Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Sowing Seeds

(from my monthly missions newsletter)

Sometimes, boys at Casa Gabriel chose or need to leave the home either for a time or permanently due to unresolved conflicts or family difficulties. However their stories do not end there. Not even close.

You may remember that about a year ago we had a boy named Daniel living in the house, whose sister Margo attempted suicide, miraculously survived, and ended up living in Casa Adalia for a time along with her four children. Just as the Casa A team has continued to be a part of Margo and her children's lives when she was able to find an apartment and begin a new, more stable chapter, the Casa G team has continued to help and disciple Daniel when he chose to move out of Casa G to help his family. Daniel's decision to leave was based mostly on his father, who is elderly and very frail. When Daniel's other older sister was no longer able to care for their father and her children and younger sister, Daniel found a low-income housing apartment and approached Casa G about helping him afford the deposit. Daniel is barely 19, still in high school (many youth here don't graduate until they are 22 or so because of dropping in and out of school due to poverty), yet for most of his life, he has been the man of his family. His two older brothers were killed in drug/gang related deaths, and his mother died when he was young. When Daniel's father was healthier, he was not a great father to his son. Even so, Daniel has stepped up, saying, "He is still my father. I'm going to take care of him."

Ever since Daniel left Casa Gabriel, Phil has encouraged him to stay in school, to keep moving towards graduation and a better future. They made an agreement that as long as Daniel stayed in school and kept up with his grades, Casa G would pay for his school expenses. Daniel has kept his word and been faithful to his education. Now more than ever he has been coming back to Quito (he lives in Ibarra, about four hours away) to visit everyone at Casa G. Last Sunday he walked into church with his backpack of things, a huge grin lighting his face as he received hugs from Phil, Debbie, and I. Daniel truly has a smile which transforms his face. He can be stoic and serious, with so much weight on his shoulders, yet in his smile you can find the youthful hopefulness and love for life which God has planted inside him. His smile is delightfully infectious.

It's wonderful to dream about taking in these boys and giving them safety, stability, healing, and love. I and the rest of the team want to bring them away from the pain, hunger, abuse, and fear they have known and say, "No more." But sometimes, that is only possible for a bit of time. With Daniel and others, one thing is very clear: their stories are in progress. We may be simply one chapter, or some footnotes here and there, just like the sower from Luke 8 who didn't know where the seeds he scattered would land. Yet I believe whole-heartedly that, incredibly, despite the loss and grief Daniel has known in his life, he is a seed on good soil. He is a disciple who will go out and make disciples. I can see it in his smile.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

We Who Will Remember

For my friend Sarah who lost her loving, kind, generous, beautiful mom, Cindy, to ovarian cancer.

Come new day
Come find us in a place without pain
Without grief
Without death
Where we need never bury those we love
Will you find us there?

Come bright sun
Come shine on a port of morrow
Without regret
Without loss
Where there's no need to speak the word 'cancer'
Will you help us there?

Come ocean swells
Come rise and crash and glimmer
With strength
With hope
With overwhelming power and healing and love
Will you bring us there?

Come oh life
Come sorrow and confusion and wonder
With joy
With remembrance
Where we will carry on, carry on, carry on

We are here
We are here
We are hopeful
We are the ones who will remember
We are weighted full of sadness, yet
We are rising, full of light

Monday, October 5, 2015

Man In A Wheelchair

"Corn rows have companion feel
This rocky road and this steering wheel
Who do you call to ease your pain?
I hope for you to get through this rain"

 - "Windows Are Rolled Down", by Amos Lee

Ahead on the path, an old man in a wheelchair hit a rock and the whole chair tipped forward, depositing the man on the concrete. I pulled out my earbuds and slowed down my run as I approached him. A man on a bike also stopped and got off, our paths merging towards the wheelchair.

The man didn't seem to particularly want our help; still, as he collected himself and his belongings, the cyclist and I each took hold of the wheelchair and set it upright. It was so completely covered in belongings - bags, old jackets, a blanket, an umbrella - that at first, it was confusing to determine which side faced forward. As the cyclist and I held the chair still, the man sat on the sidewalk and began putting back the things which had fallen. Water bottles mostly, and a seat cushion which sat on top of a worn briefcase.
"This is likely his only home," I thought. "This is all he has."

The man's legs twisted helplessly, like those of a rag doll. His face was mostly hidden by a long salt-and-pepper beard, sun glasses, and an ancient hat. On his left wrist were two watches. Nearly everything he wore and which covered the wheelchair was black. So colorless as to almost blend in and not be noticed. Honestly, if he hadn't fallen, I wouldn't have given much notice. I've likely seen him before, along with many other homeless men sleeping and shuffling around the city.

I thought about how to help lift him back into his chair. If the cyclist and I each took hold of a shoulder and a leg and lifted him up together, I bet we could have done it. Yet even as the cyclist and I waited, the man finished arranging his belongings and waved us away.
"I'm fine, I'm fine," he said in Spanish, and the cyclist said okay and walked back to his bike. I slowly backed up, wanting to help more but not wanting to intrude, and knowing I likely couldn't lift the man on my own. So I resumed my run.

I had circled the park once more when I spotted him sitting under a tree in his chair. He simply sat there, alone with his meager possessions. How ironic, you could say, that while running 11 miles in training for a half marathon, I would meet a man without the use of his legs. I can take it all for granted so easily, so easily it's almost frightening at times. Things like health, a home, family and friends, regular meals, daily showers and changes of clothes, and even dignity. I'm embarrassed if I trip or stumble or say something I later regret. How is it for that man to know that everyday people see and pity him? Sheathed in black clothes and dark sunglasses, probably not many people stop and talk to him. Does he crave human interaction, yet loathe the moments when they come as a result of pity, like me and cyclist seeing him fall and trying to help?

Collisions with strangers; please, don't leave us the same.