Emotions. We were all feeling them today. This morning we were honored to meet three of our four partner family homeowners! The first two ladies, Wilhelmina and Sofia came to greet us at the site of their new homes. They weren’t sure exactly which of the four homes we are working on would be theirs, but today they learned they would be neighbors. This was the first time they were meeting and they were thrilled to get on so well. Both had been on the waiting list for houses for well over 20 years. It was heartwarming to be in their company if only for a short time and it gave us a face to put to the building.
The drawback to working on a site like ours is that we are not in a village surrounded by an existing community. We miss the onlookers and especially the kids who often surround us. We haven’t really seen the need side of the equation. Until today. We visited a small squatter settlement, nine families living in shacks and barely able to meet their basic needs. They are living on land that they cannot claim as their own, yet they have nowhere else to go.
They are the worst off of all the people in this country. They have no address. No work. Little food. No electricity. And barely any hope. It wasn’t comfortable seeing their living conditions and hearing their plight. They are on the list for housing, along with two million others. They may never have a better life. We were so moved; we wanted to help in any way we could. Tomorrow we will give them food and the wood they desperately need in order to be able to cook. There’s no way for us to meet all their needs. Yet, we can meet some of them, now.
And then, there was Lynne. Lynne Vester is a beacon of hope. A God-fearing woman, her story is nothing short of miraculous. She has overcome so many obstacles her life, including a broken back she suffered when a tree fell on her and she was told she would never walk again. From the beginning she refused the wheelchair, telling her doctors God had given her a son with Downs Syndrome whom she needed to care for.
As we listened to Lynne, tears streaming down our faces, she tells the story of her son Keegan’s birth. She describes Keegan as a blessing from God. Even though members of her own family were embarrassed by her son’s disability, she never wavered. She did all she could to learn how to care for him. And she started to sew. What began as a way for her to earn a little money, her talent and entrepreneurial spirit led to a blossoming business. When Keegan passed away in 2011 from cancer she was devastated. She needed a sign from God if she was to begin her business again.
Shortly afterward, she received an order from a couple she knew and she took that as her sign to begin sewing and selling again. Now, Lynne teaches and encourages other women in the community to make and sell their handicrafts in her shop and in the local markets. The women make items of great quality. Jewelry, clothing, home goods are for sale in a room in her own home. Lynne is a self-professed “giver.” She believes that you have to give to have room to receive.
Today she has given us the gift of sharing with us her story – the intimate details of her life. We left her home inspired by her story, humbled by her hospitality, awed by her ambition and inspired by her courage.