Voy Un Paso Mas (I’m Going One Step Further)

Here we are in Puca-Chicta.
Sweat is beaded on my face and trickling down my back.
Flies, mosquitos, and arenillas swarm around me.
There are seventy to eighty kids around, and it feels like half of them are trying to grab my light-colored hair.
It’s all I can do to keep from screaming:
“I don’t want to understand your language!”
“Stop touching my hair!”
“Find somebody else to bother, ’cause I’m not the one with necklaces and tracts!”
I escape to a cool wall of the pavilion gym and lean against it. Bienvenidos, it says. Under that, Puca-Chicta, and a picture of a lake surrounded by trees.
I catch a sob in my throat, and I warn it about what happens when people see you crying. But it dares to come out anyway.
This is nothing like that lake and forest picture. I feel like choking whoever painted it.
I close my eyes and just listen, because my eyes are stinging.
Spanish, English, laughter. Some music, some yelling.
I still feel grumpy. But I open my eyes and look around.
Native kids dancing around with a team from North Carolina. Some dogs, some birds.
Uh-huh. What else?
Souls, I think. I guess everybody here has a soul.
I swallow. And these souls are going straight down to hell unless someone does something. Really does something.
I stand up and take a deep breath.
I walk up to the closest person and just say hola.
She smiles, and asks what my name is.
I say Madeline, what’s yours?
The answer is Oliah.
I smile.
I’ve been praying for her since her name was mentioned in a girl’s Bible study.
Okay, I tell God. You win. I’m really going to do something for these people.
And we sit down on the concrete bleachers for the VBS program.
This is just going to get better and better.

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