"Kathy, there is an elderly man that just showed up here, without a family or anything. What should we do?" Silvia asked me on my recent trip to Puerto Barrios. The team and I were handing out care packages to the Project Valor students when Silvia, a mother who works at the dump, told me about the lost elderly man.
His name was Israel. He was a sweet man, but obviously a little confused and lost. He remembered his name and some parts of his background, but he didn't remember completely how he got to Puerto Barrios, why he was there, where his family was, or even how old he was/when his birthday was.
As we talked to several people who live near the dump, they shared that Israel had been there for two nights and that he gotten off a bus on the main road with luggage that later got stolen. He was left with a walking stick and a black plastic bag with a water bottle and an empty plastic container.
It was obvious that Israel needed help, but none of us where quite sure what was the best way to help him. Did he have a family? Did he have dementia? Where was he from? Was his family looking for him?
We reached out to a police officer of the neighboring town who Silvia knew. We were all concerned about him spending another night outside, so the police officer said to bring him to the police station and they would see if there was a missing person case filed under his name.
We shared with Israel that we wanted to help them, but he was very hesitant to come with us. It took quite a while, but eventually he agreed to come with us, thanks to the patience of our missionary Wendy, who patiently and kindly shared why and how we were going to help him. As we got into the pick up truck, Israel got unsettled when he was in the passenger seat. Wendy, recognizing this, hopped into the passenger seat too and put her arm around Israel and comforted him.
We arrived to the police station where we met several policemen. They all quickly showed concern for our new friend and started calling governmental agencies. Unfortunately, there was no missing persons case under his name. When we heard this, we called the two nursing homes in Puerto Barrios-- the one we visit each week and the new Christian run nursing home that was started by a pastor a few months ago. We had recently learned about this new nursing home from a friend who called the pastor and shared with him the needs of our new friend Israel. The pastor said he would gladly take Israel if he needed a home.
Per the police protocol, they said it would be best to take Israel to the hospital to get checked out and the social workers there would work on reuniting him with his family or find another home for him. They graciously offered to take him there, and we said our goodbyes to Israel.
Later that evening, we told the pastor from the nursing home that Israel went to the hospital, and he said he would check on him and see if there was anything he could do.
Several days later, I got a message from the pastor with a photo of Israel safe in his new bed at the nursing home. We still don't know if Israel has a family, but we are so thankful that the community came together to help this elderly man.
I have been reading through the Old Testament, so the word Israel has such a deeper meaning each time I hear it. It reminds me of God's faithfulness, unending love and mercy. He is such a good father who loves his children. Just as God faithfully loved the Israelites, he loves our friend Israel.
Please pray that if Israel does have a family, that they will be reunited. Pray for his safety. Pray he doesn't feel alone. Pray for this new nursing home. Pray their needs are met and that they can continue to bless the elderly that need a home.
Recently, our team went to visit the new nursing home. They were able to visit Israel. Praise God, he is doing well! We are so thankful for Pastor Mario and this new home for the elderly in need.