Saturday, October 9, 2010

A pulpit for a sister

I had an idea to sit down with Dora this week to interview her for this blog. The impetus behind that is perhaps another story for another time. I should add that in addition to the point being to write something for the blog...I wanted to have a reason to sit down, talk to her, and find out probably some things about her that I did not know either. I asked her permission, she was amiable to the idea, and by the end...almost excited by the idea.

(Here is a picture of Dora and seven of her eight children. What you are seeing is about 25% of the total size of her house by the way)

I am not an interviewer. I mentioned to her on Wednesday we could talk, and Friday squeezed in a half hour between eight patients that morning (another blog about that coming soon) and just sat down. I asked a few questions along the way, but the whole thing just kind of took its own direction from one banal, boring, question that came to mind (Godincidence): "Where were you born?" I will write her answer, and where this went from here without my questions, more of like her just telling you what she told me, from her first person perspective from here:

I was born in San Pedro Sula. My family moved to Tegucigalpa when I was four, because of my dad's drinking and drug problem. My grandmother lived here, and they thought that coming to live here would help him in his problems. Instead, the problems went from bad to worse. When I was five or six, IHNFA (a government institution that in this regard acts like child protective services in the US) came to take me away from my parents due to child abuse. They put me in Casa Alianza, but after a short time, probably a few months, they figured out that I did not have the behavioral problems that the street kids and drug abusers that lived there had. They did not know anything about me, so it is not surprising that they put me there first. Once they figured that out, they sent me to a girl's home that was run by nuns. I lived there for a year. My mother would come sometimes during this year, but the nuns eventually hid me when she came because every time she came, she just came to tell me all the problems and things that were bad in the family. After that, I was moved to another girl's home, more like a normal home with only 13 girls living there, again run by nuns, it was called Santa Teresa.

During those seven years, I have never really told anyone this before, but I became depressed, contemplated suicide, and was just empty inside. My mom never came to visit me...I had no family. When I was 16 I decided I wanted to leave, I wanted to strike out and find my family, to start a family....just to have a family. So I started a fight, and the nuns then took me to my godmother that lived in Tegucigalpa, and she took me in to live with her. I wanted a family, but by this time I knew nothing about them.

It just happened that my brother who is three years older than I...who was also taken away from my parents by IHNFA, showed up at my godmother's house one day. We wanted to try to find our family, but they had basically disappeared. All of my brothers and sisters were scattered.

During this time, I wanted to start a family. I met my oldest daughter Noli's father...when I was 16. Things after I met him went from bad to worse. I did not know what to expect being part of a couple. I found out he started seeing another woman after I became pregnant. I immediately left him and wanted nothing to do with him even when he tried to find me...I dol him no way. I left, by myself, and went wherever I could, pregnant, looking for any kind of work I could find, to get a place to sleep, some food...anything. I ended up working as a maid in a house. I was trying to work hard and save what I could.

Where I was working, Ricardo, the father of my other seven children, was a neighbor. I did not originally pay him any mind, even though we talked and he would look for me when I would go to buy something at the pulperia. I was afraid of getting closer to him that the same thing would happen as with Noli's dad. For two years...I was alone.

Then we got more serious ,and he wanted to start a life as a "marinovio" (cross between shacking up together as common-law spouses and a boyfriend.) I told him no, what I wanted was to form a family. He accepted, and we lived in his mother's home. There things went from worse to the worst. All his family treated me horribly...his parents, his siblings, his cousins...he had a big family. I was the ugly duckling, so to speak. During this time I had Ricardito and Diana...but things were so bad, I had to leave and started to live on the street. I ate trash, slept in fields...we lived four to five years like that.

My mother showed back up during this time, they were set with a house and everything...but I was shut out, not allowed to go there. They never helped me at all. We slept in the rain...if you have kids and no home, you are worthless, just a sinner, you are a sin.

