Joseph has been mentoring Danilo for over a year and a half now and their relationship has not always been easy. Together they have learned what mentoring looks like and how to build friendship and trust. Through Joseph’s faithful commitment and perseverance, a genuine and honest bond has grown that allows for vulnerability, and transformation.
Last night when Joseph and Pete (a visiting volunteer from the UK) arrived at ‘Casa Alexis’ (our protection home) to meet a friend and I for dinner two things were obvious. First the smell they brought in with them was an indication that they needed to change and that they had been on the rubbish dump. Second, it was obvious that Joseph, in particular, had something to share. He couldn’t wait to tell us about his day, and more specifically his mentoring session with Danilo.
After shoes were removed and put outside a safe distance from us, Joseph dove into sharing about his day. He had invited Pete to share in his mentoring sessions and they had first taken José to McDonalds for a treat. Their time had been special and happy. They had then taken Danilo to a nice outdoor food-court and sat and shared with each other over good coffee. Joseph’s excitement grew as he explained that Danilo had shared his testimony. The impact of Danilo’s testimony was still clear as Joseph recounted parts of it to us. We decided that over dinner we would hear the whole thing, and I will shortly share it with you too.
But first we will dive back into what happened after Danilo shared his testimony with Joseph and Pete. Once their coffees were finished Joseph, moved by Danilo’s story, wanted to show Pete the rubbish dump where Danilo, his mother and some of his younger siblings all work.
Which explained the smell.
At the dump they had met with one of Danilo’s younger sisters and she had excitedly bombarded Joseph with questions, desperate to follow in her big brother’s footsteps and be a part of our foundation. She wanted a mentor of her own, knowing that with it came more opportunities to study and learn.
Joseph’s passion and drive to impact more lives was audible and visible. I could hear it in his voice, he would do everything in his power to make her dreams come true. As is the nature of our work, there are always more children to reach and help. It is one of my greatest joys to work alongside a team full of people willing and ready to go above and beyond to help change lives.
Now back to Danilo and a testimony of transformation.
It was a blessing to sit and eat with friends as they retold Danilo’s testimony to us. Both Pete and Joseph had clearly been moved by his story and the day they had just spent together in ministry and service.
Danilo had shared, and Joseph had translated for Pete.
He had begun by sharing a bit about his family. Danilo is 15 and is one of 8 children, coming somewhere in the middle of the family. He currently lives with his mother and younger siblings. They work on the rubbish dump, separating and sorting plastics. Towards the beginning of his testimony Danilo had shared that 7 years ago his older brother, aged 22 at the time, was shot dead in front of his wife and four young children. That is certainly one way to set the scene, a stark and raw insight into the reality of his life and the context he grew up in. Apparently, although clearly saddened by this fact, Danilo had shared it in a ‘matter of fact’ tone and simply carried on. He had first started smoking and drinking when he was around 5-7 years old, influenced by friends and unaware that there was a different way to live. He had begun work on the dump at just 8 years old, long and late hours doing manual labour, surrounded by filth.
He told them that from that tender age of 8 as he grew up, he was spending more and more time with the wrong kind of people and living in a very self-centred way. He and his friends would often steal in order to buy drugs and at 13 years old he was taking cocaine. He expressed to Joseph and Pete that he was able to hide these lifestyle choices from his mother. He and his friends were living lives that involved crime, drugs and drink and I imagine he still didn’t know there was a different way.
It was when he was 13 that he met someone from ‘Mi Arca’ (now SKD Guatemala) and his life began to change. Jonathan told him about a different way to live, he told him about God and forgiveness. Danilo’s eyes welled as he told Joseph he had never heard about forgiveness before that day. It must have been like a weight taken from his shoulders, suddenly he saw the world and his life differently. He began to distance himself from those negative influences, the friends, the drink, the drugs. He began to take his education seriously and stopped being so selfish. He accepted God’s forgiveness and love, and through this his life was transformed.
He told Joseph and Pete that through coming to the Centre, making good Christian friends and having Joseph as a mentor he has finally had positive influences in his life and these things have had a massive impact.
I can testify to the change in Danilo over the two years I have known him. His attitude and behaviour have drastically transformed. The self-centred, immature, angry boy I met when I first moved here is now a happy, delightful, helpful, strong young man.
This is the impact that love has; both the love of God and the love that is shown when living in fellowship with other Christians. God constantly redeems all things and it is a pleasure to be a part of the journey with our youth. It reminds us of what we already knew, that the work here is so important, and it really does change lives.
Danilo now volunteers with us at our centre and continues to grow daily into who God wants him to be.