Friday, January 18, 2013

Faith Like a Child

by: Brittany Girle

Maylee was born two weeks before I moved to El Paso to work full-time with Casas por Cristo. Her parents (David and Michelle) are two of my best friends from college and I was with them when Michelle went into labor. I sat outside the hospital room and heard Maylee’s first cries as she entered this world. 

I never knew how much this little girl would change my life.

Maylee is eight years old now, but she came on her first Casas trip when she was six. She has been hooked ever since. She constantly tells her friends about her experiences in México and drops her parents hints, asking when she can return. She prays every night for the friends that she has made across the border.

In March of 2011, Michelle, David and Maylee joined a group of friends to build a home for Guadalupe Anguiano and her family. During the week, Maylee formed a bond with Guadalupe’s niece, Stephanie, that has since changed all of our lives. Stephanie is the same age as Maylee and lives with her family (Guadalupe’s sister Brenda and brother-in-law José) across the street. They were with us each day during the build and became as much a part of our team as the immediate family that we were building for. On the last day of the build during the dedication ceremony, Maylee and Stephanie were standing next to each other holding hands. All of a sudden Maylee looked up and asked, “Mom, why is Stephanie’s hand so cold?” Stephanie’s hands were freezing because the house she lived in was made of cardboard and pallets and filled with holes in the roof where the rain poured through. Ever since Michelle explained this, it has been Maylee’s prayer that one day they would return to build Stephanie a home.

Knowing about the unrest in Juárez and the amount of families waiting for homes, sadly, I knew that more than likely this was not going to become more than a dream and a prayer of a young girl. I told Brenda that although her family of six is large enough to receive a double, they likely would receive a home sooner if she applied for a single. The waiting list for singles is shorter than that for doubles, but at the time in her colonia, we weren’t accepting applications for either. I felt like I left them empty handed, with little more than a flickering hope and a prayer.

Maylee returned from the build to her home in North Carolina with a piece of drywall covered in signatures in the shape of a cross. She put a picture of her and Stephanie and a picture of Stephanie’s pallet and cardboard house next to the cross and every night she prayed that they would return to build a new home for Stephanie and her family.

Three months later I returned with Michelle to Brenda’s home to check up on them. As I pulled up to their gate, I almost burst into tears. What I saw with my eyes was not possible in my mind. Nailed to their front gate was a plaque from Casas por Cristo, signifying that they had applied for and were on our waiting list to receive a home. Their pastor had taken an application for this family to our monthly pastor’s meeting the minute we started accepting applications again. He knew how desperate their need was and made sure that theirs was his first application submitted.

Although I couldn’t control my excitement that they were now on the list, the truth haunting my mind was that their home being built was probably still at least a year away. This would mean at least one more freezing winter that their family would have to endure.

Without getting lost in the details of waiting lists and “impossibilities,” Maylee simply prayed to the God that she believed in, that her friend Stephanie would receive a home. I’m not sure what happens in the world that we don’t see, or what God has to do to make the prayers of the faithful come true, but in September of this year (less than a year from the date that Maylee began praying this prayer) a team came together to build that home. The group came from three different states to build not just the single that the family had applied for, but rather the double that Maylee had prayed for.

More than likely those two little girls will never understand the impact that their friendship and their faith had on the 21 adults that came together. All they knew was that we had returned to build this home; this “impossible home” that was never, ever impossible to them. Brought together by the faith of a child and a friendship that transcends language barriers, we watched — humbled and in awe.

During the dedication ceremony, we were reminded again that this is so much bigger than ourselves. When Stephanie turned to Maylee to express her gratitude for building her home, her words were instead replaced with sobbing and tears. Her tears spoke clearer than anything ever could; there are no words in any language that would have done this “thank you” justice. As Stephanie and Maylee stood in the center of the room hugging and crying, we felt our own walls crumble to the ground and our eyes fill with tears. Perhaps the walls that we spent this week building were replacing the ones that we’ve spent our whole lives building up.

I don’t know that Stephanie and Maylee will ever understand how God used their faith and their lives to affect so many. It was as though God used these two little girls to bring us all together for this exact moment. In the process of simply believing, they reminded us to do the same.

My prayer is that we can all learn from Stephanie and Maylee’s example. That we would be reminded that somewhere deep within each of us, buried beneath the disappointments and the hardships of this world, is the same childlike faith that we once knew. May we have the strength to see beyond our own circumstances of what we “know,” and view life again through the lens of a child. What if the only thing standing in the way our dreams and our prayers, is ourselves?

Dare to dream. Dare to pray. Dare to Believe.

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