Magen Lorenzi shared this story at our second 2015 team meeting on April 6. Serving in La Mosca is hard, often heartbreaking work. But we are thankful for the reminders that it is also significant and life changing—we are bringing not only medical service and construction help, but love and hope that meet even deeper needs. Thank you, Magen, for sharing your story and serving alongside the Vargas family!
In 2011, a middle-aged woman made her way to our clinic. She walked slowly and appeared breathless as she sat with me. To maintain her privacy, I will refer to her as Maria. Maria told me that she was recently diagnosed with lung cancer. She and her many children lived in La Mosca and were unable to afford the cost of pain medications, healthcare appointments, or treatment. My heart broke as I listened to Maria’s story—I felt so helpless. I knew there was little we could offer her: Tylenol, prayer. Emily (my translator) and I introduced her to Pastor Luis and Reina, they spoke with her for a bit, prayed with her, and she left.
I thought about Maria often over the next year. I questioned what good (if any) we were doing in La Mosca. I questioned whether I should return the following summer—if maybe my efforts would be better used elsewhere. In the end, I decided to return and in 2012 found myself in La Mosca wondering if Maria’s death had been painful, again feeling defeated that we were unable to help her. On the second day of our clinic, a local teenager approached me with a photo on his phone. The photo showed an impossibly thin woman, lying naked on a bed. I immediately recognized her face as Maria’s. I ran the phone over to Luis and asked if he remembered her from the previous summer. Luis acted shocked that I questioned his memory—of course he remembered her, and she was alive. “Vamos” he said, motioning outside, and off we went to see her.
We walked to the top of the central trash heap, into the small shack where Maria lived with her children. Though I had seen the photo, I was still shocked by the sight of her lying on her bed. She was skin, bones, and tumors—many tumors protruding from her breasts, abdomen, and shoulders. Despite her obvious discomfort, she smiled and gestured us closer to her. We sat beside her bed and talked with her about how she was feeling, examined the tumors and discussed some creams we could give her to alleviate some of her discomfort. Again I was overwhelmed with a feeling of defeat. I apologized to Maria—I apologized for my inability to bring her more comfort, to change her circumstances, to heal her.
Maria looked up at me, smiled, and said “No, no, no. Coming to the clinic last year was the best thing that could have happened to me. Before that, I didn’t know Luis, I didn’t know the church, I didn’t know God. But you girls introduced me to Luis and he has embraced me so fully every day since. He visits me every day. He brings me food, medication, and he watches out for my children. He has shown me God’s love, and he even baptized me in this bed last month. I used to be so scared—of death, of pain, of leaving my children. But I no longer have fear—I only have peace. I know that all this pain, sickness—it is all temporary. And when I die, I will be with God for eternity.”
All of us were in tears. Luis stood humbly in the back, crying and repeating “amen.” We prayed together with Maria and went back to the clinic. On the walk back, I reflected on the past year and how misguided my thinking had been. I had spent so much time focusing on my own capabilities—how could I miss that introducing Maria to Luis and Reina would be exactly what she needed? I should have realized how fully and completely they would care for her—how well they would love her. They did this despite Maria not being a part of their faith or their church—they loved her purely because she deserved love. Through their love, Maria found her peace and her Lord. She passed away peacefully a few months later.
Maria taught me that while providing for the physical needs of the people of La Mosca is important—and such a blessing to participate in—ultimately, our purpose is to support Luis as he cares for the spiritual needs of his community. And goodness, is he fantastic at it! He loves people so well, and I feel so honored to partner with him in his mission.
Magen first shared this story on her website, Healing in La Mosca.