Young Maria Del Carmen began life in La Chureca, the Managua city dump. Born to a mother addicted to alcohol and drugs, Maria’s future was bleak.
But sometimes God sends an angel in disguise. When Gloria Sequiera, the Director of Villa Esperanza first saw little Maria, she was being tenderly escorted to the dump school by Don Rodriguez, another resident of La Chureca. Tiny, beaming Maria called him Papa Don, and clearly thought of him as her father, though the man looked more like her grandfather. There were no blood ties between them – only love. On the day that Maria’s pregnant mother Reyna had arrived at the dump, Don Rodriguez took one look at the struggling family and knew that if they were to survive, someone would have to help.
Thanks to Don Rodriguez, Maria and her family did have extra hands to work, and eyes to watch small children. But as the years passed, it was Don Rodriguez who needed care – care that only Maria was willing to give him. When Maria was chosen to live at Villa Esperanza, her greatest fear was that no one would care for her beloved Papa Don.
Her worry was fully justified. When she went home to visit one month, Don Rodriguez was gone. He needed too much assistance, and Maria’s family had asked him to leave. No one knew where he had gone. Maria was heartbroken. Many months passed without word, and Maria was convinced that he had died somewhere in the dump.
Then – something amazing happened. A mission team came to Managua. One of their projects was serving at a nearby home for the elderly, and several girls from Villa Esperanza were chosen to go along with the team. Maria was one of those girls. The moment the group arrived and got out of their bus, Maria seized hold of the team leader’s arm and cried, “That’s my Papa Don!”
Now it was Maria’s turn to minister to her beloved Papa Don. They spent the first of many happy visits together. Don Rodriguez was very frail, but he would rally, recognizing her, tears forming in his eyes. In the months that followed, there would be time for many visits; Papa Don was even able to attend Maria’s quinceañera (15th birthday celebration) at Villa Esperanza. He left this world knowing he was deeply loved.
Children learn what they are taught. Don Rodriguez did his best to let a tiny girl know that she was precious, and Maria bloomed into an individual who knows that God will provide people to love you. Seeds of hope and joy are planted every day at Villa Esperanza, where children such as Maria Del Carmen are growing up safe, loved, and equipped to be caring, contributing citizens of God’s world.