When Kayla Shaw travels to Bogotá to help renovate a house for a mission to street children, nothing can prepare her for the ever-present mission employee Mateo Luis. He looks like he could be one of the rebels who have caused so much fear throughout Colombia. Then she begins to see him with her heart instead of only her eyes.
Mateo Luis Gómez Días has dedicated his life to the mission, and he's determined to help as many street children as he can. Unfortunately, he can't keep his thoughts off the beautiful American helping renovate the new children's home. Although he would love to have a relationship with Kayla, his past and the bad neighborhood God has called him to serve in prevent him from pursuing her.
Has God truly led Kayla and Mateo to each other, or does He have something else in mind for their lives?
He stepped outside and gazed at the clear blue sky framed by stucco and brick buildings in various states of repair. A group of children played fútbol down the dusty block, their clothing ragged and their faces dirty. His heart went out to them. He had been like them once, one of los desechables—the disposables—impoverished and starving, barely surviving his life on the streets spending much of his time looking for ways to get food or money. Then he had been taken by the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, and his life had become a waking nightmare. Those years before he’d been left for dead were the reason he worked so hard to keep the street children out of the hands of the FARC.
Mateo drew in a deep breath of cool air to clear his mind of the memories of his teen years. The FARC was in his past, and God had forgiven him for the things he had been forced to do. What mattered now was helping to insure the street children of Bogotá were given the best opportunity to survive and possibly, by some miracle, even thrive.
He headed toward the group playing fútbol, regulars at the mission. They grinned and ran toward him, their game forgotten. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a handful of hard candy in distinctive green wrappers with yellow letters.
“Is this what you’re hoping for?” Mateo said, showing them the coconut-flavored sweet he carried everywhere.
“Please, Mateo, may we have a piece?” one of the boys asked.
“I have enough for all of you.” He passed out the candy, then unwrapped one and popped it in his mouth. The sweet coconut flavor took him back to the first time he had entered the mission as a seventeen-year-old on crutches, barely healed from a surgery that saved as much of his left leg as possible. Maria had welcomed him warmly and given him a piece of the coconut candy to keep him occupied while he waited for Carlos to arrive.
A tug on his sleeve brought Mateo back to the present, and he looked down to find Claudia standing beside him, her hopeful brown eyes peering out of a dirt-smudged face. The six-year-old was one of his favorite regulars at the mission, and her sweet smile had melted the heart of more than one volunteer.
He pulled out two pieces of candy and handed them to her. “Here you go, Claudia. I haven’t forgotten you. There is one for your brother as well.”
“Thank you, Mateo,” she said with a shy smile.
Then she darted away, presumably to find her nine-year-old brother, Juan Miguel. The two children claimed to live with relatives, whose supposed relationship to them changed with great regularity, but no one from the mission had ever seen evidence of an adult presence in their lives.
The fútbol game resumed, and Mateo headed for the parking lot behind the mission. He would love to save every needy child, with or without family, but it was an impossible dream. The best he could do was brighten their lives with a little candy now and then, share the love of Christ with them, and help however many children he could. If by doing that he kept even one desperate youngster from voluntarily joining the FARC for the promise of three meals a day and two sets of clothing, he would consider it worth the heartbreak of seeing so many kids suffer in extreme poverty.
About the Author
E.A. West, award-winning author of sweet and inspirational romance, is a lifelong lover of books and storytelling. In high school, she picked up her pen in a creative writing class and hasn’t laid it down yet. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys reading, knitting, and crocheting. She lives in Indiana with her family and a small zoo of pets.
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