• May 23, 2017

Ecuador: She teaches me hope

by Kari S., on mis­sion in Ecuador

Once a week we visit the psy­chi­atric hos­pital here in town and it is a place where I truly am reminded of the impor­tance of our mis­sion, but also where I find some of the most beau­tiful souls I’ve ever met. Lorenzo Ponce, like most things related to mental health, has a very neg­a­tive stigma attached to it. When we tell our friends in la Isla that we visit there once a week, they often ask “Aren’t you afraid?” or “Isn’t there where all the cra­zies are?” While it’s true, there are some res­i­dents there who have more serious mental ill­nesses than others, we remind them that the res­i­dents there are God’s chil­dren too and worthy of having a friend. Many of the res­i­dents we visit are com­pletely lucid and suffer from epilepsy or have simply been aban­doned by their family (much like in nursing homes in the U.S.).

A. has lived in Lorenzo Ponce for many years and lives in the least restricted part of the hos­pital with her sister. The two of them have per­mis­sion to leave the hos­pital a couple of times a week pro­viding they have good behavior. We first met A at the bus stop just out­side the hos­pital when she started talking to Leti and me in per­fect English – some­thing nei­ther one of us expected! In our con­ver­sa­tions with A, I’ve learned that she has severe anx­iety but has learned coping mech­a­nisms that com­pli­ment her med­i­ca­tion.

My friend teaches me a lot about hope. She con­stantly tells us that she wants to leave and to find a job again. She used to work as a PE teacher/fit­ness instructor of sorts and con­stantly tells us that she used to be skin­nier and healthier. She wishes to do that again someday and even had a stint in Lorenzo Ponce giving exer­cise classes to some of the other res­i­dents!

A. often invites us grab a coffee with her as a way of showing her respect for our friend­ship. I have yet to go with her because I never seem to be avail­able the days she invites us. However, one time she went with two com­mu­nity sis­ters to a nearby mall. From what the girls told me after­wards, she was so happy to show them this place that meant so much to her. For her, it is a place where she can relax and just be. She doesn’t feel the restric­tions of the hos­pital bearing down on her and there aren’t other res­i­dents around to bother her. A. is one of our friends that takes up the most space in my heart. I see how the chains of anx­iety pre­vent her from being truly her­self. My heart aches for her because I know that she desires so much to live on her own and to have a job, to find a way to give of her­self, but I’m not sure her ill­ness will ever let her. Please join me in praying that she may someday be able to reach her goal of living in an apart­ment with her sister and finding a job.

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