We are slowly but surely starting to fit regular home visits into our weekly schedule. While we had home visits in our hearts right from the start of our mission here-asking for a list of names from chapel leaders of sick or homebound in the parish-it isn't until recently that God has been revealing to us those special persons who need our presence the most. Below is the story of one such lady.
Odilio was on his way home from town when he first met Conchita, a sweet, little elderly widow who always wears a white hat and carries a basket. She was walking with a friend, and the two old ladies stopped him to ask for 10 pesos, which is about a quarter in U.S. Money. He ended up giving them double that amount and they were ecstatic, giggling like little school girls! He also prayed with them, asking God to bless and care for them and provide for all of their needs.
Some time after, the two women showed up at our house and sat down to rest on the front steps. When I noticed them, I invited them in and gave them drinks of water. They told me that Conchita was poor, that her husband had died already, and that she had no rice to eat. I packed a little sack for her with rice, coffee, and bananas. She was so very grateful as she put the sack into her basket. When they made their way down the steps, I could tell she struggled with the basket and I called Odilio to help her carry it. He told her he would carry it home for her, but she insisted that to the church would be far enough, as she wanted to stop in and say thank you now.
Every so often after this, Conchita would show up to say that she had no rice in her house, and we would always do whatever we could to help her, filling her basket with what we had on hand and helping her to carry it as far as the church. One day very recently, she came during lunchtime and we offered her a plate of rice and fish. She accepted, but she would not sit at the table with us, even though I kept insisting. Instead she contented herself to sit and eat on the bamboo bench a few feet away. I kept looking over at her to make sure she was getting enough to eat, and I couldn't help but notice-since she had respectfully removed her shoes upon entering the house-that her poor toes were swollen with arthritis. After lunch I told her that we would like to visit her at her house soon if she would let us know where she lived. She said her house was very poor and that she was ashamed, but she told us the general location of it, which is much too far for her to have to walk.
When we arrived at her house, she was so happy to see us, although she kept saying, “My house is so poor, with so many holes. I am so ashamed to you.” We kept reassuring her that we didn't mind and that we were there to share God's love with her. We gave her a bag of food and also some snacks that we shared together. We read to her from the Bible, which she really appreciated, telling us that it was nice to listen to us since she cannot see well enough any more to read herself. When we got up to leave, she begged us not to go, saying that she would be lonely for us if we went. We stayed a great deal longer-as long as we could-before promising to return the next week. She asked if we would bring her a picture of us next time, so that she could “see” us between visits.
We have also discovered that she has five young children living with her in her small home. To our understanding, they are her grandchildren that she cares for while their mother is at college. In any case, she has many mouths to feed on her own. We will do all in our power to visit her more than once a week.
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” James 1:27