Thursday, July 19, 2012

Photo of the Week...7/10-7/17


i could feel it in the pit of my stomach.  the sinking feeling that God was doing something that was going to hurt.  he was going to break my heart all over again.

as our van trampled through the pitted dirt roads i could see the mound of trash burning off in the distance.  a mix of machinery and working men looked like figures in a cartoon because surely real humans wouldn't be in that sort of situation.

i closed my eyes and tried to prepare myself for what i knew was coming.  it was five years earlier that i had come here and had my heart broken for the first time.  i was hoping a repeat story wouldn't unfold.  i was quite naive.

there is something about La Mosca that brings out the worst type of christian in me.  i feel angry and bitter upon entering its fly-infested streets.  it makes me want to slap neglectful parents in the face as i stare at their lonely, unloved children.  it makes me want to curse at the owners of the garbage dump who exploit these people and trap them in a pit of poverty.  it makes me want to have a conversation, not a pretty one, with the evil one who owns these streets and holds its inhabitants captive.

its dark and it feels hopeless.

i could feel my subconscious working over time to harden my heart, to make it numb.  it knows full well that if i let myself feel this place, sink into its grief, i might not be able to pull myself out.

the medical clinic was going great.  nothing too serious to report.  a few scratches and skin infections but mostly female issues dominated the morning.  i felt like i was going to make it.  i had successfully visited La Mosca without mourning over them and curling into a fetal position in the corner of the church.  but i made a simple mistake.  i looked out the window.  i saw plates of food being passed.  i thought i would go take some pictures.

i rounded the corner to fifty kids sitting on the cement floor with plates of food in their laps.  not unusual.  i've seen nutrition centers before.  heck, half of my summer is spent in them.  but i caught her eye.  a little girl who looked like the Dominican version of my little girl.  let the breaking begin.

i scanned her with my eyes from head to toe.  hair disheveled.  scrapes on her face and back.  scabies scars from her neck to her feet.  a pair of shorts, tattered and clearly too big for her.  no shoes.  and suddenly my own blonde-headed beauty flashed before me.  this time with matted hair and calloused feet.

she didn't smile, she didn't react, she didn't play.  she just stared.  her deep brown eyes staring at the big black thing i was holding to my face.  little did she know that it was my protection.  i've shed many tears behind my lens, unknowingly to the world.  and this day was no exception.  they flowed without end, or sound, as i imagined my baby girl sitting on a cement floor, eating rice and beans, wearing her brother's shorts and with itching wounds all over her body.  bugs, literally laying eggs in her flesh and clawing their way out after they've hatched.  this little girl's reality became my reality.  she became my daughter.

pain and suffering used to be something i ran from.  trying so desperately to make "light" of something that so evidently couldn't become just a phrase for an optimistic person.  more and more God is teaching me to meet people in their grief.  hurt with them.  suffer with them.  dive into their pain as deep as they are in it.  its in that place, and only in that place, that we can truly understand what Jesus did for us.  what He asks us to continually do...share in His suffering and the suffering of His beloved.

i don't know if she understands the life that surrounds her at the ripe age of two.  nor do i know the plans He has for her.  but i know something...God keeps allowing me to ache for these little ones and the injustice of their situation.  every bit of suffering i feel for them does more and more to drive me to seek justice for those who can't seek justice for themselves.

and after all, even in what seems like the most hopeless of situations, i still got her to smile.  just maybe hope is on the horizon.
"For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ."  -2 Corinthians 1:5

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Photo of the Week - 6/26-7/3

you might find it strange that my photo of the week is a photo of one of our staff.  you might find it stranger that it isn't of an adorable kid in one of our ministry communities.  but this moment, this picture impacted me so greatly this week that i couldn't help but make this photo, my photo of the week.


you could hear a pin drop.  and in a country as loud as ours, that's saying something.  you know when you can tell something big is coming, whether you know what it is or not, something in you just knows?  all your senses hone in on what is taking place before you.  you are acutely aware of how people are positioned, where they are looking, who is drawing the attention.  you wait in anticipation for "the event" to occur, not yet knowing what exactly it is going to be.   i was waiting, expectedly.

the young men that surrounded me, somewhere around two hundred of them, were fidgety.  some of them knew it was coming too.  others didn't want the words to be spoken.  still others were waiting for the charge.  to be part of something bigger than any of them even knew possible.  because in reality, nobody ever really expected anything of them anyway.

i could hear it in Will's voice.  he wasn't going to shy away from this conversation.  he knew this was the moment.  he knew a week like this was his platform.  God's platform.  Will knew that if he wasn't bold, if he wasn't real, if he didn't hit them where it hurt, then all of this they'd been doing would have been wasted on deaf ears.

he started to talk about fathers.  risky subject.  maybe you or i have a pretty good picture of a dad because we grew up with amazing ones.  but these boys don't have that good fortune.  a majority of the fathers here are the furthest thing from what a father is supposed to be.  and when i say majority, i'm not exaggerating a statistic so you'll be blown away; the cold, hard truth is good examples are few and far between.  they abuse their children, beat their wives, drink incessantly.   and that's if they are around.  most "fathers" are but a vapor in the wind.  you only speak of them when signing official papers or are enlisting in school and the school officials need to know your father's name.  do you know a couple dads like that?  i know twenty; and they all live on the same street.

so when Will brought up their fathers, for most of them it was like opening a wound they would rather just put a bandaid on.  but Will wasn't having it.  he knows that if something doesn't change, 99% of the kids sitting in that room would grow up to be just like their fathers.  abusive.  deadbeats.  criminals.

Will asked them to raise their hands if their fathers drank a lot.  more than half the hands in that place shot to the roof.  the others raised their hands, not physically, but with a disgraceful expression.  "how many of your fathers hit your mom?"  less hands went up this time but their expressions went from disgrace and shame to hurt and angry.  "how many of your fathers hit you?"  only the hands of the younger boys stayed up.  the older ones know you don't let others see that kind of truth.  "do you want to be like your dads?  do you want to follow in his footsteps?  do you want to abuse your kids and beat your wives and get drunk every night?"  i could hear the quiet sound of influence passing over the crowd.  the sound of sniffing and tear-wiping began too.

something incredible happens when a person is empowered.  when they realize they have expectation.  it ignites something in them.  they suddenly feel like who they are now doesn't have to be who they will always be.  change is a powerful thing.

there was this moment when i could barely see through my own tears and i watched as Will's eyes welled up too.   i realized THIS is God's redemption plan for this island.  maybe the young men who are here, listening, will change the course of an entire community.  maybe looking back ten years from now we could track a new generation of husbands and fathers to this very room.  maybe, all it took was one guy from louisville, kentucky to charge these boys to be Men of God.  and almost as if it were rehearsed, when Will asked this room full of broken boys if they wanted to be Men of God they chanted back at him, "Hombres de Dios," with fists raised in the air.  not because they were expected to or they would win a prize if they did it really loud but because the flame was lit and the torch was passed and for a room full of boys, the buck was stopping here.