Life in the La Limonada Slums of Guatemala City
Nora has six children. Grace is her youngest. She is a beautiful one year old baby. Grace had health problems and was able to get medicine from the doctor at the community hospital, but Nora doesn’t read and she doesn’t follow instructions very well. So, Grace was getting half-doses and double-doses of the medication.
Food is scarce in Nora’s home. She had to hide Grace’s formula and baby food from her five other middle school and elementary school-aged children so they won’t eat it nor mix it with water and drink it.
This is Nora’s reality. Every day.
Thankfully there is a Mother Teresa-like woman in this community and others like her who have made it their life’s work to love Nora and her children and to help them through the life they live in the La Limonada community of Guatemala City.
Tita Evertsz, a native Guatemalan woman, began volunteering her time to serve the people of La Limonada fourteen years ago. In the early years she felt drawn to reach out to the teenage gang members who guarded their turf in the community and who sold small vials of commercial glue – the substance whose hallucinogenic fumes medicate the people from the pain of life in the alleys of this forgotten community.
Several years later a gang member poured gasoline on his family while they slept, lit a match and burned them beyond recognition. As a result of this act and after years of attending the funerals of gang members who were needlessly killed by rival gangs, Tita made a commitment to give her life to the people of this community.
She made a commitment to the children first – believing that God could use her to help prevent another generation of people in La Limonada from being caught in a cycle of poverty and hopelessness.
My wife, my sons and I met Tita about five years ago and made several trips back to Guatemala to be with her and her community of friends who give their lives every day to love more than 250 children and who are committed to make sure that La Limonada is no longer a forgotten place.
There are two schools in La Limonada now where theses children are loved, fed healthy meals, and provided with scholarships to attend formal school in Guatemala City. These amazing people live life among the people of this community. They provide shoulders to cry on as children tell horrific stories of sexual abuse – many times at the hands of a parent or sibling. They are there to literally pick people up off the cold cement alleys after passing out from uncontrollable drinking and glue sniffing.
Last year my wife, Cherie, and I, along with close friends, had the privilege of moving ahead with something we had been talking and praying with Tita about. We began Lemonade International and incorporated as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based here in Raleigh, NC – to serve as the voice of La Limonada here in the United States by raising awareness and support for the real work of ministry Tita and her friends engage in every day in La Limonada.
While there is a lot of talk of success and growth in our American business and church culture, the Tita Evertszs of this world are putting us to shame. They are putting hands and feet to these ideas that many of us just sit around and talk about.
Because of Tita’s influence I have been given the incredible opportunity to stand in Nora’s 8’ by 8’ home and to love and befriend her family. I’ve had the opportunity to set up a small two-burner stove and place a boxful of food on the cement counter of her home to help feed her and her children for the next couple weeks.
There are too many Noras out there in La Limonada and around the world for us to continue to sit around and talk about justice and about loving and caring for the poor.
And too many Graces that need to be loved and held and kissed.
Bill Cummings is the founder and Executive Director of Lemonade International based in Raleigh, NC. Lemonade International serves as the voice of La Limonada in the United States – raising awareness and support for the people there – primarily through child sponsorship and by leading teams to serve in La Limonada. Bill also blogs at www.billkcummings.info