As a young child, Susy Mejia had dreams of becoming a teacher, even though her life in the shadow of a garbage dump did not hold much hope.
Susy’s parents, Estelita and Luis, grew up in difficult circumstances and had met at the dump when Estelita was working as a scavenger and Luis was a truck driver. With little education and no opportunity to improve their situation, Estelita and Luis began drinking heavily, a common problem among workers at the dump. Susy remembers being left home unsupervised most days while her parents were either out working, drinking, or passed out on the floor.
Susy and her brother only had one refuge from this hard life: a tutoring program they started attending at Potter’s House. The nutritional meal provided by Potter’s House was often the only food they received all day. “At Potter’s House, we had a lot of fun, we played a lot,” Susy said. “It helped us to be in a different environment and to forget a little bit about what was going on at home.”
Susy always admired how her teachers treated everyone with love, and she began dreaming of becoming a teacher. She often played school in the alley by their house with her siblings and friends, using two cinder blocks and a piece of wood as a desk. But she didn’t think her dream would ever become a reality. “When I saw my parents, I wanted to be something different,” Susy said. “But I thought my future was going to be sorting paper from the dump just like my mom. I never imagined I could be a teacher.”
As Susy got older, her mom Estelita began to realize that Potter House’s message of hope and love was not just for her children. “They said that people were valuable and were treasures,” Estelita said. “They said that we could have a better life, a life beyond the garbage dump.” Estelita’s life was transformed by the saving grace of Jesus, and she stopped drinking. “Getting the opportunity to know about Jesus was one of the biggest blessings that I received from Potter’s House,” she said. Estelita became a teacher with help from a scholarship provided by Potter’s House, where she taught for many years.
It took Susy’s dad, Luis, longer to find his hope in Jesus. “I didn’t know how to pray to God,” he said. “But I said that if God healed me from alcoholism, then I was going to provide something different and better for my family.” Although Luis tried many times to stop drinking, he didn’t change his ways until Susy and her brother were adults when the Lord spoke to him through a worship song at church. Now Luis has a good job at a water purification plant, and both he and Estelita live out their Christian faith by serving others in their neighborhood.
Estelita’s new life in Christ made a deep impression on Susy, who eagerly listened to her mother’s stories about working with needy children at Potter’s House. “I could see how much the kids loved my mom, and how much she cared about them,” Susy said. Because of her mother’s example, Susy saw that it was possible for her to be a teacher too.
Susy’s dreams became a reality when Potter’s House gave her a university scholarship. But becoming a teacher wasn’t easy. She sometimes felt inadequate when compared to other students, who were better educated and from wealthier families. Many times, she couldn’t afford the resources needed for classwork. Yet God always provided as friends and teachers shared their materials, including a laptop that Potter’s House let her use at night.
“Through all these years, I have had many blessings from God, so I asked God how I can bless others,” Susy said. She decided to follow in the footsteps of her mother, and she became a teacher at Potter’s House. Susy now sees her difficult childhood as a blessing because it helps her connect with her students who come from the same neighborhood and face the same challenges. Susy talks with her students about how the hope and love of Jesus changed her, and it can change them too. “When I didn’t believe in myself, someone else did,” she said. “Through all this support that I have had through the years, I have been able to overcome poverty.” Susy thanks the Lord for this opportunity to care for her students by showing them the love of Christ, the same way the love of Christ was shown to her so many years ago at Potter’s House.
-Written by Lisa H. Renninger
-Photographed by Robert Johnson
[Originally published in TEAMHorizons, March 2013]