I want to talk about Sondra. She’s about 5 ft nothing but after spending few days with her you’d see a giant. Those two precious boys in the photo with us are James, her feisty 2 year old, and Saul, her content and sweet 1 year old. James and Bella have foot races in the hallway of the ‘step above the slums’ building they live in some mornings. Bella usually wins ☺. It’s tough being a mom in the slums. Sondra has none of the conveniences I have at home. Her entire daily schedule depends on what time the water will come. When the water comes, which is normally 10am, she ensues to complete the daily chores. Washing the dishes/pots from dinner/breakfast, hand washing the hamper of baby and mommy clothes, cleaning the floors and finally bathing herself and her sons. When she is finished which takes about 5 hours she gets the family dressed and with the boys, one on each hip walks a mile to her mother’s house (which is a couple of doors down from our loft) to do ministry in the slum for the evening. Sondra can’t take a ‘sesame street’ break for herself, she can’t even simply open the frig to get milk or a quick meal for the kids because she doesn’t have one. Every morning she has to go down four flights of stairs to the dairy vendor for milk, then make every meal from scratch (all with her boys in tow) because she doesn’t have the handiness of a microwave or In-N-Out. Walking is a must; she has no car and she doesn’t even have the luxury of diapers (yes the LUXURY).
When we first came here and saw our place I was like, “12×15 space, a 7 ft. ladder entry, no toilet “God Come ON?!” Okay there were also a couple of obscenities that rattled in my head and the formation of a huge lump in my throat. My mind raced with ideas of how I could pull this off with Bells. Would she have everything she needed? Would I be able to provide for her here? Throughout the next few days I met Sondra and Janya and our neighbors. They embraced us completely into their lives and I learned that I could do this. One night while hanging with Sondra at her place I even mentally imagined Bella’s toys, curtain colors of my choice and of course where I’d put my cleaning supplies-☺. In those days I witnessed a miracle. Because of God’s love manifested through my neighbors, whom by most peoples’ standards are ‘the poorest of the poor’, our needs were not only meet but we were showered with provision. You see the miracle isn’t even that we were provided for, because I will have times of doubt and we will continue be challenged as a family to take risks but God’s love for us, what I experienced this week, will never fade away.
Okay, so back to Sondra. She is married but you don’t see her husband in the pic above because he spends 3 weeks of the month away from his family. Something I couldn’t imagine being strong enough to endure but Sondra would not stand to be martyred for it. She instead beams at the mention of why her husband is away and exudes, “He will call tonight at 10! He went on a raid today!” See, in the first two days I stayed in Sondra’s home, her husband and his NGO team of saints reported back to us that they had rescued 5 kids from bonded labor (dipping incense sticks and matches is easy for a person with small hands). Sometimes it isn’t good news though; her husband has been beaten in his attempts to rescue children. Rescue is good, obviously, but some children refuse to testify against their captures because they are too afraid. Even worse, some do the work willingly, particularly the bar dancers or prostitutes (but because they are not forced physically does not mean they are not forced by their economic situation).
Sondra not only lacks complaint she expresses desire to do more for the Lord, in her words to “Get back into the ministry.” In hanging out with Sondra I observed quite a ministry. From sitting and praying with a woman who had just been devastated by her mother and sister’s deaths in a train accident to mothering her two children to helping her brother James with his recent entrepreneurial endeavor as a tailor. Needless to say, I no longer complain about the conveniences I miss. And now this place is no longer a decaying overcrowded slum. Your perception of a slum changes when you not only put a face to the people living there but when they actually become your friends. This place is Sondra, James, and Saul, and her sisters and brother. It is Janya and Sudan her son whom Bella asks for every morning. It is Christ’s love for us and IT is family.