Both the washer and drier are still tumbling on their fourth loads each; more piles of laundry yet await their turn for scrubbing; paper stacks of unopened bills accumulate on the desk alongside receipts that still need to be recorded in the books. A little boy, thrilled to see his Momma once again, doesn’t know how to handle the emotional pendulum of the last week because of her absence, and he spirals into uncontrollable sobs for over an hour and a half. A dog’s ears rage enflamed with ear infections. The only contented ones in the family at the moment are the head of the household and the baby, both formed from the same mold. And I, alternating between a life of first-world comfort and abundance and another world of sick babies, refuse-filled streets, and sights that should not be, am trying to find footing.
My husband, despite all that’s left undone in our home, strongly ushered me out the door this evening to allow me space. A quiet space of processing all that happened last week. Last week, I accompanied a team of eleven other people comprised of our church’s staff and Vestry (the leadership team of our church that serves alongside our rector, committed to casting and embodying vision to our congregation) to Guatemala City.
For one week we worked with Potter’s House, an excellent Christian non-profit organization that works among the 11,000 people (6,000 are children), who live in and off of the city dump to break the vicious cycle of poverty. People scavenge amidst the grotesque refuse to find at least some manner of food for their family and something they could possibly recycle or resourcefully use in another product to sell.
Our team worked on renovating two homes; installed three stoves that will aid in better ventilation for their homes and allow them to cook hot meals; and walked among the communities to visit a few families and pray with them.
Our plane landed back in the States on Saturday night. My heart was undeniably thrilled to lay eyes on my family and embrace them in my arms. My body rejoiced in the lengthy shower that scrubbed off any residue of dirt and other filth clinging to my body. The flea bites were soothed with creamy lotion. My muscles relaxed as they melted into my own bed. And my tummy is finally settling after a week of eating beans at nearly every meal. Today was a fairly normal Monday back into partial routine, with grace abounding at every turn to find our footing again.
The saying is true: life goes on.
But should it? At least life as it was before, should it?
Slow as molasses am I working my way through Beth Moore’s study, James: Mercy Triumphs. Even though I started back in December, I’m still only on week three. On day four, I was instructed to look at Galatians 2:9-10, in which James was one of three sending Paul and Barnabas to the Gentiles with the blessing of joining them in ministry. The only thing, the only thing they asked of Paul and Barnabas was “to remember the poor”. To remember the poor. I’m not sure what I’ll take away from the remaining weeks, but one thing I know for sure: James’ heart and instruction to Paul to remember the poor will stick with me. It’s sticking with me because it’s an area of deficit in my life; it’s something I neither do well or often. In desiring a heart like Jesus’, a faithful bearing in mind and love in my heart for the poor He will not let go uncultivated if my life is to even have the slightest reflection of Himself.
It would certainly be easy to let life proceed as I’ve known it. It is easier to let my heart not feel, to know that this life of mine is a whole different world than those of whom I met and simply accept that without another thought. It’s easier to soak up this life of comfort and ease, of abundant blessing and not think twice about those living off garbage.
But life can’t go on as it was.
What my eyes saw last week cannot be lost on me.
My heart should never be hardened to sights unfathomable. Of sights and conditions unacceptable for people made in God’s image. Of peoples’ stories of heartache and suffering. Of the pain in seeing sick babies so ailing that we don’t know if they’ll live to the age of five. Of peoples’ desperate need for both bread and most importantly: the Bread of Life.
My heart cannot forget the faces and prayer requests of those struggling to put one foot before the other and keep walking. I cannot forget Maria and Claraluz who worked alongside me with smiles and singing praises to Jesus. Or the paralyzed man who used to work as a guard for the dump, and after being shot by gang members while working now finds himself living among those he once watched scavenge. And yet, he falls at the feet of Jesus and grasps the arms of those praying for him in desperate longing. Or the BFFs Mariella, Karen and Helen who love Adele and Justin Bieber. Or the men passed out on the streets after sniffing glue, hanging onto life by a thread. Or the numerous single mothers abandoned by their husbands who are typically alcoholics. Or the children in tattered clothes, with no shoes, and no parental, watchful eye to protect them. Or the mother whose hope for her five day old unnamed son is to be strong in the Lord and walk in His ways.
The distinction between those who know the hope and power of Jesus, of the only God who can comfort us in our suffering because He Himself suffered, and those who don’t know of His unconditional love is palpable in the communities around the dump. For the believers, they live life in faith that truly, He is enough. He is All.
I cannot wrap my head nor my heart around what we experienced last week. Returning back to the States is both a relief and a burden. Don’t get me wrong, I am deeply, deeply thankful for where God has ordained for me to be born and live. But one of the biggest litmus tests to see if I’m remembering the poor and allowing my heart to be broken and enter the suffering of others will be whether or not that tension and unease exists. Not for it to be ignored and put on the back burner, but continually wrestled with that my heart would soften, my eyes would see, my hands would serve in Jesus’ Name.
God has given me the gift of seeing a world beyond on my own, and I pray with everything in me that it will not be lost on me. That to my dying day, I would remember.
Praise the LORD. Praise, O servants of the LORD,
praise the name of the LORD.
Let the name of the LORD be praised,
both now and forevermore.
From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,
the name of the LORD is to be praised.
The LORD is exalted over all the nations,
his glory above the heavens.
Who is like the LORD our God,
the One who sits enthroned on high,
who stoops down to look
on the heavens and the earth?
He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes,
with the princes of their people.
He settles the barren woman in her home
as a happy mother of children.
Praise the LORD.