Conquer the World

“The love for equals is a human thing—of friend for friend, brother for brother. It is to love what is loving and lovely. The world smiles. The love for the less fortunate is a beautiful thing—the love for those who suffer, for those who are poor, the sick, the failures, the unlovely. This is compassion, and it touches the heart of the world. The love for the more fortunate is a rare thing—to love those who succeed where we fail, to rejoice without envy with those who rejoice, the love of the poor for the rich, of the black man for the white man. The world is always bewildered by its saints. And then there is the love for the enemy—love for the one who does not love you but mocks, threatens, and inflicts pain. The tortured’s love for the torturer. This is God’s love. It conquers the world.”

Frederick Buechner
The Magnificent Defeat

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Flaming branches and Suckers

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It was midnight and we stood on our roof watching the huge burning field just across the street behind our house. The flames were about 2 stories high and as wide as 3 football fields. We stood in the smoke watching, waiting and thinking…..”If those tree branches on our side of the street catch fire…….” In mid-thought the wind changed directions and within 5 minutes the entire raging fire had died down to only smoke.

Speaking of smoke…….
Have you ever worked in a tobacco field? In a day when people are “going green” and advocates exist for almost everything, I doubt there are many left who have actually worked in a tobacco field. But growing up in East Tennessee, tobacco fields were a common sight. And on my Grandmothers farm, a good tobacco crop secured another year of life.

I remember sweating in the late summer heat, dressed from head to toe to keep the nicotine sap from penetrating our skin. There were a half a dozen field hands, mostly comprised of family (all women) and a few young men from the community. I can vividly remember walking down the tobacco rows suckering each plant. What stands out most in my memory is the fact that my Grandmother was always a few steps behind me re-doing the job that I had just completed. One thing is for sure, between the two of us, those plants were not going to have any suckers…….(ha,ha)

I know you are all wondering what a sucker is, so I won’t keep you waiting.
A sucker is a small bud which begins to grow on the stalk right above each tobacco leaf. If left unattended the plant will divide it’s strength between the sucker and the leaf, hence producing mediocre tobacco leaves, unfit for market. Suckering is an essential part of growing a good crop.

This week, in response to the violence that we have experienced in our area, I have been thinking a lot about flaming branches and suckers. The flaming branches of fears which seem to be headed right toward us and the rumor like suckers which have been sprouting up all over the place. And then I remember that God is in control and at any moment the wind can change directions and literally put out the flames. And those suckers, well my grandmother taught me how to get rid of them years ago.

KD

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Welcome Home

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Antonio and Brandon

As I walked in the dining hall at Hope House last Friday, I had to chuckle. God always knows the future and often He tries to prepare us for what is about to come. There sitting at the table were 3 little boys. Brothers, they looked to be about one to five years old. So small!!!……later I found out that the oldest was actually eight and the one who looked to be four, was actually six. But that didn’t change the fact that that the smallest was under two years old, and he was sitting in the dining hall of Hope House. Up to this point our youngest boy has been 6 years old.

The boys arrived on Thursday to the Public Ministry office in Ixtlahuacan trailing behind their parents who were handcuffed together and headed for jail. Their crime, I do not know. The director of Public Ministry had asked our Director Jorge, if we would keep the boys until Monday, just to give the government workers time to try and find a place for them to live.

So now they sit at our table…..what will we do? How will we respond? I look more closely at them and notice their clothes are hanging off of them. We don’t even have clothes to fit them. No clothes, not baby formula, certainly no diapers, nor a bottle, crib, car seat. Oh my, what will we do?

(I mentioned I chuckled when I saw the boys, well I laughed because about 6 months ago we were seeking Gods direction for the ministry. As I was praying, in my mind I saw a room at Hope House filled with little boys. Upon sharing my “vision” with the board and staff, the responses were unified….”We aren’t ready! That is a whole new ball game! That will take more staff and more money! Oh My, we just can’t…..can’t even think about it, at least not now!”)

