It might not sound much if you’re just reading this as ‘words’, but this morning, another visit to Ana Beiba Lasso’s wonderful home for abandoned old people, stretches just about every good human emotion to breaking point…. it’s quite a long drive from where we stay, and about a third of the way there, the car windows have to be closed and the doors locked, and it’s helpful if the car has tinted windows, so the locals can’t see it’s a car full of gringoes. Fortunately, lovely friend Wilmar’s nice ‘new’ Chevvy has. God’s blessed him and his adorable wife Marlene and daughters Sarah Sophie with a much newer car than their 33 year-old Fiat….
Driving through Agua Blanca is an experience in itself, especially for someone like Brian who had only been there in the dark until this morning. In the dark, he asked on the way home from church one night why the driver didn’t stop at red traffic lights… It’s just plain not a good idea to stop anywhere….that’s why we’re ushered pretty quickly from car door through steel cage doors of houses and churches.
Ana Beiba lives in the barrio Alfonso Bonilla Aragon: her son, previously a taxi driver, was hi-jacked by gunmen just a few hundred yards from her home back in March, the keys to his car demanded of him, refused, and he was shot eight times. So it’s a ‘safe-haven’ for poor, rejected, neglected old folk, heaven – almost literally – in the middle of hell.
It’s such a privilege to go there. And yet Ana is overwhelmed that I keep going back, taking with me the folk who are on my ‘team’, who just get blitzed and gob-smacked by the love, care, and joy of this amazing woman. It is not just ‘rare’ for foreigners to go a district like this: it just doesn’t happen.
So for someone/people to go back, again and again, just blows her away – but not nearly as much as it blows US away to be there. Brian was blitzed, speechless. Within moments of arriving, Robert’s got his hands on a very old man’s incredibly ulcerated leg praying for healing for him.
In July, it was a real thrill to take out to Ana enough money for her to begin to redevelop the house I took the money out for her to buy last year. The redevelopment is well underway: it has already meant she can increase her number of ‘babies’ as she delightfully calls them, from 70-75 to 100. Needles to say, she has 100. When the development is finished in 2 weeks, it will mean she can take 120. As the ambulances and the police are continually arriving at her gates, with yet more rejected and lonely old folk, that won’t take long. I was able to tell her that, all being well, I will give her the money to complete the development next week.
But… that’s all dependent on something that happened today, which can only be viewed as an enemy attack! I saw 5 missed calls on my UK mobile phone all from the same 0845 number. I don’t often look at my home phone when I’m away, as calls in and out are almost £2 a minute, but 5…well, I thought I ought to at least check the voice messages that number had left. My bank card had been hacked, or compromised, hacked is my choice: the bank advised me of a number of debits to William Hill, Corals, and other online betting companies. In that account is the money for Ana Beiba: I’ve already withdrawn some of it for cash, but the bulk is still there. The bank’s only option is to stop the card, so no more fraudulent transactions can be made: and they won’t send a replacement card to anywhere outside of Britain. So, unless a miracle occurs (I’m more in faith for healing miracles than banking miracles!), I’m stuffed….it’s also the card with my ‘living’ expenses for while I’m here on it, and the only one that doesn’t charge (the earth, like all others cards do) to use it abroad.
But, everything pales into insignificance when you’re with Ana: her hugs suffocate you, break your neck and your nose (well, nearly!), her smile is utterly infectious, her joy can only come from one source – the God she loves and worships – as she is joyful ALL of the time. And – bear in mind, that when I met her, for the first time, 2 years ago this month, she was a month into a 3 month ‘death sentence’ with a massive brain tumour…. her only concern THEN was not dying: it was ‘what will happen to my babies?’. That day, on her knees, and holding my thighs, with her head on my ‘comfortable’ stomach(!!), she felt the tumour go as I and my mates prayed for her…. Two years on, she’s as fit as a fiddle, and she lifts your spirits, quite unbelievably, even when you’ve just heard that your bank account has been hacked….
It’s hard to leave her home….