It was day 11 of Guatemala’s coronavirus lockdown. Azaria Spencer, who works with the NGO Street Kids Direct, found herself out of her depth in the notorious La Terminal zone of Guatemala City but with an unexpected helper.
I had arranged to meet Danilo, one of our youth, at our centre to pass on a food and care package for his family.
It was a lovely sunny morning, yet still fresh at 8.30am, so I decided to walk.
To reduce risk – and enjoy the walk more – I didn’t take my bag, only my keys, ID and 100 Quetzals (£10). Q50 (£5) was for Danilo, part of the wage he was due from his job as one of our helpers at the centre.
I arrived at the centre in time to join the team Zoom call, during which we prayed together, lifting the families and vulnerable street people we work with before God, praying for Guatemala and the world at this challenging time.
After our meeting, as I waited for Danilo, I pottered about the centre, sweeping up dead cockroaches – I lead a glamorous life – and watering the plants. As I waited, I received two phone calls – both relevant to how the rest of the day went.
First, one of my work friends called. A shopping order had been made on our behalf at a nearby supermarket. Could I go with Danilo to collect it?
What a huge blessing that people are still willing to donate during this difficult time. Of course, I was happy to go, although a little nervous.
I was sent the receipt and assured that the supermarket was close by and that the guys at the supermarket would help bring the delivery to our centre.
Next, our director called to ask if I had the money for Danilo. I said yes, but then we realised I had misunderstood the amount and was short. He had told me Q500 not Q50. Numbers in Spanish are tricky for me and I had heard wrong. But never mind, I could give him Q100 today and the rest next week.
I knew Danilo wouldn’t mind and would also be happy to help me collect the donation.
Danilo arrived shortly after and we were soon on our way into La Terminal to find the supermarket. Sounds easy, but the streets of La Terminal are never quiet, not even during a lockdown. Thankfully we were well before the curfew hours.
After going to the wrong supermarket, we went further into La Terminal, through the crowds, being careful not to get too close to anyone, and found where we needed to be.
Finally, when I explained about the photo of a receipt I had on my phone for the fourth time, I was directed to a manager whose signature was on the receipt in question.
Having waited to get into the supermarket – alone and after having been ‘sprayed’ – I waited a further 25 minutes for the order.
Finally, our donation was ready, when they told me they couldn’t take it to our centre.
They unloaded our donation onto the street and Danilo and I stood looking at it for a minute. The traffic was gridlocked and we couldn’t carry it.
He decided to go into La Terminal and find someone to help carry it.
So there I stood, getting sunburnt, and waited some more – being reminded with every look that I am a white woman in a Latino world.
Danilo saved the day and returned with a man who proceeded to load up half the boxes onto a strap he held with his forehead!
They left for the centre and I found some shade to stand in as I contemplated having to ask Danilo for the money back to pay this man for helping us.
On the second and final trip back to the centre I told Danilo I didn’t have my card or any more cash. He said he had already guessed, was happy to pay the man and what’s more buy us all a refreshing coke. What an absolute champion.
This is the kind of men we are raising.
I was out of my depth but God placed me with Danilo, one of the young men in the group which I lead, to support me. Well, actually to take the lead. It was humbling and an honour to let him take the reins and to trust him to get things done.
Today God showed me to not focus on the difficult unexpected moments, such as going to the wrong supermarket, but instead to focus on the amazing unexpected moments, like seeing a boy who has a difficult past becoming a good man.
Maybe at this time of complete upset amid the very unexpected Covid-19 pandemic, there will come other amazing unexpected things to be thankful for. Opportunities to be church outside of a building or a service, families coming back together and maybe even being saved from breakdown, chances to finally do those forgotten or pushed-aside projects, more time to spend with the one who loves us most – Jesus.
I in no way make light of our current situation and the reality or severity of it, but I know a God in whom there is freedom from fear and who always works all things for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28).