Situated in the foothills of the volcano Atacazo, in Ecuador, there is a small community called Guamaní. Life is not easy for people in this area. The lack of basic living services and difficult access to the community through narrow, steep bush trails force families to walk many miles every day to get around. For the Maza Family, a young married couple, the situation worsened when they had their first son, Alexis.
“We were very young when I got pregnant with Alexis. José Luis, my husband, had odd jobs and I did not work. Money was very scarce and we could not eat well. When Alexis was born, he was very tiny and in the early stages of anemia,” said Mónica, Alexis’ mom.
Nevertheless, in the midst of this excruciating need, Alexis grew and so did his difficulties. “Since Alexis was a little boy, I had the feeling something was not right with him. Other babies were crawling at the age of 6 months and Alexis started when he was 1. Other babies started walking at the age of 1, and Alexis when he was 18 months old. It was evident that, physically, he was not like the others,” Mónica said. When little Alexis was about to turn 2, he had his first complication, the first of many more to come.
“I recall one afternoon Alexis was crawling around the house. Then, I heard he tripped with something and started crying. I tried to calm him down, but it was impossible. He would not stop crying. A couple of hours went by and he still sounded very distressed. I panicked and told José Luis that we had to take him to the hospital,” said Mónica. At the hospital, doctors told Alexis’ parents that he had broken his arm as a result of the fall. He had a few tests done and, after the bone densitometry, he was diagnosed with a terrible disease. The Mazas were not ready for the long journey they would have to endure. Little Alexis had osteogenesis imperfecta, a genetic disease with no cure, commonly known as “brittle bone disease.”
“It was very hard for me. I saw him so little, so fragile, and suffering so much. My heart broke every time I saw him. I never thought something like that could happen to us. ‘Why us?’ I wondered over and over again. I was heartbroken,” said Mónica. Soon, hospitals were not an option for them anymore since they did not have financial means to cover his medical procedures. Little by little, the young couple that once welcomed their firstborn with great excitement and hope was now drowning in despair and grief.
“One day, my cousin, who was also working at the same carpenter’s workshop, told me to go to a Christian church in the community. He said they could help us in different ways. Mónica and I did not have anything left to lose, so we decided to visit the church on a Sunday,” said José Luis. In that Christian church, they felt a spiritual peace they had never felt before. The church members welcomed them with such love and affection. Moreover, they told José Luis and Mónica that little Alexis could be part of the Compassion program, where he would receive the help he desperately needed.
So, Alexis was enrolled in the program. Thanks to the project funds, he underwent his first surgery to treat some of his bones. “When we started receiving the support of Compassion and the church, we felt a huge relief because it was the first time we felt we were not alone in this—that we could count on a much bigger family to fight my son’s disease,” said Mónica. At the church, Alexis not only found a family who cared for him and helped him in the most difficult times, but he also experienced God’s love through his sponsors, the Baker Family from Australia. When the Bakers found out about Alexis’ situation, they started a relationship full of love and spiritual and economic support.
“My sponsors are like a second family to me,” said Alexis. “Every time I receive a letter, card or gift from them, my hearts lights up. They always have a word of encouragement for me. I tell them everything about me, even when I felt so depressed that I asked myself why I was still alive. However, they always remind me how important I am to God and to them. They have always encouraged me and given me their support.”
“We are deeply grateful to the church and Compassion,” said José Luis. “They have truly been an outstanding support for Alexis, and also for our two younger children, Genesis and little Jesús. They have given us economic, emotional and spiritual support.” Today, Alexis is a 16-year-old young man and, like any other kid his age, he dreams to fulfill the desires of his heart.
“My biggest desire is to be a singer. I want people to know me. I want to be someone in life,” said Alexis.
Despite his physical limitations, Alexis has found new strength in his relationship with God. This enables him to have big dreams for his life.
“The support of my church, tutors, sponsors and family has been very important in my life. If it was not for their help, I would not be here right now. I would not have been able to bear my life. I am deeply grateful for all of them,” said Alexis.
Alexis can now say he is leaving his sorrows behind, just like the Bible says in Isaiah 40:31: “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles.” Even though his bones want to tell him he can’t, he has wings to soar and chase his dreams.