Leslie is eleven. Her shy smile hides a rough life that has many times been dark and lonely. During the school year, she wakes up, gets her uniform on and walks an hour to the other side of town to go to school to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor.
She said she chose a school so far away because she wanted to be at the same school as her cousin. It’s nice to have someone you know at the same school. Especially when you’re eleven and have just managed to graduate from the first grade. Her cousin is in the fourth grade, but it’s nice to have someone you know nearby.
Studies have been tough on Leslie. She told us she used to study with a lady at her home, but she wasn’t learning much so her mother who works hard to keep up with the basic costs of food and clothes agreed to send her to a school where she could learn more.
Her mom works as a house maid, washing dishes, and cleaning to make ends meet, but there never seems to be enough. Paying for school is tough, Leslie said. Sometimes her mom has to borrow the money to pay for school supplies that she needs.
Leslie and her mom share a basic living space of two rooms and a shared kitchen where they cook over an open fire on the floor with her sickly aunt and her grandmother who live on the same property. They have no running water and no electricity even though there are cables connecting them to the grid. The bills would be too expensive for their small budget. When it’s a matter of food or electricity, food wins.
The shadowy room Leslie shares with her mother was a dark place to study. Leslie told me it was hard after dark, because she only had the light of a candle to study by at a small desk she has set up as her own little study space next to the bed that Leslie shares with her mother.
This sweet girl has been coming to the Little Disciples Bible Study for about three years and has become actively involved in the praise and worship team. She likes to come to our house to play in the yard and help bake cookies at the special activities when Chrisi invites neighbor kids to come and learn in the kitchen.
When we began to visit the homes of the children who regularly come to our house each week, it took several weeks for Leslie to let us come visit her family. Finally, she came and guided us to her house at about sunset.
We arrived about 6 p.m. and it was almost dark. That’s how it is here in Guatemala. Being closer to the equator than the U.S., it doesn’t matter whether it’s summer or winter, things get dark about 6 p.m. and here in the mountains, the darkness comes on quickly once the sun falls behind the western mountains.
The shadows enclosing the group of houses betrayed the darkness that Leslie has become accustom to.
We visited with Leslie and her mother, aunt, and grandmother as we stumbled about the dark yard.
Their story slowly unfolded, Leslie’s dad and mom hadn’t gotten along and went their separate ways. Life was a struggle and the darkness was thick.
Along with some supplies of basic food items, rice, beans, oil, pasta, sugar, etc. we left small solar lights for Leslie and her family to pierce the darkness. We prayed for them and walked back to our home where light is available at the flick of a switch.
Weeks went by and I (Michael) found out that one of the lamps had fallen and broken plunging half the family back into darkness.
We made plans to visit Leslie again and this time, we took a ladder, a new solar lamp kit and an extra light.
While our kids played in the yard with Leslie; Chrisi chatted with the family, and Michael connected a set of three lights to a solar panel and switch by switch turned on lights in Leslie’s room, an outdoor wash area and in the smoky kitchen next door. The extra light went in the bedroom for Leslie’s aunt and grandmother.
They were grateful.
As we showed them how the system worked, they were excited to have light enough to do their daily house chores even when they come home late from working.
Leslie said that before studying at her little desk was hard, but now it’s “bueno” — good. She told us that she likes to read her Bible. The new light makes that easier.
Before we left that night we prayed for the sickly aunt who suffers from headaches. We shared with them about how these solar lights are to help with the physical darkness in their homes, but the light that Jesus Christ brings can bring light into their hearts.
We continue praying for Leslie and the dreams she has for her life. We pray that the light of Christ will flood her life as she reads her Bible, learns God’s Word at the Little Disciples Bible Study, and as she lives out the good plan God has for this young life.
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