A bit later on Friday, Brandon, the baby began to cry. I picked him up and gave him my best mom hug. I rocked and shushed, to no avail. “Hermana, give him to Luis”, his brother. “He is the only one who can comfort him.” I knealt down and handed the baby to Luis, who can’t even be 3 feet tall. He snuggled his brother on his shoulder, how only a seasoned Mom can, and began to rock him and talk to him softly. Instantly he quietened and quickly fell asleep.

You see Luis, has been mother and father to both of his younger brothers. A boy of eight, filled with such compassion he walked the streets looking for food for his brothers when their parents we unavailable. He wakes in the night to, comfort the crying baby when no one else is there to comfort him.

I look around the group of staff standing there, all eyes wet with tears and there was no need to ask Anything all that we needed to say was………Welcome Home!

Not the same girl……

It dawned on me last week that I am not the girl who moved here 10 years ago. I know that sounds silly, so obvious and yet I sat, having this revelation. It was Mother’s Day (Here celebrated May 10th.) The Hope House boys had invited me to attend a program at their school. It was all so familiar to me, all the songs & dances and door prizes; mothers and children laughing. I was surrounded by poverty and yet smiles all around. It felt like old times.
After the presentation, we ate pozole* crowded at the children’s school desk which had been strategically placed at the edge of the school yard, in the little bit of shade that the trees offered. The pozole was not the kind that I have grown accustom to over the years; low-fat with chicken breast. But this was “real pozole”, the kind cooked in a huge pot over an open fire, served with a floating layer of grease on top and identifiable parts of the hog taking center stage in my bowl. It took me back 10 years ago to a time when I thought it strange to eat a bowl of soup with salad greens adorning it.
I ate, enjoying my meal and visiting with women who I have met over the years. Women, whose life’s stories I know and have been a part of…..and I it dawned on me that we have been living here so long that Mexico has now become home.
The “sounds of Mexico” which frightened me 10 years ago, I can now identify without even pulling back the curtain…..the cow bell that clangs as the garbage truck comes down the street, the distant horn of the man in the the yellow truck who sells cheese once a week in our neighborhood, the loud speaker & catchy song of the gas truck announcing it’s arrival. All these sounds surround me daily. Even now, a car is circulating through the streets playing an advertisement for the upcoming election and another offering 3 kilos of Mango for 10 pesos (less than a dollar).
A lot has happened in the last 10 years. Lots of moments…lots of difficult moments.Moments which have molded me, made me stronger. I remember feeling like I had aged 10 years after living on the mission field the first year. I figure if I knew then all that I know now, it would have been even more difficult to, leave my comfort zone & come here. (Thank God for ignorant bliss!)
Mixed in with the difficult moments have also been delightful ones. Moments which have made the others worth it. Moments when I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I was created to be here. And I am reminded how different I have become.
I am no longer….. the mystic with stars in her eyes, longing to be a missionary………the young mother who made the 6 day drive across country with her husband and her 2 babies, the carefree soul who sold almost everything only to arrive in Mexico without a place to live. I am not…….the girl who ate lentils for a week when money was tight……or who’s fever reached 104 after taking one little bite of a guamuchil. I am no longer afraid of lice, or dirty children or scorpions.
I am not as rash as I used to be, nor as judgmental. I have been tried and stretched, and discouraged beyond belief. There were times when I just thought I would give up………Times when “The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid.” (Psalms 18:4) Times, I wanted to quit, and yet He used those moments in my life to mold me. And through it all, I know that I am and have been exactly where I am supposed to be.
After 10 years it is clear to me…..I am being transformed into the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18) while Abiding UNDER THE SHADOW of the Almighty. (Psalms 91:1)
And I want to take this moment to thank each of you for walking this road with me. For praying and listening and sending financial support. I know that without you this life that I live would be much more difficult. But because of you I am able to stand Under His Shadow and wonder what the next 10 years will hold.

By His Grace,

KD

*Pozole: a traditional Mexican soup, originating in Guadalajara. It is made up of chicken and/or pork broth with hominy. Topped with shredded cabbage or lettuce, onions, radishes, lemon and chili. Eaten with tostadas, usually on special occasions, like Christmas.