24 March 2014. Monday afternoon.
The Nicaraguan Cohort of Missioners has been working together through
Geography of Grace. A central point of the book is that the grace of God
pools up-is most evident-in the lowest, most needy places. Today we and the
Cohort visited one of those places. La Limonada is a barrio, some would say
slum, in Guatemala City. At the outskirts of La Limonada we were met by
Tita who would spend the next few hours walking through the barrio with us.
Once a wooded ravine, green and natural, it is now gray and dense with the
poorest of the poor of the city. Over a period of many years the ravine was
occupied by squatters seeking refuge from war and displacement, and now it
is a labyrinth of simple cinder block homes, built wherever one could find
space. The shape of the home is dictated by the shapes of the homes that
surround it. Now the only open spaces in the ravine are the pathways that
wind in labyrinth fashion among the tiny homes. Often so narrow that a
motorcycle and a pedestrian cannot pass side by side, the “streets” twist
and turn erratically, passing by the doors of homes and workshops every few
meters, ultimately ending at the front door of the last home on the street.
La Limonada is home to thousands of people. It is also home to much crime
and violence. As we walked by one tiny church, Tita pointed out the bullet
holes from some distant gang fight, still evident in the front wall. We
visited at prayed at one home where a young man lay in his bed, still
suffering from a bullet wound he received 5 years ago. Violence, like the
shortage of physical resources, is a fact of life in La Limonada.
But more about Tita, our guide for the day. She is a Guatemalan with a
heart as big as all of Guatemala. She focuses not on what La Limonada
doesn’t have, but rather on what La Limonada does have. Walking with her in
La Limonada is like walking with a rock star, only better. Children ran up
to her on the street shouting “Mama Tita! Mama Tita!” She had a hug for
everyone, and even “cool” teenagers let down their guard for a moment to
give her a hug. People would greet her in their doorways, and in moments
Tita would be inside their homes, praying with them and for their problems.
We walked into homes where residents were making shopping bags or teaching
others to make beautiful slippers, all to sell in the market. It is so
obvious that she loves the people of La Limonada, and they love her in
A movie was made in 2010 about the work of Tita and others in La Limomada.
It is called Reparando and available for rent or purchase here. Walking
through the barrio today, the people we once saw only in the movie came
became very real to us. We had our picture taken with a smiling Guis, the
once solitary man whose life, through the love of Tita and others, has
undergone profound changes. We stood and prayed in his room with Vitalino,
the old bed-ridden man, cared for by his neighbors for 7 years now, whose
birthday party was shown in the film. It was humbling to walk and pray
side-by-side with those who have poured out so much love into La Limonada.
Today we saw that the grace of God does indeed pool up in the lowest places,
bringing change and hope to what was once considered hopeless and