The Poorest of the Poor

Suddenly a scream comes from the barred entrance of the Armonia Transformation Center in Jalalpa. Doctor! Help! Come! We rush up the stairs and out the door. We follow a man running down the street, turn right and enter a little two floor house. Up the stairs there is a small room. A hammock is there, torn on one end but fixed to the wall on the other. On the floor lies a small, motionless boy. He has no pulse. He is not breathing. He is warm. We chant ABC – “airway, breathing, circulation” as we ready ourselves. We commence two person CPR, two old retired doctors working at the Armonia center a short block away. And we continue. No pulse, no respiration after thirty minutes or more. Pupils fixed. This beautiful boy is dead.

His father bursts into the room. He picks up the little boy by his arms, raises him up and down using a method of artificial respiration we used 40 years ago. We go downstairs. Finally after an hour a police car arrives, then later an ambulance. We don’t need an ambulance. We don’t need the police. We would have needed a defibrillator, and EMS personnel, but not an hour later. There is no 911 in Mexico for the poor. For them, the nearest hospital is three hours away on a good day through the traffic.

That night we return to console the family. They, of course, are grief stricken. They say this had to be an accident with the hammock. But one relative tells us that the little boy’s uncle killed himself several months ago. A patchy story. They must cling to the accident theory. But we know. How to help this family? How to unravel the relationship between the boy and his uncle? Should we try? How did they know to come to the Armonia Transformation center just around the corner for help? How did they know there were doctors there? Could we involve the family in counseling at the center?

And what of the total lack of response by the authorities? The lack of emergency care in one of the largest cities in the world, Mexico City?
And how about us? How would he fare in downtown Detroit, or L.A. amongst our urban poor?


Let me tell you a series of personal stories about the people who work at Armonia and are served by Armonia. Many of you will have personal stories to add. Let’s tell of the struggles and successes and incredible adventures of all of us as we work together to empower the poor and disadvantaged in the world!

Huicholes Sewer e
We turn from the choked, frenetic highway into the dusty dirt road and leave the incessant traffic of Mexico City. Several cows glance indifferently as we push by. A small short Mexican boy with thin little legs waves shyly as we pass. We pass up a shallow hill with blue-gray distant mountains behind, beyond a few stores, farmacia, taller de mechanico (garage), a sleepy dirty little community, and turn left. We come to a stop. The road ceases to exist and instead we see a long uneven rough cleared area, impossible to drive. Down the middle snakes a wet, winding, smelly trench. Little snakes of water trickle from each cardboard shack lining the narrow creek-trench. Smelly creek. Sewer? Could it be?

Did I say Cardboard? Yes, shacks made of cardboard soaked in Creosote. A little waterproof but not fire repellent. Shortly after Huicholes (that’s the name of the settlement) was settled there was a fire and three people died in one little shack. And during that first winter at Huicholes, every newborn died.

This is the face of poverty in the third world. This is the face of poverty in Mexico. The little town is called Huicholes and it came to be in the night, suddenly and without warning. This is also the place where Armonia Ministries intervened. Let me tell you how Huicholes came to be, and how Armonia Ministries, a Christian Transformation Center in Mexico transformed the lives of those in Huicholes

Paso a PasoThe steps you see on the mural represent the feet of Jesus walking through the city (Mexico City) The colors of the building blend in harmony symbolic of the word “Armonia” which means “harmony” in Spanish and is the closest word to the Jewish “Shalom” When I picked the Blog title “Paso a Paso” I was not consciously thinking of this mural, but there it is!