by Brittany Koepke, on mission in Ecuador
“Our friendship with Ernesto is a new one that has recently blossomed. Ernesto’s family told us he is deaf and mute. He can hear, though, if you speak loudly and he can speak well enough to communicate. He is 38 years old and weighs less than 80 pounds as he suffers from severely advanced tuberculosis. Up until recently, our only contact with Ernesto was greeting in the street as we passed by. We would ask how he is doing and he would always give me a thumbs up or thumbs down to indicate how he felt. But a month ago, he knocked on our door and we invited him in. Since that day Ernesto has been coming to our home several times a day. He never asks for anything. We offer him a cup of tea or bread, but he does not usually accept anything either. Ernesto comes to …just be with us. I played Rummy with him the other day (and he beat me.) Afterwards, he stayed to pray the rosary and we ended up giving him a rosary of his own. Now he comes every day at 3 p.m. with his gifted rosary in hand ready to pray with us. Occasionally, he joins us for adoration and mass.
I was recently really touched by my encounter with Ernesto. He knocked on our door around 10 a.m. When I opened the door he immediately opened his hand to show me his medications. At first, I was confused why he brought his pills to our house for me to see. I asked if he wanted water to take his pills or if he was lacking more medications. But he shook his head no. And as I stood there trying to figure out why he came here with his meds and why he was curiously smiling, it dawned on me that he has not always taken care of himself and he wanted to show me that now he is trying. He knew we would be happy to know he filled his prescription and is trying to get better. As soon as I said “Ernesto, I’m so happy you have your medicine. I’m glad you are taking them so you can feel better,” it was as if that was all he wanted to hear. He shook his head up and down and smiled broadly. Then he waved goodbye. “Chau, Ernesto.” ”