By Mike Tenbusch | April 13, 2021
Last week I received an email from Kevin Lopez, our team leader in Nicaragua, about Mateo, one of our scholarship students in Managua. One picture he sent of Mateo instantly reminded me of a picture taken years ago of my own son, Jacob, below right.
It has not been an easy year for my son. His senior year of high school has been spent with a mask on or on-line. He led his basketball team to the Catholic League playoffs for the first time in years, and then broke his ankle in a game just before the playoffs began. He’s still trying to discern where to attend college at a time when the only thing he sees on college visits are empty classrooms and closed coffee shops at ghost town campuses.
But it’s been a much more grueling time for Mateo. He’s 13 now. He’s been an International Samaritan scholar for three years. And he’s battling leukemia since being diagnosed at the age of 9. Every three weeks, he undergoes a 36-hour treatment that leaves him feeling weak and extremely hot with no appetite to eat. His mother can’t be there to comfort him, as she’s moved to Panama for a job to help pay for his medicines.
Thank God last November, a couple from Ann Arbor (who had recently sold the business they’ve spent a lifetime building) made a generous donation to cover the school tuitions and fees, as well food support for the families, of 57 elementary students in the Villa Guadalupe community of Managua, which includes Mateo.
But that doesn’t mean that Mateo’s struggle is over. For Mateo and families like his, crisis has become an everyday reality. These stories over the last two weeks reflect just a slice of life that is the daily reality of the children and families at the heart of our mission:
- Covid-19 Has All but Killed a Lifeline in Poor Economies—Hustling for Work, The Wall Street Journal, April 5, 2021.
- The Reason Many Guatemalans are Coming to the Border? A Profound Hunger Crisis. The Washington Post, April 1, 2021.
- Covid-19 Shut Schools Across Latin America, and Children Joined Gangs, The Wall Street Journal, April 6, 2021.
- Vital to a Clean World, Scavengers Left to Plead for Vaccine, The Associated Press, March 30, 2021.
The flood of people from Central America seeking refuge in our land can both inspire us to want to do something to help but also discourage us from doing so because the problem seems so vast and beyond our reach. Like the two religious men who “passed by on the other side” when they saw a half-dead man, stripped of his clothes, lying in the road, we can turn the page and focus on the busy-ness of our own lives.
But if you are that Samaritan, the one who feels compassion and stops to see how you can help, know that Mateo and 815 other students and their families living in garbage dump communities of developing nations still need you. We made a commitment to keep them in school and make sure their families have enough to eat through this pandemic, and we are only halfway to getting that funded a quarter of the way through the year.
Please keep Mateo and all our scholars in your prayers– and please consider giving to help them survive and thrive this year.
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