On the edge of the desperation… God responds to your pleas


My name is Saray, I am the mother of four children: Edwin Josué is 10 years old, Jonathan Daniel is 7 years old, Pablo Esteban is 6 years old and Emanuel is 3 years old. I can testify that God has always taken special care of me and of my family. I am the youngest in a family of 7 siblings; and 4 more that my mother adopted and raised. Since my childhood, I have seen limitations of money.

When I was an adolescent I slept in a bed made of cardboard on the floor, suffering every night with the constant cold and the rats that passed over me. When I married and had our first son, we lived in a little shack used for rooster fights that we rented to live in with our parents, my siblings and their spouses, and my husband and I with our son. I began to work in cloth painting to be able to help with the expenses, and a little bit later we are able to rent house with two rooms for my family.

My husband, my son and I lived in a room where we could only use half of the space because it was also used as a storage room; my son and I slept on an old mattress and my husband on the floor. Christmas was very close. For us it was a very hard time, difficult to understand and full of suffering, without money to give gifts, without money for clothes and many times without money even for food. My husband was able to get work as a security guard and we were able to live a little more comfortably, but when my second son was born money was scare again.

I thought that we would never have our own land and much less a decent house. Then one day my mother called me to tell me that they were going to divide their property among my siblings and that they would give me a lot. It was very touching, but there was a drawback in that the land was muddy, there was a lot of water and it was on a hill. We assumed the challenge; we thanked God, and got secondhand materials: old corrugated sheets, wood, and other things, and we gave ourselves to the task of building a little shack of about 12' x 9' with an earthen floor.

Our first problem was with fleas. There wasn't electricity or drinkable water. The nights were so cold and the house was so humid that my children constantly suffered with colds. Our clothes and the things in the house were damaged by the humidity. Our bed was made with six pads and used wooden pieces, with a mattress of springs that my brother had thrown away. I made it with mom. She has always been an example for me to be brave. We all slept in this bed. When we could buy a little more secondhand material, we made another room where we put the bed we made and one that we got for the children. We could not move the beds; the space was filled up completely. Together with my mom and a neighbor, we made a cement floor and my dad made the first installation of electricity using an extension cord. As for water, we had to bring it from below, deposit it in a muddy tank, and from there take what we needed.

We didn't have sanitary service or a bath; we used a jar to bathe, and we used my parents' toilet. When I had to get my children ready to go to school, they had to walk through the mud holes at 5:00 in the morning in the cold. The affliction of seeing my children trembling, full of mud, and constantly crying to use the facilities of my parents was horrible. My children were afraid of the rain and the wind, because when there was wind it entered from all sides and it sounded horrible. It seemed that it would literally destroy the little shack. When it rained there were many leaks inside the house; rain fell on my bed, and on my children's bed. We had to look for pots to catch the water and put cloths on the roof to try to keep out the water that continued to leak in. Every day the pots were older, and the walls got rusty to the point that if you were to clean a wall, you thought that the wall would surely fall apart in your hands.

For eight long years we lived under these conditions in our little shack, however, I never lost hope. Of the little bit that came my way, and of what I received, we always gave a tithe to be faithful to the good God that has always been faithful to us in all situations. Before knowing of Habitat, we made an attempt to get our own house. This first time, we went to INTERNATIONAL DACASA. They told us that if we made a deposit for ¢70.000 (about $230), after three months they would give us a loan. Immediately we sought out a moneylender and we obtained the money, deposited it in the company and returned three months later to see the result of the transaction. Imagine our surprise when they told us that they would not give us the loan; if we wanted it we had to wait for the raffle and if my name was drawn, they would give it to me. They said that they could not return the money and that they would even charge me because I owed them money. This was the first swindle.

Some time later we were swindled again by another of these well-denominated "housing vultures" in Costa Rica; they made us give an advance for a lot and when we went to sign the documents, there was not anything in the person's name that we had given the money to. In our most difficult moment, my husband lost his job. We didn't have money even for food and after having suffered the swindles we were very frustrated and distrustful. My fourth son was born, and I was looking for a way to work with crafts. A preacher came and he told me that God had listened to the yearning of my heart and that there was an answer. Quickly I thought of money for a week of food, however bigger blessings began. First, people that had never helped us before, and who by their attitude toward us we never expected to receive their support, gave us money that lasted us two months. When we were using the last bag of rice, they arrived with more. But I could not imagine that the real answer was a decent roof for my family.

