Have you ever met one of those people whose faith was so strong, they seemed to glow?
I met one of those people today, in the slums of Santo Domingo.
Her name was Maria. Can you see Jesus’s light shining brightly through her eyes? Her faith was contagious, and in the middle of that slum, I yearned to be like her.
Despite her circumstances, she couldn’t stop praising the Lord.
Let me tell you her story.
In a Slum
After spending about 20 minutes walking through a river front slum in Santo Domingo, we visited Maria’s home.
It was small (half the size of my college dorm room), dark (the only light was coming in from the doorway), and sweltering (sweat started dripping down my back almost immediately).
But within a few minutes, we didn’t notice any of this.
All we saw was 5’2” Maria, in her pretty flowered sundress and bright smile, and all we heard was her articulately sharing her story and faith in the Lord.
Over and over she talked about his faithfulness.
Several years ago, she started her small store with $30 her husband gave her. He had intended for her to purchase a watch, but she used it to purchase some cups and plates to start a small business. She was desperate for a way to provide for her family, and she saw the $30 as an opportunity.
Quickly people began buying from her, and she was able to grow her business. Today she sells a wide variety of things including toiletries, panties and girls t-shirts. Maria’s husband is no longer in the picture, but thanks to her business she is able to support her four boys who are 17, 16, 14 and 2.
Storms and Slums
Living in the river slum means that storms and flooding cause horrible damage yearly. Sometimes, homes are demolished. Twice her family has had to evacuate. Twice she has lost everything. Twice she has had to rebuild her business. Once her son got so sick from the storm, he had to go to the hospital because he had fluid in his bones. Many times she has used tarps and buckets to collect water pouring in from her tin roof.
Support from World Vision
But because of World Vision, Maria has received aid. When the most recent storm hit, Maria reached out to World Vision for help, and they provided her with a new roof and floor. Also, two of her boys are sponsored through World Vision, and sponsorship has given her boys a better future through medical and educational support.
Hope in the Lord
Thankfully, Maria finds her hope and strength in the Lord. Maria came to know the Lord in 1998 through worship music at a church in the slum. She told us that since coming to know the Lord, things are not as hard. She told us that her greatest desire is for her boys to grow up to love and serve the Lord because if they are serving the Lord, she will be at peace knowing that He will take care of them – no matter what.
I looked around her tiny shack and I was in awe of her faith.
How is it possible to have so much faith when you are living in squalor?
How is it possible to say whatever the Lord wants for my life is good enough – when your home is damaged or destroyed every year?
I want to trust God like that.
When I asked how we could pray for her, Maria said, whatever is on your heart to pray for me, that is what I want you to pray. The Lord knows my needs, and He will direct you. She then went on to say that her single greatest desire, besides her children loving the Lord, was to someday move out of her home and into another home that wasn’t near the river. She said that while her living conditions would likely be the same, she hopefully wouldn’t lose so much with every storm.
Can you imagine?
If you lived in a shack in a slum not much bigger than a bathroom, had lost everything you owned twice, and had four boys to care for on your own, could you only think of one thing to mention when someone asked how they could pray for you?
I would likely have a list a mile long of things I would want.
But not Maria. She couldn’t stop praising the Lord for the gift of World Vision and the gifts that he has blessed her life with – her business, her sons, her faith.
That was enough.
We left her home with tears in our eyes and hope in our hearts. We told her we would share her story and that thousands would be impacted. She prayed that others would be blessed and that World Vision would be able to help more people like her.
When she hugged me, she squeezed tightly, like we were old friends. She kissed my cheek and said gracias.
Thank YOU Maria. Thank you.
I’m praying for you today. I am praying that Maria’s story moves you to make a difference. While it still appeared like the conditions in Maria’s life were awful, thanks to World Vision and the Lord, Maria did not see it that way.
And the same is true for other families.
Won’t you please consider sponsoring a child? $35 a month is something that most people can pull together. It is just a little more than $1 a day. You can do it.
You can make a difference.