Thursday, September 8, 2011

The life and death of Paco

Sorry it's been a few days since I updated. It's been a rough few days. I've been struggling to feel at home, especially with the language barrier and not being able to communicate very well with anyone.

Then, on Tuesday, a little kitten wandered into the school during lunch. They chased it towards the door, but he ran into the office instead and hid beneath a shelf. I had everyone step back, and went in to get him. I reached in tentatively, but he just looked at me, and allowed me to grab him. I handed him to the security guy, and didn't think about what he might have done with him.

Not even half an hour later, we were outside during recess, and one of the boys ran to me, "Miss! Miss! (insert string of spanish words here)... gatito!" I looked to where he was pointing, and there was the little kitten, crouching near the corner of the building. I picked him up and decided that there was no point to throwing him out again. So, I took him inside, and put him in the shower that's in the bathroom of my classroom. I let the water run so he'd have some water, and fished some leftover tortillas out of the trash and gave them to him. He dug in.

He was mostly white, with a black tail and a black patch over one ear. His eyes were green, implying that he was probably around 4 months, but he was so small and thin that he could easily lay on one of my hands. I could feel all of his bones, and his bloated stomach was filled with worms. Every time I checked on him, he cried and came eagerly to me, and it wasn't just about the food. He smelled like pee and was coated in grease and dirt, but there was trust and affection in his eyes.

I got permission and took him home, agreeing to keep my room clean in exchange for keeping the cat. I worked with him that evening, using an old toothbrush and water to try to get him a little cleaner. He purred for a few minutes, and then got anxious and started wandering. I had given him more food, but he threw most of it up. By late evening, he had lost interest in food and wasn't active at all. I put him on my bed next to me so he wouldn't overheat being on me, but he crawled into my lap anyway.

I tucked him into the drawer of my nightstand for the night, and was pleasantly surprised to find him alive in the morning, though his condition had not improved. He no longer had an interest in drinking even, and had yet to go to the bathroom. I knew he needed vet care, but had no way of taking him on my own, and school comes first. I was able to take him that afternoon, getting dropped off on the way to get Kevin from school. By then, he had wet himself and was laying on his side, all bad signs.

The vet wasn't in, and won't be until Monday, but the clinic was still open because they sell dog food and supplies as well. I (and Lindsay, my interpreter who I'd be lost without) convinced them to give him some fluids anyway, and I went into the exam room with the old man who was the tech, who gave him fluids under the skin. I trusted that he knew what he was doing, but a little alarm went off in my head when he was done. There were too many fluids given.

By the time we got home (a 10 minute ride), little Paco was open-mouth breathing and cried with a gurgled sound. He had too many fluids for his body to absorb, so he was drowning.

As he lay dying in my lap, everything came crashing down at once: my feelings of utter lonliness, my past failures, and my lack of feeling like this place is home. To me, Paco was more than just a little stray. He was going to make this place feel like home. I've never gone more than 6 months in my entire life without at least one cat around. I thought he was an answer to prayer for this place to feel like home. I blame myself for his death, because I should have known how much he needed, or at least known when to stop. I was the one in that room with knowledge and experience, but I did nothing.

Many times in the past, satan has brought up my failures and used those to label me a failure. The biggest one was my failure of the vet tech program and resulting termination of my job. And that following summer, I failed at really being a staff member at Wildwood as I blatently broke almost all of the rules just because I wanted to. And now I feel like I'm failing here. I was so sure that I'm supposed to work with the girls at Casita, but I don't know if I'm going to be able to do that. I have no way of getting there, and I don't speak enough Spanish to be able to be of much use at this point. It's frustrating to know God's calling, but not be able to fulfill it.

Anyway, when my poor little cat finally stopped breathing, I put him in a box and let the emotions hit me. I cried on my bed for a long time, calling out to God for answers and help. Before I got my answer, I was going to just curl up and sleep, like I usually do in such situations, but I knew that wasn't the right thing to do. So, I picked up my guitar and started playing. The first song I played was "Born Again" by Third Day. Here are the lyrics:

Verse 1

Today I found myself,
After searching all these years,
And the man that I saw,
He wasn't at all who I'd thought He'd be,

I was lost when You found me here,
And I was broken beyond repair,
Then You came along and sang Your song over me

Verse 2

Make a promise to me now,
Reassure my heart somehow,
That the love that I feel,
is so much more real than anything
I've a feeling in my soul,
And I pray that I'm not wrong,
That the life I have now,
It is only the beginning


It feels like I'm born again
It feels like I'm living
For the very first time
For the very first time

It feels like I'm breathing
It feels like I'm moving
For the very first time
For the very first time


I wasn't looking for something that was more,
Than what I had yesterday,
Then You came to me,
Then You gave to me,
Life and a love that I've never known,
That I've never felt before

The words from that first verse hit me. I saw who I am, and it wasn't someone that I liked. It was the same person I'd always been. I'm in new place and doing new ministry, but I've still got the same skeletons in my closet. I was sure I didn't pack those, but there they were.

I went through about 12 other songs, singing and playing for an hour straight, ignoring the pain in my left fingertips and right shoulder as I went on playing and singing and crying. Every song I played was a worship song, and so many lines were hitting me about restoration and trusting God no matter what, and following him through the storm. As I sang about being held in His arms, and asking Him to be my shelter, I finally heard Him speak: "I am home."

Now I know that I don't need a cat for this to feel like home. I don't need to understand every word spoken to me, or why they eat beans for breakfast. All I need is to understand that my home is in His presence. It's where He is, and He's everywhere, all the time. There's nothing else I need in this world but Him. I took a huge leap of faith by coming down here, so I'm not sure why I didn't think He'd catch me. But He did, and now I'm back on track.

I still miss my family (actual relatives, and close friends), and I still feel sort of out of place, but I know that this is where I'm supposed to be, and I'm in a process. Being called to do mission work doesn't mean that I'm perfect, that I've arrived. I've only just begun this journey.

Thank you all for your prayer support. Please continue to pray for me as I'm on this journey of God changing me as I allow Him to work through me to bring His love to the people of Honduras.

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