Laughter and Tears

Every Friday during Lent, the kids, staff and volunteers at Amigos walked throughout the Hogar for Stations of the Cross. We walked to each station praying and singing while trying to keep 107 children quiet and reverent while thinking about the passion of Christ.

This past Good Friday was especially intense. As many readers know, our Oscarito passed away in 2013. At the time, we did not have the approval from the government to bury anyone at Amigos de Jesus, but we wanted him to rest in a place where he was loved. So when we buried Oscarito last June, it was always with the intention of one day bringing him home. For the past year he rested in a local cemetery while our staff got approval and cleared an area for burial up on the hill and behind our cross. For Easter and to commemorate our final Stations, we brought him home with his family. Four of our young men carried his casket up to the cross, we lined a walkway to welcome him and followed in procession when they passed us.

As we walked back down the hill, one of the little boys took my hand, looked up at me with tears in his eyes and said, “this is a sad day for me, Emilia.” He told me he was sad for Oscarito. He told me he was sad and wanted to go home, to his old home before he came to Amigos. Then he lifted both of his arms out to me and I knew he wanted to be held.

That particular Friday was one of the hottest days I've experienced in Honduras thus far. It wasn't even 9 o'clock in the morning and the sweat already begun to pool. It was bound to be a long ceremony, but when I looked at him with his arms outstretched, I realized that this was my cross I would carry today. So I picked him up, sweat and all, and  walked to the first station.

All of our children come carrying their own crosses. Each bears a burden greater than they should have to at their age. When they come to Amigos, we hope their load can be lessened. Some of my favorite memories with the kids are simply when they’re having fun. When they’re laughing and playing, when they forget the past and live in the moment, when they can just be kids. This Easter week was full of our kids just having fun.  
Everyone had the week off of school and we had activities planned everyday. We divided the kids into groups and rotated between going to the movies and going camping. That’s right. Camping.

Up a mountain a little ways from the main property, we have land that some of the older boys helped clear for us. We had pitched tents, a running stream and a place to cook meals. We spent two nights under the stars and the kids couldn't have loved it more. “You’re going camping, right Miss Emilia?” “Who are you going to sleep with?” “Are we going to stay up all night?” “Do you know any scary stories?” “Are you scared, Miss Emilia?” were a few questions I got. I lucked out because the girls in my tent wanted to play house. So we cleaned the whole thing and had fun rearranging the beds or “furniture” all day.

After groups returned from camping, they went to the movies in San Pedro Sula, the closest city. Trips to San Pedro Sula are always a special event and for some, it was their very first time in the city. They all got guapo (dressed-up and handsome) and piled into our two new vans. We went to a mall where the movie theater is and had lunch. Everyone loved being able to go out to eat but their favorite part was being able to get refills on their soda. “You mean I can have more soda, Miss Emilia?”

As we made our way from lunch to the theater, we had to take an escalator. Some of the kids hopped right on, fearless and adventurous. Others couldn't even comprehend the concept. “What are these?” “Why are stairs moving?” Some kids needed more encouraging as they tried once, twice and even three times to put their little foot on the moving step. Eventually we made our way up a level and passed shops along the way to the movie. Their eyes lit up at the pretty shoes and cool gadgets that hung in the windows. “Aye, que bonita,” (Aye, so beautiful) is still ringing in my ears.

One of the girls I sat next to during the movie was so in awe. She laughed at all the jokes, sang to all the songs (even without yet knowing them) and couldn't take her eyes off the screen. A few times, she would lean over and say, “que massisa, va?” (So cool, right?) She was sad to leave and days after the trip, she kept asking, “when are we going to the movies again?”

Even our littlest chiquitos got to leave the property for a night. We now have an apartment in San Pedro where three of our university boys and one of our high school boys live. The little chiquitos went to the city for a night where they got to watch a movie, eat out and play in the apartment together. They all couldn't stop telling me how delicious the food was.

Everyone was back on property Thursday night when our Easter celebrations began. Father Dennis was here celebrating with us and we had mass that evening. Father Den, some of the padrinos and some of the older boys each washed groups of children’s feet just as Jesus did before the Last Supper.

We woke early Friday for the burial of Oscarito. It was a long, hot morning filled with tears, hugs and hand-holding. Our young men stayed up all night digging the grave where Oscarito now rests. As everyone walked past his grave, they threw a handful of freshly dug earth onto his casket. The older boys and staff finished burying him and we sat in prayerful silence.   
As I watched some of the older boys throw dirt into Oscar’s grave, I was thinking about how old they looked. Here were young men and teenagers 16-25 years of age burying the body of a child, a child they had helped take care of in life and now in death. A little boy they loved and will forever remember. They did so much to make this day go smoothly.  They did so much for Oscarito. Through the hardships of their past, here they are growing into mature young men. Just as Jesus suffered and died, he also rose from the dead. These kids are given a chance when they come to Amigos and they’re thriving.

Easter day was spent preparing 40 kids who would receive their Baptism and First Holy Communion. Almost all of our girls were dressed in beautiful white gowns, hair on top of their heads and the boys could not have looked more handsome. We had a beautiful mass full of celebration, happiness and smiles. After, there was a special dinner outside followed by a dance party.

 This is what Amigos is about, a new life. Sharing the weight of your cross. Hope for a new beginning. 

Thank you to all of the donors who made this week so special. It is a blessing to be able to share in the laughter and love of our children, we couldn't do that without your help. Gracias por todo.

-Emily Pettinger, volunteer 2013-2014