The Perfect Birthday Gift
What do you get for a granddaughter who is turning 13? Such an important age in any culture. We love her and are so proud of her, but the truth is, she has everything she needs and wants. She lives in Southern California, in a lovely home with a swimming pool and two dogs. She has lots of friends. She attends and does well in school. She is a gifted soccer player and has lots of soccer equipment. She even has an iPhone! Her parents strive to instill Christian values and Biblical knowledge into her upbringing, but let’s be honest, growing up as a teenager in our country, worrying about math tests and soccer tryouts are on an altogether different level than what most 13 year old young people in the majority world worry about.
Her grandfather and I decided to give her a “Vision Trip” to Tijuana, Mexico through World Vision to learn about their micro loan projects. We announced it in her birthday card and received encouragement, “Really, Nana, that sounds like fun! I will have to miss school.” Early on a Thursday morning, she and her Dad joined us, and 14 others at the U.S./Mexico border. We paused for prayer before crossing and entered what is a different country in so many ways but only about one hour from our home. We were met by our lovely guide and World Vision field director, Barbara amidst the busyness and of a morning commute to the U.S. for literally thousands of people. Barbara says that lately people have to wait hours and hours to cross the border. Our day had begun!
We drove in two large vehicles through the traffic and soon it narrowed to smaller and smaller streets and then to only dirt roads, narrow and rutted. Not in a million years would I ever be able to find my way back to that first home, where we were privileged to observe a weekly savings club meeting, where women were there to make payments on their micro loans. We sat on a modest sofa, in a two room home without any utilities, but it was obvious from the family photos on a shelf that it held much love of family. The dirt outside was raked and tidy, and they appeared happy and proud that we visiting. It touched my heart. Barbara interpreted; she introduced the women and they each told their stories. Stories of resilience, stories of heartaches, but proud stories and they were told with hope and plans for the future. I sat next to my granddaughter, and when one woman shared that her three year old child was born blind, and that she owned a used clothing store to provide for her, I could feel her young heart search for something she could do. She reached into the backpack her Dad carried and got out some small toy gifts that we had brought to share with some children, I saw her ask her Dad, then go and give them to the woman with the blind child. My sweet grand daughter was listening and watching and had a heart to want to help in some small way.
We visited many micro loan funded businesses that day. There was a common thread of pride and resourcefulness in what each had done as business owners. All was done to provide a better life for those they loved. The microloan was the catalyst that made it happen.
Our lunch was freshly barbequed Carne Asada at the Las Palmas community center, a modest but quite adequate building the community uses for classes. World Vision holds classes for nutrition, drug prevention, maternal and child health, all part of the community development programming.
While eating, a young girl in a school uniform came up to us, stuck out her hand and introduced herself in English: “How do you do? My name is Carmen.” She was nine years old and very confident in her young self. Soon, my grand daughter and Carmen were up on the roof, which is part of the concrete “soccer field,” and were kicking the ball to each other. They were just being two girls, from different countries, different experiences, different languages, yet bonding and learning from each other. How I love that sweet picture!
The success of that day was not just in the incredible amount of learning that occurred in our group about micro lending and how they support and keep families together. For me, as a grandmother, the success of the day was the strengthening of a light shining in a young woman I love. I got to see, not just that she has been blessed from our God, but that she may have been blessed so that she can, with purpose, assist those less fortunate in our world.
– by Eileen Adams, WOV San Diego, CA