I spotted an elderly couple begging for money from the patrons of a Chinese restaurant. The couple looked hungry and sickly, and there was no way that a few “soles” given to them out of pity would buy them a decent meal.
It is not only in Baños—or any foreign city—that God calls people to holy encounters. There are amigos in the Holy Spirit awaiting us wherever we are. As we approach the great celebration of Pentecost, let us ask the Holy Spirit if there is someone one our path He might be calling us to befriend this week. Who might be needing a word of encouragement and prayers, or just someone to remind them that they are seen?
I said a quick prayer for the man on the corner. Not ten seconds later I was plagued by a litany of doubts. Why did I give him so much? What if he uses it for alcohol or drugs? I should have had a snack in the car to give him. I could have at least asked his name instead of only throwing him money.
Then it struck me: these little piglets, cute as they were, had been bred for slaughter. And, like them, the adorable Child whose birth we were preparing to celebrate would ultimately be slaughtered. He was born into privation, and within days His life was at risk and He and His family were refugees.
May I not forget praise when experiencing or witnessing suffering, and may I not turn a blind eye to suffering in a season of greater praise. It’s a “both/and” kind of thing.
My restless nature wants to know answers and make plans, but maybe this is my crucible moment. I am the target of missionary work at this moment—the mission of Christ to make me patient and humble in the face of a society that is impatient and prideful. And so, I pour out the love I have from the Father to the only people I can in this time—my own family.
I burst into tears. Perhaps one of the hardest things about being a missionary is seeing that, in spite of our efforts to live in solidarity with the poor, there exists a world of difference in the opportunities available to us and to them. Try as I might, I’ll never truly understand the plight of the poor.
I passed by a simple concrete home where a woman was standing outside sweeping. We exchanged customary greetings, and when I asked her how she was, she responded with something about being in her home all alone. That was a clue from the Spirit that I need to stop here.
On the third day we held the medical clinic in our own town of Pucacaca. One lady came in with her elderly cousin, an 88-year-old frail woman who struggled to walk. The sweet elderly woman must have had her hair colored for the occasion, as she still had the remnants of dye on the skin around her hairline. She had a pleasant demeanor and may have been blissfully unaware of what was going on around her.
Crawling. Isn’t that how we sometimes live the Christian life? We talk about the Christian walk, climbing the mountain, running to attain the goal…but in reality, it seems that we’re slowly creeping along on our hands and knees, doing all we can not to give up before we reach the top.
These few weeks have taught me more about living in sync with nature. We cook with foods that are available locally instead of going to a grocery store with hundreds of options. We decide when to wash our laundry based on the rain forecast, since they are hung to dry—after they are hand washed. Many conveniences that I’ve taken for granted are not part of our life here. There is both beauty and challenge in the simplicity of it. But we choose this route so that we can walk in solidarity with the poor whom we serve.
After the formal gathering ended, and while were were still chatting with the participants, one of the missionary kids asked me to help her communicate to a young Spanish-speaking girl that she wanted to race with her. Before long, almost all of the kids (and some adults), English- and Spanish-speaking alike, were taking part in the game. At the count of uno, dos, tres, another group would run competitively across the dusty field. Even one of the dads carrying a toddler on his shoulders joined in on the fun.