Monday, November 30, 2009

Where do I go from here?

Where do I even begin? Quite frankly, I'm utterly brokenhearted at being home again. I love my country, I love my family and my friends and sure, the comforts of home are nice. But, I left my heart in Central America and I think its there to stay. Its been years since I've cried this much this many days in a row. It was an incredible week, really, it was. Yet, my heart is devastated at the pain some of those children are going through. Take away the poverty, take away the lack of clean water, take away the hunger, and its still terrible. There are still gangs, there are still fatherless boys, motherless girls. There is still death, there is still tragedy, there is still loss. Add the poverty, hunger, dirty water, and it nothing short of shocking. God broke my heart much more on this trip. I sit here, with a pain in my chest greater than I can even describe. My heart has literally been aching these past few days. I feel shattered inside, I feel lost, I feel completely torn in two. I fell in love with those smiling faces with sad eyes. My soul is bound with a community that I never would have expected. Had you told me 2 years ago that I would be aching for Guatemala, and I doubt I would have believed you. I expected my heart to be sold to Africa and Middle East. Don't get my wrong, I feel tremendously for that region of the world. My heart hurts for the children of Uganda and I know that it always will. I hurt for the people of the Middle East and the way their land has been torn apart by war. But that is an expected pain for me. Guatemala hit me like a ton of bricks that came out of nowhere.

Two boys in particular stole my heart completely. Their home lives are enough to make anyone cry. I have a distinct remembrance of both of them from my last trip. One of the boys stands out in my memory because of the intense sadness that covered him. His eyes seemed to be pleading for an escape, for a respite from the daily existence that was his life. I had a few pictures of him, smile-less and empty. Things haven't changed since February. At the start of the week, he caught my eye right away, still stoic in expression. He ended up in one of my classes, and ritual began between us where I would give him a huge hug and kiss each time I saw him and would then proceed to push up the corners of his mouth into a smile. After a few minutes, it would typically turn into a real smile, however slight it might be. There would be times where the weight on his shoulders would win out, leaving that small mouth in a straight line. Heartbreaking doesn't begin to describe how I felt looking at this kid.

Something happened with him though... Perhaps it was the relief of being away from home. Or perhaps it was his soul getting a chance to express itself. Whatever it was, I began to see this boy come alive in my class. The transformation was shocking in its unexpectancy. He would get so excited when the music came on, as if it was transcending in its presence. That was the moment where the awful bus ride out to the camp, the heat, the sweat, the preparation, the anxiety was all completely worth it. Just for that moment of seeing him smile, unabashed and free. I swear I could practically hear the heavens singing the hallelujah chorus, rejoicing as much as I was at this boy being freed from the sadness that surrounded him.

I spent a chunk of the week going out of my way to make this boy feel loved. By the end of the week, the change in this kid was incredible. He was smiling and laughing and playing. I found out that the other boy that had taken me so much was his brother, so I knew that the same situation and sadness was around him as well. I don't recall ever feeling such violent love for kids that I just met. All I wanted to do was to help take the hurt away, to remove them from their reality and give them some relief. I loved them so much that it actually hurt.

I believe that I got a small taste of how Christ loves us. In a way that is violent in its sheer power, all consuming in its force. That love is nearly suffocating, to the point where breathing almost becomes optional because your heart is so full that your lungs don't have room to expand. Its the kind of love that takes you over, that would give you the courage to do anything, give any sacrifice.

It was hard seeing this little 12 year old boy the day after the camp was over. That sadness had come right on top of him again, the childish smile gone, the eyes back to that same emptiness. Saying goodbye to him was extraordinarily difficult... I felt as if my heart was being ripped out of my chest. As I told him that I loved him, his lips began to quiver. At that moment it hit me that he wasn't used to hearing those words often. At 12 years old, he wasn't used to being told that he was loved. No child should ever have to grow up like that.

I don't know where to go from here, honestly. I've only been gone for a few days and I feel as if I might explode. My heart is still aching in my chest, the tears are still running down my face. My heart is so broken, and as much as it hurts, I want it to stay that way. When God breaks your heart for people, it is the beginning of understanding his love. Its hard, its painful, but its the only thing that is truly worth it in life.

Such a medicine is love.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Great is Thy Faithfulness

You know those days where you can clearly see a lesson to be learned? Friday was one of those days for me, without a doubt. I went through the first part of my day at the office, trying my hardest to concentrate, which isn't the easiest when you're about to embark on a journey of the proportions I knew my trip would be. I left early, hurried home, and began the final preparations of my luggage. My heart was undoubtedly pounding in my chest from sheer anticipation.

