Monday, April 15, 2013

With New Sight

My church back home has been focusing on stories of the resurrection since Easter, with the theme "With New Sight."These stories explore both the faith and doubt that comes with such a miraculous exclamation as "He is risen!" There is so much death and suffering in our broken world, but with the fulfilled promise of Christ's triumph over death, we find hope. Because we have not be left to die in sin, left to wallow in our miserable emptiness, but have been promised life eternal with God, our Father, we see things differently than we might otherwise. Christ's victory forces us to change how we look at ourselves, how we look at the world, and how we look at God.

With this in mind, they posed a photo challenge. When you look with the eyes of Christ, what do you see? When you look for the presence of Christ, where do you look?

I saw and felt and did so much in Guatemala and God has been teaching me a lot. But while I was there, there was one thing that constantly amazed me. While I'm still processing a lot of things, one thing was perfectly clear. I saw God in Guatemala. I saw Him in the smiling faces of children with broken bodies. I saw Him in the desperate looks of mothers who are out of options. I saw Him in villages, on rivers, in the mountains, in the dump. I saw Him in Carlos and all the Hope of Life staff caring for the widows and the orphans. Truly, my sight was changed.

Here is what I chose to submit:

"See you had no choice which day you would be bornOr the color of your skin, or what planet you’d be onWould your mind be strong, would your eyes be blue or brownWhether daddy would be rich, or if momma stuck around at all
So if you find yourself in a better placeYou can’t look down on the frown on the other guy’s faceYou gotta stoop down low, look Him square in the eyeAnd get a funny feeling, you just might be dealing with the face of Christ"
The Face of Christ - Chris Rice

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

If my life depended on it

I work at a daycare center, and the number one priority is to keep the kids safe. There are rules for the classroom, for the gym, for outside, for the hallways, and for the kitchen all aimed at keeping the children as safe and healthy as possible: keep your hands to yourself, don't run in the classroom, keep scissors at the table, sit down while you're eating, wash your hands, don't eat food off the floor, don't use a fork that fell on the floor, etc. Parents are required to send food from each food group in the kids' lunches, and if they're missing a group, we supply it. Floors are swept and tables are cleaned and disinfected after every meal. We're doing everything we can to protect them from harm, and that's good.

But when I went back to work after returning from Guatemala, all I could think of as I got a child a their third new fork and listened to another complain about getting chicken nuggets instead of spaghetti, was all the children and their families living at the dump.

Photo credit: Veronica
Hope of Life provides one meal, 5 days a week to the people of the dump. We went to help serve this meal one of the days, and I think it's safe to say that everyone got a wake-up call that day. The containers they used they were "lucky" enough to find as they scavenged the burning, putrid trash heaps. And you can be sure none of them have been through a dishwasher or been wiped down with disinfectant.

Photo credit: Katie
And yet, not one complaint was uttered. None of the children were whining. None of the adults looked reluctant to get soup poured into their old engine coolant bottles. Instead, they were grateful. They were smiling! They came back for seconds, thirds, fourths. They came back to fill their containers to have some for later. A simple meal: tortillas, rice, and chicken stew. But a meal! A hot meal. And they came back until every drop of soup was gone and as much rice was scraped out of the giant coolers as could be.

Any other food the people here were able to eat, they also fished out of the trash. Expired food thrown out as unfit for consumption, someone else's half-finished leftovers-- these are the options. Well, that or outright starvation. And when they find it, they eat it, and they eat all of it. They aren't wasting time debating between chicken nuggets and spaghetti. They aren't staring at a full pantry, complaining of nothing to eat. They aren't storing things in refrigerators to keep them from rotting.

Photo credit: Veronica

This (on the left) is Carlos. He's one of the "lucky" ones, out of these poorest of the poor. He doesn't live right in the dump, but in a village next to it. He goes to school in the morning, and then comes back to the dump where he helps his family pick through the trash and sort it. In this picture he is guarding their piles from anyone who might try to take some of their "valuable" items. We stopped to talk to him, and again heard no complaints. He was hard at work, helping his family, and that's just how it was.

These families spend all day digging their food, shelter materials, dishes, 
and recyclables to sell out of stinking, filthy, burning, toxic trash.


Their lives depend on it.

Photo credit: Veronica
Photo credit: Kristina

It's so hard to wrap your mind around how poor you have to be to live in the dump. You don't see poor like that in the States. I still can't comprehend it, and I've seen it with my own eyes. I've scooped rice into dirty bowls and looked desperation in the face. 

My greatest prayer is that the humility I was struck with during my time in Guatemala will replace my sense of entitlement. Because I've never had to find out what I would do if my life depended on it. Which as it turns out, may be more of a curse than a blessing.


Monday, March 25, 2013


Yesterday was Sunday- church day. As I sat and listened (of course, seeing everything through "Guatemala goggles" now), I had a mini revelation. Here's what happened:

Pastor Pat was talking about what Jesus accomplished when he came, died, and rose again. I've heard the Gospel and the Easter sermons and I know that God came and died for our sins to be forgiven. But sins isn't a word most people use. That's Bible talk. Only a Christian knows what "sin" means. So to be honest, sometimes it's hard to really be emotionally invested and wholeheartedly grateful for the forgiveness of such a vague and undefined term. So what makes this sermon different from any other? It all boils down to one phrase the pastor used to describe what God did when he sent Jesus to Earth: Jesus was on a search and rescue mission.

This immediately brought my thoughts to Operation Baby Rescue. More specifically, Carlos (the founder of this ministry) talking so passionately about saving the babies. Carlos saw sick and starving children, and he knew it was God telling him to do something about it. So he built a rescue center. Some mothers come to the center on their own; they walk for hours to bring their children there. But not all of them. Some are still up in the mountains- either because they don't know there's hope, they don't think anything could save them anyway, they're too scared, or they're too stubborn. So what does Carlos do? He goes after them. He says sometimes you have to be Mother Teresa, but sometimes you have to be a lion. In order to save these precious lives, he has to risk his own. Sometimes he has to forcibly remove them from abusive situations. Sometimes the parents threaten to kill him. But it's important so he goes after them anyway.

I wish you could hear the passion and determination in Carlos' voice, because that's what really hits home with me. The earnestness, the urgency in his voice as he talks about the rescues...Imagining God saying those things and feeling that way about us.... It moved me to tears. I already believe in Christ's sacrifice, and I have already been born again as a believer. But I have always been a visual learner, have always been more impacted by a picture or a movie than just words. And this parallel between Carlos' passion for rescuing the sick and dying children of Guatemala and God's passion for rescuing the lost and broken souls of His children really struck a chord with me. What great and powerful love it takes for such a sacrifice! Carlos has risked his life for the Guatemalan babies. Jesus GAVE HIS UP. He went all the way. Just as the babies haven't donated money or built a school or done anything to "deserve" salvation, neither have we. But God saved us anyway.

Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest!