When it’s Between Life and Death

Today I met a young man who will become the sacrifice for his family’s well-being. It’s heavy, right? It was heavy to enter into. But stay with me on this.

His name is Marlo. He is in his third year of high school.

He has three siblings: an older brother who is deaf and mute, a sister, and a younger brother who is also deaf and mute.

Marlo is pictured on the left. Aniel, wearing red, is deaf and mute and in the Compassion program. Daniel, holding the chicken, is also deaf and mute and in the Compassion program.

Marlo is pictured on the left. Aniel, wearing red, is deaf and mute and in the Compassion program. Daniel, holding the chicken, is also deaf and mute and in the Compassion program.

Four years ago their parents were killed in a horrific traffic accident.

The children came under the care of their grandparents. The grandmother is sick. She accepts it. She almost welcomes it.

As she spoke of the accident between teary-eyed pauses, you could see her hurt. You could also feel it. It was her daughter that was killed.

I’m not trying to be poetic or dramatic when I say this, death broke this family. It especially broke the two boys who are deaf and mute. Depression was as much a guest at their house as we were.

You can tell the grandmother has lived in countless hours of immeasurable loss. Immeasurable questions. She looks up. Always pausing to look up. Like she’s just ready.

Then she says it,

“I’m ready to go be with my daughter.”

between life and death 2

Behind her stands Marlo. Listening to the story of all their sorrow. His sorrow. She calls Marlo into the conversation and with comfort explains,

“We are training him to care for the siblings because we will not be here much longer.”

“We have him administer the medicine. And he takes the boys to the Compassion center. He needs to graduate high school and get a good job and be here for his brothers and sister.”

Marlo looks up at us and he knows. He knows he’s becoming a man. And in so many ways as a sacrificial lamb.

The grandmother, she says,

“He has to do these things so that they can have life.”

I can see the responsibility weigh on him heavy and impossible. We ask him how he is and he simply responds,

“I am grateful my grandparents are still here to help.”

Marlo’s brothers who are deaf and mute are in our child sponsorship program. They have sponsors who write them. The tutor has walked with their family through this horrific event. She knows every detail of their story.

But Marlo, he’s not in the program. In the Dominican Republic, we generally only bring in one child per family unless the circumstances are dire. So, knowing that both deaf and mute brothers are sponsored shows how much need there is in this family.

I keep trying to catch Marlo’s eyes. Like maybe I can pour hope into him with just a glance.

He looks everywhere but not steady into our eyes. And all my prayers and thoughts and questions start but I can’t wrap them up. Open ended. It all feels so devastatingly open ended.

Then there is Jonathan who works for Compassion in the Dominican Republic. Jonathan who is Dominican.

between life and death 3

He pulls Marlo aside as we’re leaving. It’s like he could hear my questions. It’s like he was asking the same ones. He looks him long and hard in the eyes and he speaks to him.

We pile into the bus. Heavy. Swollen with questions.

Hope collided heavy with the current reality.

Compassion is there. Hope.

Marlo’s dreams are now wrapped around his family’s survival. Heavy.

The church knows the family and visits the family. Hope.

Jonathan looks at me.

“It was heavy, yeah?”

He says it like he’s trying to grasp it too.

“When I pulled Marlo aside I spoke into him as a man. I encouraged him. And I’m going to start mentoring him. I’m going to be here for him.”

And my swollen heart dives into that deep breath. Yeah, I think. Jonathan is here for him. The church is here for him.

This is why Compassion works only through the local church. Because I am going to leave. And all the other groups that come, they’ll leave too.

I look back as we drive away from Marlo’s home. Marlo stays. I leave. I look back again and see the church where the Compassion center is. The church stays.


This world, it’s broke. So Marlo will carry his cross. A cross that Jesus knows well. One that God will not let him carry alone.

When it’s between life and death. When it’s between a man that will become the sacrifice for his family, can we just agree that $43* a month is so worth it?

Sponsorship through Compassion is an investment that is rippling through this broken world with the capacity to change everything in the life of a child.

To even change eternity.

Compassion Bloggers Dominican Republic 2015

And it only took $43/month*.

If you are a Compassion Blogger we hope you’ll blog alongside us and promote the Dominican Republic Blog Trip! Link-up with us here by sharing your post with the Linky code below. (Not a Compassion Blogger? You can sign up and join the network today!)

*This was published prior to our rate change to $43

5 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Bri McKoy February 18, 2015

    Thank you so much, Sarah! And thank you for your prayers. It’s everything.

  2. Sara Loggins February 18, 2015

    Wow! What a story this young man has to tell and so young, too! I pray that we can make a difference with this family. I know we can. I am thankful that the children have sponsors. I will pray for those sponsors and their commitment. Thank you Compassion and Compassion bloggers for bringing us the story.

  3. Terri Clarke February 18, 2015

    Dear Compassion, please find that Marlo and his family is one of those dire situations and add Marlo to the Compassion program, we will sponsor him.

    1. Emily Vanhoutan February 18, 2015

      Terri, thank you so much for your kind heart and concern for Marlo. Regrettably, the decision about how many children that can be sponsored per family is made by the local project leadership. Unfortunately, this request falls outside of the parameters of what we may ask of our project staff. Also, Marlo is already in late high school and too old to be registered into our program. Compassion registers children ages 9 years old and under. I am so sorry for this inconvenience.

      I do want to encourage you that with the other two boys in the family attending the center, Marlo will and I am sure already has benefited indirectly by the things his brother’s share and by participating in family activities at the center. It sounds like the church is very invested in the well being and care of this family. Also, I had the opportunity to meet Jonathan several weeks ago in the Dominican Republic and I want to assure you that the wisdom and love of Jesus he carries with him will be such a blessing to Marlo and I am confident that he will be a great influence on his life. I was so excited to read that Jonathan has taken him under his wing in this way. Thank you so much for your prayers for this family during this difficult time, we are truly grateful for you!

      1. Bri McKoy February 18, 2015

        Thanks so much for this response, Emily! Exactly!

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