I met Mark and JoAnn in Lima while doing voluntary work in two orphanages. Taking care of 10 little ‘princess-beasts’ from Monday to Friday on weekends I was giving music lessons in Casa Hogar Juan Pablo Magno (for more about this wonderful place see: http://www.homeajpm.org/). This is how we met.
The house was full of wonderful people working here daily or – as me – on temporary basis. This couple paid my attention already by our first meeting. They came to visit their ‘adoptive doughter’ that they support at Casa Hogar.Stefany just turned 15 which is a reason to have good party here in Peru!
Streight away I found them funny, full of joy and having this inner light – I wanted to know more about them. I was intrigued by their visit. It is not common that the ‘sponsors’ or better said ‘padrinos’ come to visit the child supported.
The more I get to know Mark and JoAnn the more I felt the respect and admiration for them. On top of the visit to Stefany they were helping in other activities as for example preparing the Christmas cards for other ‘padrinos’. Thanks to Mark I know the secrets of cutting beautiful paper snowflakes. JoAnn brought with her colorful little bags-purses which she carefully prepared by herself for other girls at Casa Hogar (and me, Jess and Hannah were lucky to get one each as well!). With their humble way of being they were somehow spreading joy around.
One of the days my attention was caught by a photo of beautiful boy on Mark’s tablet – ‘this is my grandson’ explained Mark to me ‘he is half Mexican half Corean’. I looked at JoAnn and Mark and none of them looked like having any of those genes. Mark seeing my confusion explained smiling ‘we have three children, two are adopted. This grandson is a son of our older doughter who is Corean’.
Between different activities we did on that weekend while they were visiting I got to know that Stefany is already third child they support. But this support was not only financial one. They gave time, interest and love to this children as well. You should have seen how happy and proud Stefany was! Moreover it turned out that both of them have been on many missions in Asia and South America assisting surgeries as Mark being surgery anesthetist and JoAnn being a nurse.
I was so curious about the stories they could share that I asked for the ‘interview’ possibility to listen to them. And this stories were incredible. Mark’s first mission was when he turned 40. Age when most of the people is still into careers or starts to think about pension. They thought differently. To do something for others which went more beyond than just serving with the skills, but also paying for their trips and gathering medical supplies. Working for the whole week the group of doctors was offering free surgeries to the poorest. They were working in extreme conditions that could be canvas for M.A.S.H. Eye surgeries, plastic surgeries as correcting cleft pallet are just some of the examples. Hospitals not having enough medical tools and supplies or surgery clothes were the place of their work.
When asked why they do all of this they responded humbly that they feel that they received a lot in life and want to give something back. ‘When you see this queue in front of the hospital, those people walking days to get there, waiting with hope them or their children to be qualified for surgery and seeing gratitude in their eyes after that – that are for us the reasons to come back again’.
Mark and JoAnn are putting the level high. The level of how to live not only for yourself but also for others with what you have in terms of resources and skills. Making me think where I can do better and love more.
While travelling in Asia I met people sailing around the globe for 5 years already, other couple I met in Beijing being on the way to Mongolia was biking since 15 months from France. They have my admiration for their courage of breaking stereotypes (both couple being over 60) and following their hearts desires.
But it is Mark and JoAnn that challenge me to do more. To be more. In my ordinary life.