center in Villa Verde, when we take a left just past the home of Pastor Modesto. We stop for a minute to let out a family he had picked up on the way. They look grateful to have 30 minutes' worth of tread unexpectedly left on their shoes.
The new road turns steep quickly. My back is pressed against the window of the cab and my view is blue sky. In a minute the situation is reversed...I cling desperately to the roll bars and try to keep from sliding out of the back. I can picture myself rolling comically down the rocky incline. By the time we reach the top, our crew begins to peel off of each other.
The director of the Compassion project, Oscar, sits confidently on the edge of the bed. As we pass a long, winding valley (the edge of which I notice runs precariously close to the side of the road), Oscar begins to point out the homes of children...children I have yet to meet. I think ahead toward VBS this afternoon.
The truck lumbers to a stop when the road does. We face a path called a horse track here in Honduras...the branches have almost hidden it in places.
The likelihood that no North American has ever set foot on this rugged trail strikes me. I turn to Jonathan. "Who gets to do this?" He grins and sets one of the heavier bags on his shoulder...
I get the bag stuffed to bursting with crinoline. It seems bizarre to be bearing the same crinoline I wore under my wedding dress down a trail so rough and uncivilized.
Our team looks more like a bunch of pack horses, burdened as we are with these out-of- place department store totes. Marshall's and TJ Maxx obviously didn't design their bags for such an experience. More than one handle pops and hangs sadly down, swishing like a tail behind the unlucky carrier.
We pick carefully down the trail. Twice we cross a small mountain stream, balancing on stones, avoiding the clear, icy water that would no doubt have felt like heaven. It seems like forever. We pass nothing but trees and low growth.
My calves cry and the crinoline sags pitifully. We go up again. The rocks slide from under my feet. More than once my face almost tasted some sweet Honduran earth.
And then a flash of white. A house...long, low, mud and tile. Whitewashed.
And another flash of white...a smile this time...
It is Luz Maria's mother.
And the bags feel light again.
A warm hug and she disappears around the corner.
All my mind can think is "Where is my girl?"
As Pastor Modesto, Oscar, and our translators lead the way inside, the world is rocked by two pops, surely a shotgun...
Oscar smiles broadly. Hugo translates, for once no joke in his kind brown eyes. "Fireworks," he says. "They are telling every one that they have guests."
Can this be real?
I feel like my feet have been washed in a precious perfume.
There is no gift so dear, so sweet, as the gifts that the poor give.
My gifts in the center of the room pale in comparison to this.
We sit in the living room, bees buzzing in the window holes, blue sky spilling in at the door.
I wait for her. I wait for the fireworks in my heart. I wait for they joy of seeing my child in her own home...somehow in my mind it all fits with the girl I know, the girl I have been writing to for years, the girl I have come to see step into womanhood on her fifteenth birthday.
I have seen the hard 45 minute walk in her eyes, the corn fields in her hands, the love of a sister in her arms, and the warmth and generosity of this home in her embrace. Her words have brought me here...in my mind I have already walked this road with her many times. A part of me has already been here, carried over the creek and through the woods--my letters and my love.
Another flash of white in the doorway...this time a towel. Dripping hair, a smile.
Worlds collide. Garish shopping bags and stark reality. Nike tennis shoes and rubber boots. A bone crushing hug.
I'm not sure my heart will hold together.
I step over the threshold and into her world.
To be continued...