One day one of my husband's coworkers came to visit us, and when he saw our condition he got scared. He turned pale, and after sitting down he told us he was building with Habitat and he gave us the address. He explained the program to us and he was very kind to us. Immediately I went to the Regional Office in San Ramón, and I requested an application. It seemed incredible and even strange to hear of an organization that didn't request money up front, that didn't charge interest, that used all the money for materials, giving free technical supervision and more. I gave thanks to God and I put everything in His hands. I had to receive the training twice because the papers saying that the land was mine came late, and even before the engineer's visit problems arose, but God helped and everything was surpassed.

My children kept wondering: Mommy, is it true that we will each have a bed? That we will have a bathroom and toilet? That we will have a cement house? That we will be able to bring our friends over? And every day they were more excited. I remember the first day that Minor González, the construction foreman, arrived with the first materials, I could not believe what I saw. I touched the materials over and over, until my emotions gave me a stomachache, and tears ran from my eyes. I don't have clear words to be able to explain what I felt. When the concrete block arrived and I saw it for the first time I almost fainted of fright and emotion. The first thing I thought was how was I going to take all this material up to my lot (250 feet up a hill)? And once again I trusted that God would give the solution.

It arrived in the form of a group of local and international volunteers. My heart beat so quickly that it seemed that I would faint. I listened to so many people speaking in so many languages and in many ways different, but with direct communication through the language of "love in action." My children, my nephews and I ascended once and again with material, and it seemed that there was no end to it. My son Esteban, only 6 years old, worked very hard and said: "I promised my mom that when we built our house I would help hauling material." Little by little the house was taking form. Every day we fell asleep late, thinking, conversing, and dreaming of the special day. The other families we worked with I am still good friends with, and we are grateful together. When a time passes without seeing them I look a way to find out how they are doing.

It was hard, but it was worthwhile. In the inauguration of the houses I began to speak and I had a knot in my throat and I started crying. It was so significant for us, and for me it was a total victory to be able to have a roof worthy of my four children. We were very excited and grew impatient to sleep in our new house. We walked by it, and upon seeing it we could not believe that it was ours. Before anything, when arriving at the house, we knelt down in the entrance and we said a prayer of thanks to the good God that made possible our unreachable dream. Now I think of the moments that I was alone in the afternoons washing the wheelbarrows and the other tools, so cold and so tired, and I see it as a dream. I feel so proud of having been part of the construction of our house. I see that the sacrifice was worthwhile. It gives more pleasure to be able to enjoy it this way. The reality is that I never thought of it as something given, but rather I always requested to God the opportunity to work to achieve it, and I can say that it was very hard and so real, but now it has paid off.

My children no longer fear the night, the rain, or the wind, and they no longer spend as much time sick. They no longer feel humiliated when a friend comes over. Before we all slept together, and now each person has their own bed. They enjoy each moment playing in and sharing the home that God has given us. We are more independent, and now we can think of Christmas as a wonderful celebration that we can enjoy. The children wait with longing for the moment to decorate the house with Christmas colors, and they are already thinking of a color to paint it. My youngest son is learning how to go to the bathroom alone as if it was something normal for him. I am so proud of our new house. I have the right to live and to make improvements so that it is prettier. I know that my dignity and self-esteem have increased incredibly. The teachers of the school talk about dramatic changes in my children's school work. Today when I listen to the strong wind or the torrential rain, I think of the cold that we felt. I cry, my heart is broken and I pray to the good God for people that live under the conditions that we lived previously. I remember that I am lucky to have a worthy roof over me.

When I visit churches now I give testimony to what God has given us by means of Habitat for the Humanity. Every time that I meet a family in need I urge them to look for a real solution for its problem as I have done. I speak with people, I explain the program to them, and I invite them to visit my house. The reality is that I cannot stop speaking of Habitat. There are few organizations that offer support in the way that Habitat does. It is not like a bank. We have access to a worthy, economic, and durable solution, without discrimination or favoritism, and we know that there is no political manipulation. Habitat really takes into account the necessity, based on the quantity of children, amount of earnings, work disposition, etc. In Habitat we are like a family. I can arrive at the Office to speak with any person and I sit down the same as anybody. I can really say that Habitat for Humanity should not die and that it is the answer that God has given to the clamor of many that have been waiting real answers to solve a housing problem, putting as main reason sharing as community and to develop us as family united in harmony of the hand of God.