Hard Call

A Tomball woman took on street waifs to find the truth: Comfortable can't compare to comforting

This is the latest installment in Gilderson's great enterprise. For the first time, she's brought some of her students to Tomball with her, hoping to better their English by immersing them in the culture here for two months.

Melissa, the most outgoing of the group, equates English with success. "In all the world, people need to learn English. With English, you have more opportunities," she says. "I want to be a woman, important, in the office, the boss." She says emphatically. And the ultimate goal of all this? "To have my own things, my own house, my own family."

Melissa wants to make her future in Honduras, living there while operating her business in several countries. For now, she lives with her mother, sister, aunt, cousin and three-year-old brother in a tiny house.

Elizabeth Ann found her calling after raising five children of her own.
Elizabeth Ann found her calling after raising five children of her own.
Elizabeth Ann found her calling after raising five children of her own.
Elizabeth Ann found her calling after raising five children of her own.

Belkis lives in somewhat better circumstances financially with both parents, four brothers and a sister. But Gilderson says things are not going well between the girl's parents. And her English ability is the most limited of the group; she missed the basics, Gilderson says. Belkis hopes to be a bilingual secretary someday.

Kevin, who lives with both parents and a younger brother, is the most fluent in English. He goes to a special bilingual school in addition to studying with "Miss Ann" as the others do. He had another brother who died two years ago of sickle cell anemia, a death that could have been avoided with better treatment, Gilderson says. Kevin is a carrier of the same disease. He wants to be a fireman.

It is interesting to look back and see how incidents in the past form a network, which becomes a part of the future. About twenty years ago, I spent one year in Miami, Florida. While there, I met Linda, who almost became family.Linda wrote me about five years ago telling me of Viva Network, a missions organization which works with agencies involved with children at risk.When Marvin's situation became critical, I decided to call Katja (a Viva representative) for help.

Katja started calling orphanages, and mostly the response was the same: Marvin was too old. She finally found a home where they have two hundred children which is about an hour beyond Tegucigalpa travelling from here. El Orfanatorio Emanuel is sponsored by Amor Cristiano Internacional (Christian Love International).

Marvin's father was asked to sign more papers.He had no problem, but he volunteered that Marvin's mother was living in a village not far from Tela and didn't want Marvin to go to a home.Soon we found this to be untrue because the judge from Family Court together with Allan and other of her staff paid a visit to the mother. The judge decided quickly that there would be no future for Marvin in the poor conditions his mother was living in. Why did she suddenly come into the picture when Marvin had not lived with her since he was three years old? Within a few days, it appeared as if both mother and father were hoping to get some money out of the arrangements we had made for Marvin.

On Wednesday, November 8, the Court Secretary, Allan and I left with Marvin for San Pedro. It was difficult because I was unable to tell Marvin how long it would be before he was in his permanent home in the mountains. How could I trust the system to come through with the arrangements we had made? My faith wavered, but I knew people were praying. The reception in San Pedro was cold. We were instructed to leave Marvin alone sitting on a bench and depart. No one had come forward to meet him or us. The Secretary had handed in a paper with scant details at the desk. In desperation I called out that Marvin had medication with him for his gum disease, and it was important that he use it three times a day. Sadly we left. Allan visited two days later, saw the social worker and Marvin, who seemed very happy. We were expecting the social worker to come to Tela, but instead we heard that they had already transferred Marvin to Guaimaca. It is impossible to express my relief and gratitude for his safety and comfort.

Marvin lived in my house for ten weeks. -- Elizabeth Ann Gilderson, November 19, 2000

Elizabeth Ann Gilderson seems a figure from another era, a Dickens character of sorts. She belongs to a denomination that spends a lot more of its "missionary" efforts on the local front. But she heard a call to go to Honduras, Gerber says, and church members supported her in that.

"The Gospel needs to be spread, but more so by humanitarian Christlike actions, instead of cramming it down the throats of people," Gerber says. "We are commanded by Christ to love people, and she is fulfilling that command."

Gilderson says it herself: She doesn't sit under a tree in a fluffy hat preaching. "I hope they will see Christ in what I do."

Sixty-six years old now, she set out on a great adventure 12 years ago armed with only ten weeks of missionary training. She's spent those years giving out milk, food and hugs, in and out of rainy seasons and hurricanes. She could have been comfortable. She chose instead to be comforting, rendering something holy out of her humanity.

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