Leonor and Her Poem

  • March 10, 2015
  • #8572

A Family Retreat in El Salvador inspires an impoverished woman with rheumatoid arthritis to write a poem of gratitude to Jesus.

Leonor and Her Poem

Hi, I’m Joni Eareckson Tada and you’re listening to "Joni and Friends."

Welcome to these few minutes together where I love sharing stories of inspiration and encouragement; stories that remind us all that the grace of God really is sufficient for every need. And nobody illustrates that better than Leonor. I met her back in 2007 when Ken and I went with Wheels for the World to El Salvador. When I asked about the plight of people with disabilities, they said to me, “Joni, you just gotta go visit Leonor.” And so Ken and I traveled out beyond the capital city, past fields of banana trees, past crumbling little villages and homes made of cardboard and tin. Finally, after a couple of hours we reached a tiny house set a few feet back from the road.

It was difficult wheeling through the front yard to the door. There was trash and chicken wire and puddles of mud. This was where Leonor lived. It was the home of her aunt who took care of her. And I use that word “care” very loosely. Although it was mid-day, the house was dark and filled with smoke from a cooking fire in the kitchen. Ken flicked on his flashlight and we wheeled down a narrow hallway that opened up into a bare room; I turned and entered and there was a little dresser and a mattress on the floor. On it sat Leonor. She was so thin and frail and because of her rheumatoid arthritis, her body was filled with boils and pressure sores. Several sores were open and bleeding. Leonor had just a few teeth. After a few words in Spanish with our translator, we learned that the family wasn’t very consistent in giving Leonor meals or helping her to the bathroom. No wonder this woman was skin and bones.

My heart broke. But Leonor was thrilled when we fit her to a small-sized wheelchair. All of this was back in 2007, and since then, local missionaries have raised funds to provide for someone to come in and feed and bathe Leonor. But this year something even more wonderful happened. Leonor was able to come to our Family Retreat which we held at a little beach resort on the Pacific Coast of El Salvador – one of our international family retreats. Here she had a chance to enjoy a clean room with clean bedding, and, oh my goodness, electricity, and hot running water. Not only that, she took part in all the many activities, even swimming in the ocean and horseback riding, of all things! When I heard that Leonor was able to attend our Family Retreat, I was over the top. But I was especially touched when, after the retreat, she wrote me a brief letter and a poem. And the poem she entitled “A Trip” by Leonor de Jesús Alferez. And Leonor writes:

What a lovely, special day… That Jesus has made.
It is a fantastic trip… because Jesus allowed it.
To laugh and to share… To see a beautiful sunset…
And see the rays of the sun at dawn.
To feel a fresh breeze, And before it gets dark…
To see and feel the waves of the ocean.
Before or after riding a horse… To give love and friendship.
No matter what the disability… You shine with joy…
And with Jesus every day.
- by Leonor de Jesús Alferez

How it is that such an impoverished woman suffering so much neglect; so many challenges, how it is that she could write such a sweet poem? I tell you it’s a true testimony to the power of God to sustain the weakest and most frail among us. That’s something to remember, that’s something to make you and I appreciate our own blessings. And speaking of blessings, please pray for our Wheels for the World team, they are in El Savador this week sharing Bibles and more wheelchairs with more people like Leonor. So come by my radio page at joniandfriends.org later and see a photo of my friend Leanor.

© Joni and Friends

 

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