The darkness becomes light

Rachel Johnson

Pedro is recovering from losing a leg.

Rachel Johnson, a member of the ELCA Young Adults in Global Mission program, is spending a year in Mexico City. In this entry in her blog she writes about a young man from Honduras and his inspiring attempts to improve his life. To support Rachel or others in the program, go here.

Pedro is 23 years old, Honduran, a soccer aficionado, and one of my best friends at Tochan.  Every day when I arrive at work, he greets me with his huge smile and an enthusiastic "Buenos días, Raquel!"  Beyond being exceedingly friendly and patient, he has shown me the power of the human spirit.
On May 5, 2012, Pedro left Honduras (intending to get to the United States) due to economic difficulties and social violence.  However, Pedro's Honduran pride is unmistakably evident. He talks about how much he misses the abundant flora and fauna, rivers, oceans and beaches, ancient ruins, the streets of his barrio, his soccer field and school, and, most of all his friends and family.  Pedro told me, and I have come to observe, "Hondurans are chatty, open; they share everything – ideas, life. We want to make our society better. I miss that."
After leaving his hometown, Pedro crossed the majority of Honduras, paid to enter Guatemala, crossed all of Guatemala in combis (little vans that act as uncomfortable buses), and took a six-hour boat ride into Mexico where he met up with friends who were also migrating north. When they got to Tabasco, the group jumped on the freight train known as La Bestia — The Beast. La Bestia is one of the few ways that poor Central Americans can afford to migrate north, by climbing onto and jumping off the fast-moving cars.

On May 17 at midnight, Pedro attempted to board La Bestia but slipped, fell and hit his head, losing consciousness. When he came to, he tried to stand, but couldn't. Confused, he reached down his leg and felt blood, and bone. He had lost his left leg to the tracks. Thousands of people are mutilated and even die from similar incidents every year.
Fortunately for Pedro, someone heard him cry out before he passed out again and called the Red Cross, who took him to a hospital where they finalized the amputation.  At first he was in a state of total despair.  Losing his leg at 22 was the last thing he thought might happen to him and the very last thing he wanted. Every once in a while he was reminded of things that he would never be able to do again, like when he unpacked his cleats and realized he might never play soccer again. His physical recovery went quickly, but psychologically it took several months for Pedro to regain his optimism, cheeriness and faith.

After leaving the hospital, Pedro was taken to a federal Migration Station where he stayed for a few weeks and petitioned for his Mexican residency. In April, Pedro came to Tochan, and he is now the resident who has spent the most time with us. Since his accident, Pedro has become an unlikely beacon of hope in the house. He often acts as an unofficial counselor to the other residents, offering advice and comfort when they are at their lowest points.
During one of our many post-lunch coffee conversations, we were talking about his accident and he summarized it by saying, "La oscuridad se vuelve a luz." — "the darkness becomes light." I can't think of a better way of describing what has happened to Pedro and how he has handled it.  Although I would never wish him to go through what he has endured, the way he conceptualizes his situation is more than inspiring.    

"No tengo pierna, pues si tengo pierna porque Dios camina por mí." — "I don't have a leg, well yes I do have a leg, because God walks for me."
God may walk for Pedro, but I believe that God walks in Pedro as well.

Update:  Pedro has now left Tochan and been able to start renting his own place — right next door!