Do you remember how you spent your last one monetary bill? Perhaps it was a one US Dollar note, or perhaps a one EURO coin, but do you remember? Where did you spend it? What did you spend it on? Take a moment and recall to the best of your ability where that last one unit of monetary transaction occurred.
While you are remembering, I'll just take a thought onward about a dream that became a reality in my journey through the 14 years of experiencing life on the edge among South America. These young men that you see above were the original members of the Club Deportivo Dan Soccer Team that we founded back in 2009. A dream to bring unity, stability, and spirituality to the lives of young adults, children, and families that otherwise may find destiny in horrific terminations. We started with just a few that were from the community of Las Lomas, and from there, the project grew.
Little by little, what began as a planted dream of hope became what it is today. With a lot of tears, generosity, and time, the project grew into one of the most productive, positive, and life changing experiences of humanitarian outreach that stretches across all of Ventanilla. One of the most humbling aspect of this program is that the Club Deportivo Dan Soccer Team and its Club is the only Club in all of Perú, South America that requires its participants to sign a contract to adhere to pro-social behaviors, inclusive of studying, staying off the streets, off drugs, and attending a Youth Group at least two out of four times a month. Within that contract is where life change occurs. The emotional sense of family, the connection, the relationship, and the soccer ball truly draws wandering spirits to a family of unity.
The family bond of unity that can never be broken that is fundamentally found in a relationship with God. There I have witnessed the life change for all of eternity. Even through the experience of death in this physical plane, it does not separate the eternal experience of love. Love is what passes through death and remains the connection we share with others after they have departed. I know that the memories I cherish with my mom, founded in love, will be the very cord of connection that will never separate us until one day when eternity rolls up to beckon me home, and for which, I hope is so very soon. Nearly one year ago that cord was extended once again. Part of experiencing the journey of community is the challenging and most delicate balance of tightrope dips that bring gulping fear of plunging into the abyss of unknowing. It was a normal week. They are always normal weeks. When we reflect back on tragic events, often the days leading up to the event are always classified as "normal."
With the highly active schedule, often times my ability to engage in "chat" on social media remains very slim, and sometimes I am for whatever reason, not very reliable on keeping up with chat conversations with those that we work with in the community. It could be a fault of mine, but nonetheless, I find it hard to frequently engage on "chat" in social media due to the demands of the workload here in Perú.
This, sadly, has become the demise of my conscious. Several times, individuals seeking an encouraging word or a word of affirmation, or just someone that will listen have contacted me via social media chat. Sadly, because I always blamed my "work schedule", I never responded. For that, I regret the absence of being present. They were, for a few, the last words that were ever spoken to me by some of our loved friends here in Perú.
I will never forget the morning for the rest of my breathing moments. It had been a very busy weekend, with several appointments and engagements. I had received several text messages to one of my accounts from one of our most charismatic soccer players from the Club Deportivo Dan. Ronald was one of those great young men whose life was changed through the presence of others that encouraged him onward. He had come from some challenging circumstances, and through the beautiful experience of living in community, he engaged the outreach programs that we had implemented back in 2008. You could see his journey changing, and as he grew older, he took on the rough patches along the course of life, and in stride, he overcome obstacles that often are present in such harsh and violent environments. Life in the street was never easy, nor should it ever be for a young adult, but Ronald overcame the worst and rose above with an inner strength that I know came from a personal relationship with God.
One of most hysterical and energy filled young adults, Ronald had a way of indirectly mentoring others. He knew what was going down and he know how to bring others in to protect them from the wicked turns in the street life that resulted in horrific challenges. Climbing out of personal adversary, Ronald took on life's brutal blows with a positive strength that brought him a stable income, a beautiful wife, and child. I remember those first few years of knowing Ronald, and I remember how grateful I was for his wise advice of how to be more careful in the streets of Ventanilla. He would always teach me new "slang" of the street talk and make me practice my "slang Spanish" with him. We would sit on the cement steps of the soccer court outside the Voices4Peru Private School and banter back and forth. He became one of the closet team members to others as well, and often times rolled as Captain for various games for Club Deportivo Dan.
On a Friday night, I had just gotten home from Ventanilla, and I had seen that Ronald had written me a few messages trying to get a hold of me on social media. I was exhausted and I didn't have a chance to write as I fell asleep on the couch. The morning on Saturday went quickly, and didn't get a chance to complete all of the tasks of getting caught up on social media, and remembered in my mind that I would get back to Ronald that evening. That evening, I returned back to the flat and once again fell asleep on the couch. Waking up quite early around 5am, I saw a message on Facebook that my colleague had posted on the alarming death of Ronald. He had been sleeping in his home, heard fighting and fled to the house of where there was a party. A family member of his had been fighting over money that someone owed. A gun was brandished by the opposing group, and Ronald stepped in to defend his family member. Shot in the stomach, Ronald bled to death within 30 minutes. By the time that they found transportation to even get him down to the hospital about 15 minutes away, he was dead. Gone. Senseless murder. A precious life escaped. I never got to say goodbye. So many opportunities to talk with him had crossed my path, but I never took the opportunity because I was too busy. Too busy. What an excuse. How horrific was my attitude before that I would brush someone away of quality time? We carried his casket. We buried him. We mourn him. I walked up that hill once again that I call home in my sweet spot that I love and know where God has called me from. We walked, carrying his body from his home to where we used to sit on the cement steps and talk. We walked down memory lane to honor the legacy he leaves. He still leaves it through the lives of others. I will never be the same again.
We miss you Ronald. We love you and we honor, cherish, and remember everything. Celebrate with Him as we celebrate your legacy. Thank you for teaching me so many lessons and thank you for demonstrating grace in action from the love of God.
Daniel M. Klopp
Advocate 4 Marginalized individuals & communities globally
Advocate & Journalist
Die Daily to Self
Legacy to leave.