I am always hesitant to share my snow story. It’s very personal and, other than my journal entry of the event, I have no physical evidence of the miracle. It’s outrageous and unbelievable, actually. But I swear to you, it’s true.
When I was 19, I spent a semester studying abroad in San Cristobal, Guatemala. I had just wrapped up my freshman year and I was hungry for an adventure. I wanted to travel but I didn’t want to just move to another college location out of country, I wanted to really immerse myself in the culture I was visiting. So, in true “Amber” form, I created my own “study abroad” experience and got it approved by my school. Through the friend of a friend of a family member, I learned about a home in San Cristobal for severely abused and neglected girls. I emailed the director, a retired woman from Montana named Carol, and asked if I could come as an intern for a semester. She agreed and I enrolled myself in a few online class to maintain my full-time-student status. I gave Carol my flight info and she sent me an email confirming she would pick me up from the airport. Because I had never met this woman before (and this was pre-social media), the way I was to identify her was as the “old white woman in the red sweater on the balcony.”
I packed my bags, ordered my books (praying they would arrive before classes started), and kissed my
insane supportively-scared-to-death folks “Adios.”
When the plane landed in Guatemala City, there was Carol, exactly as she had described herself, dressed in red and waiting on the balcony. I grabbed my bags and we drove to my new home called, “Sombra De Sus Alas (Under the Shadow of His Wings).”
Carol didn’t want me to start with the girls right away. She felt I needed a day of “orientation” before jumping in. That sounded good to me. I figured that meant she’d tell me a bit about each girl and the various responsibilities I would have while working at the house.
Yes and No.
Yes, Carol told me about the girls. But not the basic info I expected. She told me of the abuse each girl had endured and the effects of the abuse I would see and needed to be prepared to deal with. She told me what to do when they attempted to run away or hurt themselves. She told me how to pray over them when they manifested demons. She told me to keep my valuables in the safe.
Then she started in on my responsibilities while at the home.
I would be in charge of cooking breakfast for the girls each morning before school. That’s 16 people. Remember, I was just coming out of my freshman year of collage. Living on campus. With a meal plan card. I would need to get up at 4:30 am to get food prepared and the girls fed before the bus came at 6:30 am.
Also, four days a week, three times each day, I would be on schedule to manually administer dialysis to an 8 year old girl named Barbara. Manually. Oh and Barbara wanted to die so I should expect her to fight me as I prepared the pump.
Lastly, I was to help with homework.
Side note: At this point in my adventure I didn’t speak Spanish. I took two years in high school but retained nothing.
I left my “orientation” meeting in a fog. I remember thinking “these girls have experienced hell and I’m supposed to care for them as they come out of that pit?” I’m just a middle-class, Southern Baptist (though not after what I saw that semester), white girl. WHAT HAD I DONE?!
I survived about four days before completely losing it.
On the fourth morning of my internship, Carol, the only other English speaker on site, fell and broke her hip and had to fly home. On the same day, we received word that the daughter of our cook had died and she would be gone for two weeks or more to attend to the funeral and her grand kids. I was now head chef of all three meals and head of the household.
Que the mental breakdown of the blond girl who just wanted an adventure.
I remember being completely prostrate on the ground with my Bible next to me. I remember saying, “I can’t do this God. What were you thinking??! I am going home.”
Mid-rant, I hear screaming coming from the roof where the girls were doing their daily wash. I opened the door, expecting to see blood or militia or a heard of elephants or something equally overwhelmingly ridiculous to what had already happened that day.
Instead, falling from the sky as gently and beautifully as it ever had, was snow.
Cold, frozen, flaky snow.
The girls were going nuts. They had never seen this kind of weather. I put my hand out to catch the flakes and immediately, almost audibly, heard God say, “Amber, if I can make it snow in San Cristobal, I can take care of you here.”
Did I mention it was crazy hot, rainy season?
I was too distracted by my own thoughts to really comprehend the miracle I was witnessing. Instead I ran onto the roof with the girls and we played in the cold, wet, real snow. I also ugly cried.
I stayed and survived the rest of the week. That Sunday, we all went to a local church and a missionary family from the East Coast introduced themselves. I quickly starting talking about how crazy that snow flurry was and how much fun the girls and I had catching the snow on our hands and tongues and did they play in it too? They looked at me like I had completely lost it. “It never snows in San Cristobal. Also, it’s hot.”
It was at that moment that I realized the magnitude of what God had given me through the gift of that snow. He was going to get me through this adventure and, dang it, it was going to be exciting and miraculous.
My snow was the first of many miracles I witnessed that semester. I came back from Guatemala both utterly drained and completely filled up. It was very hard to process what I had seen and experienced with my family and friends once I was home and I had a lot of hard conversations with God about what I had left behind.
But even in the midst of my confusion and anger about the pain and suffering these beautiful little girls had endured, I had my snow. We had my snow. Those sweet girls encountered God that morning too. He kissed them with magical, soft snowflakes, thousands of times, all over their broken and bruised and scared bodies.
I will never understand, this side of heaven, the “why” behind most of what I saw that semester abroad. But I know that I know that I know God still works the miraculous for us. And I know He sees us in our pain and weakness. And I know He’ll meet us where we are. And I know when we are standing in hell’s heat, sometimes He sends real snow.