The gifts that we, as missionaries,receive are innumerable. At times I wonder what I could offer in the slightest to offset this seemingly imbalanced exchange. One enormous gift is having a job that, in the best case scenario, is to be in the presence of the risen Lord in every way and every day. In this active presence of being we are offered transformation. If we give in to God's beautifully work in love filled relationships, we will not return as we arrived.
In the past couple of weeks the reality of relationships has swelled from a meer gesture of pleasantries to spirit and emotion shared responses.
This past Wednesday was an emotional rug swept from under my feet. It was close to time that the kids be released to return to their homes, although no one was giving any sign of having intention of wanting to leave early. Audra and I were singing and dancing with a group of the children as we were in the second round of English lessons. Those who normally tend to resist the classes were off on one end of the room doing homework or chatting while the rest were hanging out around us.
As I was jumping around, singing quite loudly 'Do the Hocky Pocky' I noticed Julio siting against the door. He is 9 years old, a hansom boy with especially light hazel eyes, who has consistently been an eager participant in English classes. I went to stir him up and get him into the game. I tried a couple of time to get him on his feet with no reaction. Something was up. His head was bowed down with a somber expression on his face. I sat down next to him and that is when I noticed his eyes were red. I asked a variety of questions to find out what had caused the change from his normally vivacious character. I asked how he was doing, if he was alright, if something had occurred during class , was he hurt. To each question he didn't respond. I asked if someone in the class had hit him, he said no. I asked if he was sad, he answered yes or maybe it was just his reaction to this question that answered yes for him as his eyes welled up and tears began to trickle down his cheek. I sat next to him comforting him the only way I knew how to by stroking his hair and forehead. I again asked if someone in the class had hit him, he said no, and then in a clip of speech he told me that his grandmother had hit him. A child in the grips of tears is hard to understand, in Spanish it was even more difficult, but I got the gist. I asked when, he said Monday...it was Wednesday, what had occurred in his home? He had been holding onto this pain and hurt since Monday. I said how very sorry I was and how no one has the right to hit him (which had been the topic of discipline for the past two days with Dylan); the tears began to course down his cheek. His eyes are large and round and as his pain was brought to the surface those large hazel eyes stared off into the distance as tears streamed freely; but that was the extent of his emotional give. I wanted to pick him up and hold him tightly, but he didn't want to be held, or wouldn't let himself. This is a culture of a woman is a woman and a man is a man from childhood and one aspect of this is that men don't cry. I was completely taken off guard. I asked if he was hurting, he said yes. I was completely helpless, what can I do, what should I do?
In this land, abuse is apart of life and the equivalent of DHR doesn't seem to be an option in this part of the world, the world of the marginalized. All of these communities that spread up these hills came as a result of being displaced by paramilitary or the FARC. Now a community with some moderate infrastructure, including schools have been established for quite some time but are not given access to the same resources as are available to the urban Bogota.
I can't make his grandmother stop hitting him. I could only keep saying how very sorry I was that he was sad and hurting. I was now trying to be present in the flood of emotions coming from this precious child. I stayed close by his side stroking his hair and arm. Telling him that it was right and good to cry. As his tears began to abate he leaned forward to come closer to me as the closest gesture of being held that he could bring himself to. As the other children, who had also been taken off guard to see their friend was crying, had been coming up to us asking why he was crying. I had to put thought into how to acknowledge their concern while keeping Julio's privacy guarded. It turned into a variety of non-verbal ques that the children astutely and thankfully picked up on. Just as heart binding as it was to see him cry it was hurtful to see a since of shame cross his face as he wiped the tears from his face. The tears continued to role until he couldn't cry anymore. I dried the last of his tears from his cheek and made sure that he looked me in the eyes to share with him how very much I care for him. He shook himself of the emotional wellspring that had just inundated his being to stand up and join with his classmates to prepare to leave.
Although today, as the doors were opened and the sugary lolly pops were distributed, no one was in a hurry to leave. Most everyone tarried just outside the door. Julio, his little brother and one of the girls had walked a bit farther down the hill, but had stopped. Audra and I went around and gave one last hug to each of the children and sent them on their way promising to come back the next week. I took the opportunity and I ran down the hill and caught hold of Edinson, Julio's little brother, I gave the girl a big hug and then went to Julio. I gave him my hug and a departure cheek kiss, looked him in the eyes and told him that I loved him (te quiero), with the added question that if he knew that I love him (¿sabes?). Looking me in the eyes he nodded his head in affirmation, with a smile I let him go on his way as I returned to the church. My soul was brought to its knees. As for the rest the ride home, that evening and ever since I have been digesting the significance of what had passed.
Another amazing related gift came on Sunday as we attended the service at the mission. We saw a great part of our class room. It was so nice to see them beyond our routine visit and their genuine pleasure to see us was more precious than gold. And Julio's face brightened to a glow when he saw me and I am sure I glowed back at him as God was and issurly present in our relationship.
After three months in Bogota I am just now beginning to see a glimmer of what it is that I am doing here. I ambeginning to see the relationships that started on the surface work their way deeper and deeper into the flesh of Christ. As I share the Spirit that the Lord has blessed me with they share their Spirit with me. The soul is a beautiful place to reside with the other.
Peace dear friends