I know I will never be wanted; something deep down inside, tells me so. Each time the cold eyes of my papa chisel at my heart, I know I am nothing but shame to him. I am desperate, oh so desperate for his approval, the love that he forever withholds from me. It shatters my heart into a million tiny pieces that no one can put back into place. He is ashamed of my weakness. I try to be strong. I struggle to pull the tears back, but they so easily rebel. I cannot do better and I know I am a failure.
The coldness of solitude creeps into my bones as the echoes of laughter reach my ears. There is no room for me to partake in the laughter of my fellow school mates. I am too ashamed to make friends. I know they must despise me: a motherless creature, who fails before the eyes of both my teacher and Papa. As Teacher gathers her students back to the classroom, I slowly follow behind.
Nearing the doorway, my heartbeat nearly comes to a halt. I can barely take in a breath. My exam is today. Will I even pass into the next grade? Surely my Papa will be disappointed with me if I fail him again. He cannot waste his meagre income on such a slow animal.
Each minute of the exam seems to stretch longer, as I scribble down answers. I strive to pull the facts from my brain. I struggle to comprehend. As my dull pencil gets shorter and shorter, the pink rubber eraser becomes worn with frequent use. Fear grips my heart and twists it relentlessly. My breaths are quick and short. My head is dizzy. My hardened brown feet kick the legs of the desk monotonously. A pestering fly teases me cruelly. The hot air chokes my attention. And yet all I can think about is Papa.
Papa, working hard on the farm to feed me and keep me in school; day after day, fighting the unyielding clay. If only he knew how I loved him so dearly, how very hard I try to please him. If only I had worked a little harder after school, it wouldn’t have been my fault.
I wouldn’t have killed my dear sweet Mama, if only I had done more. She was too weak to work, but I hadn’t known. How wicked I was to have stayed in school while Mama, suffering with cancer, labored at the farm. If only I had known how much pain she was experiencing, I would have worked harder. I would have exerted all of my eight-year-old strength, so that she could rest. I helped the best I knew how, but it wasn’t enough.
How can I expect Papa to forgive me, when I cannot forgive myself?
All at once, my thoughts fly back to the exam. The dryness in my throat makes it hard to swallow. With a minute left, I scratch out my name at the top of the paper and hand it in.
“This will be good for Wendy, my son. Surely you can see that? Do not let your hardened heart stand in the way of her best interest.”
“Her best interest? Have I not labored to keep her off the streets? She is a lazy child, who does not deserve to go to school. I cannot allow her to attend a church program,” his firm voice bellows above the loud flapping of the tarp.
“I will not back down Juan,” comes the quiet reply of my grandmother. Her weak voice trembles with earnest, and I yearn to be held in her arms. “Wendy must be registered tomorrow for the Child Development Center. I believe that God has sent this opportunity to us.”
“If it gets her out of my sight,” he retorts, “you can take her tomorrow, but God has sent us nothing. He has only taken from me and my family.”
“I am going to register you with the Compassion project here at Pastor Jose’s church,” her words come slow. “This will help you greatly, my child.” I want to believe her, but I am also puzzled. I know of a young girl in my school who attends the project once a week. She talks about her sponsor and shares about the activities and games she plays at the Center. She says because of her sponsor, her family is now able to buy groceries and provide her a uniform. And still, I do not know what to expect.
Abuela takes me home. I am very tired. Next week I will come to the project and meet my teacher. I want to be happy, but the truth haunts me. I know she will soon discover that I am a failure. I wonder if I must take many exams at the Project?
I have attended the project for many weeks. A new light is burning in my heart. At the project, we learn fascinating Bible stories and I am making new friends. I still don’t have a sponsor, but the teacher has prayed that one will come soon! I am very happy.
The rainy season soaks the world around me. Wet mud puddles stain my clothes, as I follow my grandmother to the church service. My mind begs to silently slip into the back pew, but Abuela steadily presses toward the front. I gaze upward at the wooden cross which hangs majestically from one of the supporting beams. My step becomes lighter, and I sit on the front pew, beside my beloved Abuela. Her faithful eyes rest on Pastor Jose, who is opening his Bible and preparing to speak. I listen intently.
My heart slowly fills with hope as I hear the wonderful words of Pastor Jose. I never knew that Jesus would want someone like me. How could one so perfect, love a child as horrible as I? The question is rolling over and over in my head. But as I ponder this almost impossible statement, a feeling of love is beginning to surround me. I am beginning to realize that Jesus really does love me, even if no one else does.
The days pass by and I eagerly count each one. I am longing for the day when my sponsor will find me. At the project, Marie pulls me aside when it is time for the children to return to their homes.
The soft paper feels so soothing between my rough fingertips. This Bible is a precious jewel to me; my only possession. Its treasured words will lead me closer to Him, the one friend I have. The One who gave salvation to a failure.