Martal, Brazil - Young and playful, little Maria (that's the only name she has) likes to spend her afternoons with her friends catching bugs or just playing hide-and-seek in her small Brazilian village. For her, life is slow, simple and hard. Orphaned almost 6 years ago, she is one of the many poor children of Brazil who live from day to day not knowing where they came from or what the future may hold for them.
At "seven something" little Maria also faces another predicament, one which could ultimately make her an outcast among her own small group of friends. It all started about a year ago when missionaries arrived in her small village of Martal to setup work among the poor and orphans. Life began to instantly improve for many in the village as a new orphanage was built and a clinic was setup to provide basic medical care for people. Maria was instantly taken into the orphanage.
"I liked my new home very much when they brought me to the orphanage," she said. "It was clean and I began to make new friends with other girls like me who had no mother or father."
All seemed to be going well for little Maria until just a few weeks ago when the orphanage began filing records on all of the children. When it came time to process Maria's birth record, none could be found anywhere.
"This presents us with a genuine predicament," said Roger Forth, the missionary who runs the orphanage. "It's very hard for me to believe that she doesn't know when she was born. I think it's obvious that if one is really alive he or she will be able to know the exact moment in which it happened. If little Maria can't produce this information then we have no credible reason to believe she's really alive to begin with."
While some have objected to the stringent requirements, others working with the mission are in firm agreement with Forth's position.
"I think Roger is exactly right on this one. How can you really be alive unless you can go back and remember a time when you weren't alive?" said fellow missionary Parker Gillis. "I can tell you the exact moment I was born. I have my birth certificate at home and it has my birthday clearly written on it, right down to the minute. If ever I doubt that I'm alive I just look at that birth certificate and I'm assured that I really exist."
Until little Maria is able to produce a credible testimony of her exact moment of birth, she has been deemed "not really alive" by the orphanage and thus ineligible to remain there. She is currently residing with an elderly lady in the village until she can find other arrangements.
"I know it must seem cruel," commented Forth. "We're not trying to be mean or anything, but we must reserve our space for those who are truly alive, specifically those who can go back to a time and place and tell us specifically when their birth experience happened. I seriously doubt that anyone without that knowledge is truly a person."