More to Life

More to Life

By: Brandy Campbell, with Cecilia Yepez in Ecuador   |   Posted: November 26, 2008

A Grandmother Finds an Ally in Compassion
The morals Renᮬ left, has learned through Compassion have been passed on to his younger brother, Marcelo. Both boys have avoided the gangs that plague
their community.

Virginia stoops to carry a heavy bucket of water into her sparse kitchen. Her wrinkled arms shake as the water sloshes onto the dirt floor, leaving a trail of mud.

"Grandmother!" She hears her grandson, 17-year-old Renᮬ before she sees him. He strides quickly across the room and gently takes the bucket from Virginia, urging her to rest.

She smiles fondly, reaching up to pat Renᮧs cheek.
"You're a good boy," she murmurs before she shuffles to the chair he pulls out for her.

Virginia knows that her polite grandson is an enigma in the coastal community of Cristo del Consuelo. While three out of four teenagers here drop out of high school and many turn to gangs and drugs, Rená® spends his evenings doing his homework and chores for his grandmother.

Ten years ago, someone came to Renᮧs rescue. And Virginia hasn't let a day go by without thanking God for that miracle.

OFFERING AN ALTERNATIVE

Rená® came to live with Virginia and her husband, Alberto, when Rená® was just an infant. His father had died and his mother said she couldn't raise Rená®®

While Renᮧs grandparents loved him, they were unable to provide for him. Eighty percent of adults in Cristo del Consuelo are unemployed. There was no way this elderly couple could compete for the handful of jobs available.

Virginia worried about her grandson about more than his hunger and threadbare clothes. She saw the way he tagged along behind the older boys in the neighborhood. Boys who were heavily involved in gangs and often carried guns and knives in their loose waistbands.

But what could she do? What kind of alternative could she offer Renᮿ

Virginia wasn't the only one worried about Rená®® Lupe Lopez, director of the Dorcas Child Development Center (EC-384) in town, had also noticed Rená® and his family.

When the boy was 7, Lupe visited Virginia. The two women shared a common hope for Renᮬ and within a few weeks he was enrolled at the center.

GOD'S PLAN FOR RENN

At the center, Rená® learned from his tutors, classmates and sponsor that there is more to life than gangs and drugs. "At the center, we were told over and over how much God loved us, and how He had a plan for us," says Rená®®

"Soon I began to believe what they were telling me.
And that's why, when I was a teenager and an older kid offered me drugs on the playground, I said no. It's why when boys in gangs asked me to join their gangs, I said no. I knew God had something different planned for me."

RESCUING HIS FAMILY

As Rená® approaches his high school graduation, he says he would like to open his own shoe store or maybe be a famous soccer player! Regardless of his career choice, he wants to take care of his grandmother, just as she has spent her life caring for him.

"I want to get her and my brother out of this dangerous area," he says. "I would love to buy them a house far away from all of the bad things that happen here. One day I will do that for my family."

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