Saturday, December 27, 2008

Encountering Jesus . . .

Many, many years ago as a young Elder I volunteered to take our youth group to Montreat. After that experience I vowed “never again!” Flash forward about a quarter of a century -- I am now doing my seminary internship when I am told by my supervisor that we’ll chaperone the youth group on their annual mission trip. “No, Brad, you don’t understand I don’t do youth trips.” After Christmas I find myself in the front passenger seat of a van with 15 teenagers heading down to work with the PCUSA Border Ministry in Nuevo Laredo.

It was one of the most amazing experiences . . . not the work . . . there wasn’t much of that as once we got down there they decided we weren’t the construction type . . . we had been scheduled to work on laying the foundation for a new building in the medical compound where we were staying. Instead they scrambled to find us work we could do . . . we were assigned to paint the orphanage in the colonia (neighborhood) where we were staying.

The orphanage wasn’t like those we think of where children who have lost their parents or have been abandoned live until they can, hopefully, be adopted. This orphanage housed many of the children from the colonia; their parents placed them there so they would have a place to sleep, running water, food to eat and could get, at the very least, some education. The colonia was marred by abject poverty -- shacks made out of cardboard, sewage running in the streets. As a social worker who early in my career made home visits to some of the poorest areas of the Mississippi Gulf Coast I thought I knew the face of poverty, but I was shocked. And frankly I was worried about the teens . . . white upper middle class kids who wanted for nothing.

After the first day it became obvious that we weren’t going to get a lot of work out of the teens . . . they had found playmates in the kids of the orphanage . . . so Brad and I painted . . . later we were joined by some of the parents . . . our kids and their kids played and got to know each other, despite the language barrier.

As I write this the tears come back . . . for you see all of us experienced Jesus on that trip in ways that none of us could ever imagine. Our trip ended on Epiphany . . . that’s the big celebration in Mexico . . . it ended with Worship and although my little Spanish wasn’t much help in understanding what was being said in that small chapel with plain wooden benches, a dirt floor and in the cold of winter words weren’t needed . . .

We are all just travelers on this journey called life;
Some walk in darkness, while others follow the Light.
We carry our treasures so close to our heart;
Some we let go of while others never part.
And somewhere on this journey we encounter a King
That will change us forever, to Him our treasures bring.
(Lynn Cooper)

A fellow traveler,

1 comment:

St. Casserole said...

I love reading this!

Happy New Year!