Hope for a single mother

January 11, 2016

by Frank King, Samaritan's Purse staff writer

Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts show mother of three that people from far away Canada care about her and her children

Try to imagine being a single mother with three children in a struggling Latin American country. Now, try to imagine that one of your children is in a wheelchair, and will likely remain in one for his entire life.

That’s what Yorleny Sulano, 37, faces every day in Costa Rica.

Yorleny receives some government assistance to care for 14-year-old Emanuel, who has spina bifida (a spinal disorder). The family also received a grant from a nearby hospital that has enabled them to expand their tiny home, with its concrete walls and corrugated steel roof. They have added a kitchen, plus a bathroom large enough to accommodate Emanuel and his wheelchair.

Despite these improvements, life has been hard for Emanuel. His first five months were spent in hospital, and he’s had five surgeries so far to address the effects of spina bifida.

“Every three hours, his colostomy bag has to be changed,” says Yorleny, in a matter-of-fact voice that makes it clear she’s come to accept this challenge and many others.

Yorleny provides for Emmanuel, his older brother Daniel and younger sister Jimena by collecting recyclable materials for money, by repairing clothes, and by helping with a catalog sales business.

“I’d like to be a better mother, but it’s hard by myself, especially with teenagers,” Yorleny says.

At this point, she can’t hold back her tears. They flow freely. But there to comfort her is Christine Ristau, a Canadian who helped pay her own way to Yorleny’s community to distribute Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes from Canada. After a local distribution event, at which Emmanuel and Jimena received shoeboxes, Christine walked with Yorleny and her children back to their home.

There, Christine helps Emanuel explore the contents of his new box.

“These boxes are really beautiful and encouraging for me and the kids,” Yorleny says. “It’s not about the contents; it’s about sharing with us and reminding us that someone cares about us.”

When Yorleny begins to cry, Christine—also a single mother—has to fight back tears.

“I can relate to her very well,” Christine says. “The struggles I might have are nothing compared to what she goes through. So when her eyes filled with tears, mine did too and we shared a tissue. I felt a really strong connection.”

Yorleny isn’t a Christian, but Christine is hoping she’ll allow Emanuel and Jimena to attend classes for The Greatest Journey, Samaritan’s Purse’s voluntary 12-lesson evangelism and discipleship course. When possible, the course is offered to every child who has received a gift-filled shoebox.

“I didn’t know anything about The Greatest Journey before (coming on the shoebox distribution trip to Costa Rica),” Christine says, “but I’ve now met people whose lives have been changed by this program.”

She wants similar changes for Yorleny and her children.

Please join us in packing shoeboxes full of gifts, including at PackaBox.ca, and in supporting The Greatest Journey through financial gifts. Together, they are showing children and their families that “As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is [God’s] steadfast love toward those who fear him” (Psalm 103:11, ESV).