One day, walking near the clinic, we were tired, and sat down. That is when I met Valerie. We had not eaten at all that day. Valerie saw me and asked me something, I don't remember what, but she must have seen how hungry the children were, and she gave me a gallon of milk and some cookies. She asked me, "Where do you live?" I told her...on the street. That is where I bathed...on the street. That is where we changed our clothes, everything. Valerie started helping me then.

What do I think about God? I have always been positive, strong in the Lord. When doors close, a window opens. I am patient...sure I wonder why all this has had to happen, but I knew it would be all right. I try to never complain or whine, but rather say "thank you God that this is happening. I do not like it, but I know it will work out."

My life has not been easy, it is like a soap opera. God had me do all this...and I had a dream that one day I would have a pulpit to be able to stand up and tell my story to encourage someone else who is going through something like this.

I still worry about my children, how I will provide for them....everything is on me, I am the father and mother of my family. I have different problems than I had before. Finding a good father...has not worked out. My life is like a father was bad, my children's father, the same. But I am breaking that chain for them as they grow up for when they will have their own families.

God's mercies are new every morning...something I remembered every day that I might have been ready to throw in the towel...I stuck to Him because I knew everything has a reason, even when I was encouraged to sell myself to men to make money when we were living on the streets, I knew better, I knew I needed to stay faithful to Him. People would tell me that I was pretty, that I could easily make money selling myself...but family is important to me, I was saving myself for one man. Above all, I love God and He loves me and tells me I am not alone. Faith moves mountains, and God moved me for the faith I have in Him. My dream is that my children would have a different life than I have had, as Christians.

How is that going with the children? It is difficult for Noli...she is sad, tired, and overworked with responsibilities to help the family. It is hard for me to know how to handle that. My kids are great, they show love to me every day in small ways, and help a lot...I mean a lot at the house. They like to go to Church as well. I feel good, safer and with more faith in God every day. It is not easy still, but I am not complaining...all this is helping me to be the person I am today.

(at this point I asked her one additional question...with a reason I won't get into here) ...Why, with living on the street, with the problems you had, etc. (a big etc.)...did you decide to have more children? Her answer was immediate: They are my dad, mom brothers...I wanted a big family because I have no family. I was always alone. It may not have been a good decision because I have such a responsibility, but they fill that empty place. I grew up around strangers...every Sunday visitors would come for every other girl in the home...but not for me. Some of the children were not planned as such...but I am not sorry, they are a blessing. (some decisions in that process were made for her if you catch my drift.)

I have to say, Valerie is like a guardian angel...God has a reason. God used you as a ladder for me to get where I am...a house, kids in school, a job. You have been an enormous help for my family, used by God. If not for Him using you...where else would I go?

Felipe again... I had no expectations of what we would discuss...I had no idea that she would be crying through part of it, and although I knew much of the story, I really did not know the depths to which it went. I understand better why she has been so accepting of her parents in the last few years...parents who even now do nothing but abuse her, take advantage of her when they need something, and give her nothing good in return. A soap opera indeed...there are things I could share here about that, but it seems almost unbelievable, your own mother trying to kill you in front of your kids, encouraging your daughter to "settle down, find a guy, and get pregnant"...and the list goes on. I understand why she invested so many years of her life in a man who has given her, apart from those beautiful children, nothing but heartache...and other sagas worse than any soap opera could conjure.

We also discussed that her dream in some ways was coming true in this rather untraditional pulpit.


Cindy in California said...

Wow! What a tragic yet compelling story. Unfortunately it's similar to many others in Honduras and around the world. Thank you for sharing it.

Thank you also for reaching out to her, helping her, providing her a job and therefore the opportunity to be self-suffient, break the chain of abuse for her children and this untraditional pulpit from which to share her story.

The Mom (Leah) said...

Such a compelling story and one that needs to be shared in the pulpit. Makes me think of the stories of how Jesus helped the poor and down-trodden.
I really enjoyed getting to know Dora as I worked beside her in the sewing project. Hope to do it again.

Laurie said...

Dora and I spoke today. She was happy to know her story was being told, but she hinted that she left out even worse parts. I love her so much.