AAC Area Coordinator for England, Wales and South Scotland, Peter Barton, together with his wife Sue, has visited Guatemala many times. Here he shares a very special story of a family close to his heart.
“I want to share with you the story of the two Marias. I started sponsoring Maria in 2005 as a little girl of 4. She lived with her grandmother, Maria, as her mother gave Maria to grandma at 6 weeks as she wanted nothing to do with a special needs child. So, grandma raised Maria on her own with occasional help from her extended family. Grandma Maria was over 60 and a widow of 15 years when Maria was born. They lived together in a one room dirt floor adobe hut with no running water about 40 minutes’ drive beyond our Chuchuca centre which is the most remote of the programmes in the Quiche highlands. Maria is now 20 and has a mental age of about 4.
Over the years I have met the two Marias and I have always been humbled by grandma Maria’s deep faith in God and her devotion to Maria. In 2012 I started supporting grandma Maria financially as she had no income and subsisted on what her extended family could spare her. The last time we met was on 21st September 2017, a visit that is imprinted in my memory.
Steve McDaniel was with me when we visited the two Marias. He started talking to Maria’s mother (who turns up when we visit to see what she can scrounge) not knowing that she was not involved at all in Maria’s life. As soon as he was told the situation he talked to grandma Maria. We learned that grandma had been bedridden for several months after being attacked by a dog. This had meant that Maria was unable to go to the centre as there was no-one to accompany her.
At the end of the conversation grandma Maria said to Steve “I know there are rules which are important but I am not as young as I used to be and I get very tired walking to the programme with Maria” (a journey of 2 hours on foot)” then waiting with the others and then walking home again. Can you please let me have just one tortilla to eat?”
Steve was nonplussed; he told me that he had been expecting her to ask for a full meal and her humility spoke to his heart and he immediately thought of Matthew 25:35 and 40: ‘For I was hungry and you fed me’ and ‘whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me’. He immediately said that whenever grandma Maria came to the programme, she was not to be given a tortilla but to be given a full meal.
He has shared with me and with many others how this was an epiphany for him which has been the inspiration for the M25 and Women In Need projects.
Grandma Maria died on 22nd June and has gone home to her Lord. I shall miss her and her deep faith.