I am a naturally distracted person. Anyone that knows me should understand this one thing about me, if nothing else. It has to do with my overactive brain and inability to calm my thoughts down enough to relax. Its probably not the best quality to have, but its the way that I am and it probably won't ever change. The major downfall of said distraction is that one tends to not pay attention to the location of one's cell phone. This causes some problems when said cell phone is in one's back pocket and one attempted to use the restroom. My cell phone nearly came to its final resting place at the bottom of my toilet, which would have been the second phone this year to meet its end in a container of water. Its become a joke, really. A sad, pathetic, funny joke. Thankfully, my phone seems to be mostly ok. Last I checked only a few buttons were being fritzy.

My flight out of Philly was delayed for 45 minutes. Considering that I only had an hour to connect to my flight in Houston, I was definitely feeling a bit anxious. My plan landed with 20 minutes to spare, and naturally, it took a while to deboard. I took off the second my feet hit the terminal (I believe it was the first time I actually ran through an airport). They were boarding my flight by the time I reached my gate. Naturally, we sat on the tarmac for an hour after boarding, which is never fun. It was late, I was tired, and hungry, and had a nasty headache from not eating.

As I sat in my cramped seat, battling with hunger and pain, I started looking back on my day. My own rushing had caused my phone to nearly die. But it didn't. I almost missed my connecting flight. But I didn't. I was hungry. But I would be eating soon. I had a headache. But I had medicine for that. The faithfulness of my Father hit me like a ton of bricks. My phone definitely should not be ok. I had only missed one meal that day. There are millions of people around the world who don't have the conveniences of industrial life. There are millions of children dying from malnutrition. I had only missed one meal.

My savior's faithfulness was astounding. I don't know why it was so apparent to me on Friday. He is faithful every single day. But for some reason, it was my lesson for the day, and I have a feeling it will be my lesson for this trip. He is so faithful.

Great is thy faithfulness, oh God, my Father.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

First Day Back

The first day back in the ghetto was the same as most days in the ghetto: fast and busy. The day started off with not nearly enough sleep, lots of coffee, a few minutes lying in the newly hung hammocks and then the insanity began.

The first hour in the ghetto was spent with Dulce and her mom and sister. It was an amazing time. In February, Dulce was extremely shy, hanging back a bit with sideways glances. I felt as if I was a guest in her home, welcome but not quite part of the family. This time, everything was different. Dulce met me at the door with a massive hug that lasted at least 5 minutes. She was glued to me for the entire visit, sitting in my lap, showing me magazines, toys and the picture of me that I had given her. It seemed that I had become part of her family, her mom was more relaxed (and also made the most incredible papaya juice. Like, really, really good). Her dad was unfortunately not able to be there since he was working, but he did call to ask if I was there. It was hard leaving, as it was last time. I really felt that I had become part of her family, and another small piece of my heart was chipped of and left behind.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent in meetings in preparation for the camp. They were as exciting as meetings usually are. This evening found Leah, Donnie and I out for dinner at Cafe Saul, housing the most incredible crepes known to mankind. Like, seriously. So. Freaking. Good. I may actually open a franchise in Philly. They are that amazing.

This trip has just begun. I'm tired already. I know that its going to be a hard week, hard in the sense that it will be demanding and exhausting. I'm very excited though. Excited for seeing God's hand in these kids, excited to watch His faithfulness continue to abound, excited for the things that I will learn and the ways I will be stretched. It won't be easy, but it will be worth it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Round Dos

In 4 days, I will be heading back to the place where I left my heart about 8 months ago. La Limonada has been on my heart and mind every single day since I left in February, and I have been craving to go back. This past summer when the opportunity to teach the kids at an arts camp arose, it quickly became apparent that God was clearing the path for me to go. Guatemalan kids.... sunshine... dance... the beach... Really, how can I say no to that?!

I'm a bit more nervous this time around. Last time, I was a little anxious about the actual traveling aspect, never having flown internationally and being by myself. This time, I'm nervous about teaching. This may sound ridiculous, considering the fact that I've been teaching for 10 years and it should be something that comes so naturally to me now. But, I have been on a sabbatical for the past 18 months, only teaching intermittently. Plus, this time I will be teaching with a language and a cultural barrier. Its just a tad intimidating. I'm excited, don't get me wrong. Very excited. But, I woke up this morning with my stomach somewhere around the region on my vocal cords, feeling way more anxious than I'd like to admit. I'm doubting myself and my ability to pull this off. Pretty severely, in fact.

Perhaps its just a spiritual test. We all know how much Satan likes to batter us down, make us feel like we aren't worthy or good enough. But normally when he does that, its because he's scared. He's scared because he knows the power that we hold when we are moving in our God-given talents and using them to affect other people's lives. If I were him, I'd be scared too. When we are moving in the things of God, we become warriors. Warriors with Uzis coming against an enemy with a water pistol. Satan is really rather pathetic when we look at him in his true light.

I covet your prayers over the next week and a half. I ask for prayer for the kids, for the teachers, and for the time that we'll get to spend ministering to them inside, and outside, the classroom. I know that its going to be an incredible week. Sadly, I may not be able to keep you posted to the same extent as last time, due to a possible lack of internet connection. But, have no fear... You will hear stories when I return.