September 21, 2013

The Other Side of the Fence

Every once in awhile, we walk across the playground, unlock the gate, and pass through to the other side of the fence. Every once in awhile, after passing through to the other side of the fence, we make our way down a skinny dirt path. And down that skinny dirt path is a whole new world:

Instead of freshly cut grass, it’s corn standing seven feet high. Instead of wealthy, care-free children, it’s children in mix-matched and dirty clothes, struggling for their next meal. Instead of cement block homes, it’s tin and cardboard slapped together. Instead of well-guarded and gated communities, it’s an open door policy for dogs, chickens, and flies.

And it is here, on the other side of the fence, down that skinny dirt path, that we get to know Guatemala a little better. We meet faces and perspectives that we don’t meet every day inside our school fence. Our eyes are opened. Our minds are stretched. Our hearts are softened.

Pablino and Victoria are our friends who live on the other side of the fence, down that skinny dirt path. We have talked about them before, and many of you have supported them through generous donations. (See our post from last year We Are Asking You For Money.)

Most of our visits begin by listening to the latest ailments that Pablino’s aged and tired body has developed. This time we aren’t even sitting down on our plastic stools before his tears begin, describing more of the endless physical pain he is suffering.

Yet as we sit and listen, his words shift from his ailments to Jocelyn, snuggled tightly on Victoria’s lap. “How is she? Is she sleeping? She is the size of a three month old! Now you can see how children are an inheritance from the Lord!” Meanwhile, Victoria coos and cuddles with Jocelyn. She calls her a little doll, jokes about me leaving Jocelyn with her, and follows with her contagious, high-pitched cackle.

Among their pain and poverty, they share joy with us, a joy they testify to come from their deeply rooted faith in the Lord.

And we feel blessed.

We are reminded why we have no choice but to go to the other side of the fence, the fence that separates and shelters us from populations of people much less fortunate, people who have a whole lot of need, but also have a whole lot to teach us. We go even when we don't feel like it, which to my shame is more often than not. I'm great at thinking of excuses: it's difficult, inconvenient; I don't have time. 

Pablino moves on from Jocelyn to educate us on farming, specifically on growing corn. His eyes light up with all of his knowledge and experience. Among all the details, he connects to Scripture. “Farming is a lot of patience and waiting. You plant your seeds, wait six months, and hope in the Lord for a good harvest. The Bible speaks of these things too. We wait patiently for the Lord and for our inheritance.”

“Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord's coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains.”  -James 5:7

We wait patiently with Pablino, for his physical suffering to be gone forever. We wait with our other brothers and sisters stuck in sickness, pain, and poverty. We do our best to chip away at the fence and its barriers and injustices. But most of all we hope for the day when we don’t have to cross to the other side of the fence, because that fence is torn down and completely destroyed.

Pablino, their granddaughter Anna, Victoria, and Jocelyn

“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you  and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven.” –Luke 6:20-23

Grace and Peace,