It’s Wednesday, and on a hill in San Tomás, Guatemala, hope can be heard. It’s faint at first, like the delicate rustling of trees responding to the touch of a spring breeze. If you close your eyes and lean in, the melody grows clearer. Rustling becomes wind chimes that hint to a tune your heart seems to recognize. Draw near to the hill, and you tremble as hope sings out the welcome.
It’s Wednesday—the last day of two wearying weeks of mission work in Guatemala. The days had been fraught with challenges—robbery, sickness, raw emotion, and a volcanic eruption that covered parts of Guatemala City and Antigua with choking gray ash. I had written a word in the dust on a wall while fighting back tears.
The last thing I long to do is travel to one more village. But I rest my head against the glass of the bus and get lost in the familiar fragrance of dirt and diesel and fire as we weave clumsily through the narrow streets and park at the base of a steep hill. “It’s up there. You’ll have to walk—it’s the only way.”
I look up at the white building behind trees and a fence at the top of a road that disappears into itself. My heart aches as I think of all the orphanages I have visited over the years—places where children, discarded and abandoned, are gathered only to be discarded again—this time by the very ones who promise salvation.I’ve seen the tears and heard the pleas of tender souls who longed to climb the fences and feel real freedom. Would this home be the same? I had been told there was hope on a hilltop—this hilltop.
I whisper, “God, please don’t disappoint,” as the written word is spoken. “Please.”
In a land where eight of every ten girls and women suffer at the hands of darkness that looks like father or uncle or friend, hope shatters like crystal. History books tell stories of child brides and babies sold in desperation to ravenous families in other countries. And yet, at the base of the hill, I stand and listen as the song rises above me.
I climb, one labored step after another, up the cobblestone path. Stopping to catch my breath, I turn and look at the seven distant volcanoes set against a crystal blue sky. Soccer teams blur the fields in practice as workers stoop over land nearby to harvest greens and purples and golds.
“You are here. Welcome to our family.” Her voice is lyrical, soothing. The raven-haired Latina named Lilly holds out her arms for an embrace. “Come inside. The girls want to share something with you.”
It’s Wednesday, and the young women sing a song written when most were still tender little ones filled wide-eyed wonder, standing like an army, each declaring “I am taking back what was stolen. . .”
Lilly moves to stand by them. She looks at each of them and remembers the day in 2012 when, in the backseat of a car, she held three infants and wept. One had been found in a sewer, one wrapped in tissue and left in a hotel room trash can. The third had been hidden under leaves. His faint cry caught the ear of a passerby who then noticed the slightest of movement on the ground beneath her. All were still alive. In each infant’s face, she saw the reflection of a young mom, terrified and desperate. She vowed that day that she would make a place for those moms to never be afraid anymore—a place where they could thrive and learn and become successful women.
Her journey—and their journey—reminds me of the hill. One labored step after another, with the song of hope beckoning, encouraging, calling.
It’s Wednesday, and the young women sing. The youngest, just 13, watches her four-month old son as he sleeps. She was a slave when they found her, shackled and pregnant when they rescued her and brought her to this place. A 16-year old cradles her toddler with one arm as she raises her other hand to the sky. Next to her, a 14-year-old closes her eyes and smiles as she proclaims every word. Little ones play as their moms sing the song they say is their testimony.
Every one was a victim of sexual abuse or trafficking. Rape and incest clawed away innocence. Childbirth left scars on bodies too young to understand. The stories on the pages were smeared with darkness.
But those stories are being redeemed.
“I believe God brought me to this place so He could bring me home to His love.”
“I am learning to forgive my abuser. I am being set free.”
“I have hope.”
In this place called Hope & Future, the girls are singing.
Arrebato is their battle cry. Repossess.
A new girl sits quietly and listens, her eyes filled with tears. She is seven months pregnant and a stranger to a place like this. Sometimes safety can feel so unsure. She wants to believe.
I repossess family, I repossess my health.
I repossess the treasures of the heavens, they belong to my home.
I repossess, I repossess what’s mine.
It’s Wednesday, and today at a place called Hope & Future the young women sing for her.
It’s Wednesday, and hope sings for me.
(Arrebato, Nancy Amancio, 2004)