I have struggled for years with blog-writing. The fact is that I love to write, but I don't love to write about myself. I have felt a lot of pressure to blog, as there seems to be an expectation for missionaries to do so and EVERYONE is doing it now. But a lot of blogs seem to be "navel-gazing," a constant over-sharing about me, me, me, or ranting about my opinions about something (again, me, me, me). Even many missionary blogs are all about the adventures, spiritual development, and humorous observations of the missionaries, and not about the people they have gone to serve.
But I think I have finally discovered what our blog should be about: those we serve in La Carpio. You guys can "get" me without much effort or instruction: just imagine that you yourselves have gone to live in a world where there is no Target or postal service (or addresses, for that matter). It's a shock. It's tough. Duh. You already get that.
But what is harder for you to know about and understand is the life of those in a marginalized community. You probably have so little personal experience with them that you can't even imagine properly what their lives are really like. And that's not your fault - you're far away from them. I, however, am here doing life with them. I observe the choices, the systems, and the privations that perpetuate the cycle of poverty in their lives. So THEY are what I should be telling you about. THAT I can write about without self-consciousness or guilt that it's all about me. THAT I can write passionately about.
So today, I want you to meet my friend C. A Jobs For Life grad and mother of one of our sponsored students, C has endured abuse from her husband for 11 years and is at a critical crossroads in her life right now.
In this "machismo" culture, a man's absolute reign and power (including physical) is undisputed. No one thinks much of the occasional black eye or bruised arm in the community. Screams from the next shack (that you share a wall with) are discreetly ignored. This results in many situations of battered wives and abused children and zero consequences for the offenders. Costa Rica is trying to come up to speed about the treatment of women, but the absence of battered women's shelters says a lot. There are still woefully inadequate support services for women in C's situation.
Like many abused women all over the world, she has hoped for improvement in her husband's character and peace in their family. They have 5 kids and she has wanted them to have a father present in the home. She loves him. Just when things get so bad she thinks about leaving, they get better for a while and she enjoys the latest honeymoon cycle and decides to stay. She fears retribution if she asks for help or calls the police to report him, inviting only an escalation of violence. Not to mention the economic implications: as a mother of five young kids, how will she work and support them? With her education level, she simply cannot earn enough even to pay for someone to care for the kids, must less for food, rent, transportation, and necessities for the kids. She certainly doesn't have family well off enough to take on the burden of helping her financially or provide her with a safe place to go. She is essentially trapped.
C's story is sad. What's even sadder is that we know there are so many like her who don't tell us what they're going through or ever reach that breaking point where they accept the risks of reaching out for help. And what's saddest is knowing that there are millions of stories just like hers all over the world. Living in a developed country that doesn't systematically tolerate violence against women is one thing. There is help and support. There are laws and resources. Living without a system that gives you justice is quite another.
Sure, the government wants to appear progressive and gives lip service to equality for women, but that's not how things work out in practice. Women are routinely objectified and harassed in this country, at work, on the bus, on the street, while shopping at the store. It's real and it's dehumanizing. And it's okay with the powers that be. So much so that a man who stood up very publicly (on social media) for women's rights last year was killed, stabbed to death on the street by thugs seeking revenge for the perpetrator that he had shamed.
As the abuse has escalated recently, C has come to grips with the fact that such a father is only a harm to her children. Recently, he tried to drown her in a bucket by holding her head under the water. A, our sponsored student, a fifth-grader, has shown psychological maladjustment. He stopped coming to bible study. He decided to stop going to school (probably because he was afraid of what would happen to mom while he was gone). Formerly an excellent student and a cooperative child, he is becoming rebellious and angry.
When we became aware of the situation, we were able to talk to C and to A. He's come back to bible study. He's gone back to classes at school to finish the year. But these improvements are temporary if C doesn't figure out how to make permanent changes in their lives for her own and the children's well-being. She's between a rock and hard place: choosing between her husband and economic survival or her children's and her own psychological health. She knows that by staying she risks losing her children one by one to gangs, teenage pregnancy, and/or drugs as an escape from the intolerable environment at home. But what, really, is her choice?
We've found a place to go for her and the kids if she chooses to leave: a generous Christian family that has the space and can help with food for several months while C looks for work and gets on her feet. But C is also considering going to live in Nicaragua with family. However, she lacks passports for 2 of her children, and the funds to get them. And it's possible she can't take the children out of the country without the permission of her husband anyway.
Meanwhile, her husband called Seth last week and asked for counseling. We rejoiced to hear that perhaps he was ready to confess and get some help. Unfortunately, when they met, he complained the whole time about C and didn't mention his abusiveness or anger control issues. Or take any responsibility for the state of things at all, for that matter. Ugh.
Then a few days later, he called back and asked if we would do couples counseling with them. Before agreeing to do so, we need to be really candid about the fact that we're not interested unless he's planning to be honest and talk about the gigantic pink elephant in the room.
Please pray that the husband will be receptive to this condition, convicted of his sin, honest with himself and others, and seek help for real this time. Please pray for A to have a heart that remains tender and doesn't harden in the face of his challenges at home. Please pray for supernatural physical, emotional, and spiritual protection over all those kids and over C herself. And please pray for C to seek God and his wisdom in making decisions about what to do and whether to accept the assistance being offered to her.
Quote of the month
""At the margins is the only place the Church will have credibility."