A boat, affectionately called “La Cucaracha,” cuts through Caribbean blue waves on its way to a small island near Cancun. On board, a group of young girls from throughout Cancun rock back and forth. Some carefully peer over the side, keeping their balance on their knees. Others, like Ami, grip their lifejackets dedicated to looking only at their feet.
Ami is one of 13 girls on a field trip to Isla Mujeres with a women’s mission team from Cincinnati. This trip will be the first time many of the 12 to 14 year-old girls will see the ocean, despite living mere miles away. But this is the truth of poverty’s harsh realities: the big, beautiful things God made just around the corner feel far away, unreachable, or worse – non-existent. Poverty tells a fractured story, convincing its characters to keep looking at their feet for fear of only ever being disappointed, forgotten, and stuck.
At the snorkeling location, some girls carefully get in the water a toe at a time. Staff and mission guests help them with their goggles to look beyond the surface, and their fear. 12-year-old Gladys takes a breath and peers underneath to see an array of colorful fish. A small, muddled scream can be heard from under the water as she emerges in a ruckus of splashes and laughter. She quickly tells the others around her to look underneath. Others, like Jeny, stand safely on the beach, inspecting the tide as it barely reaches their toes. Carmen, a mission guest, tries desperately, with every funny face she can muster, to invite Jeny to come into the water. At the impasse of fear and trust, Jeny made her way into the water.
Poverty taught the girls to fear looking up. But God can use a field trip like this to teach them He’s a better storyteller. They may not see it now, but this God who’s responsible for colorful fish and big oceans is the same God who calls them to look up and beyond poverty’s fear. Like the ocean, He has big and beautiful things just around the corner for them to dive into.
As the “La Cucaracha” sails back, the boat is full of giggles and ocean gazing as girls stand on their seats to see as far as they can. Their deep brown eyes, never once looking down at their feet, take in the big blue expanse of the Caribbean Sea, and fill with adventure.