June 26, 2016 - Mexico
If orientation outlined the ‘who, what, how, and whys’ of the Trek, then our first week with our host families fleshed the issues out. No longer were we talking about incarnational ministry, the Mexican people, or the brokenness and beauty of it all. Rather, we have begun to see, experience, and live it. And already I know that I will be leaving a piece of my heart here.
I see so much of the beauty and love of God in the host family my site team is staying with. There’s our host mom, an older woman who gets up every day around 5:30am to work, cook, and clean, and who sells chicharrones on the weekends. She has two older children who live elsewhere with families of their own that come to visit every week. And then there’s her youngest son - 7 years old - whom I absolutely love. He reminds me a lot of my younger cousins in the States - so full of energy to play futbol, kickball, hot potato, sing, and even teach Ryan and me some rudimentary Spanish. They also have a dog, cat, duck, and a canary, as well as a couple of chickens. The cat is one of my favorites too, so affectionate and cuddly and letting me pick him up and rub his belly or neck, purring or licking me at the same time. My teammate Madison has helped tremendously translating when necessary. Even with the language barrier, it’s just so obvious the genuine love and joy each member of the family has for each other, and the Ubuntu-like community that exists with our family and the rest on our little street. Ubuntu is a philosophy from Southern Africa that more or less means “the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity.” In our Christian context, we use the phrase “Imago Dei” or image of God—the binding force that connects us all to each other and to God.
The first full day here we spent hours upon hours playing with the kids and was when my heart really went out to our 7-year-old. I don’t have a little brother myself, but this little boy feels like one already. While we were playing kickball with a small pink ball along with the rest of the kids on the street, the boy and I really bonded. I would give him high tens (two high fives) and after a particularly good play, pick him up so that he could pretend he was flying whenever he had even a momentary frown. I was also able to insert some justice to the game when the boy (like a typical young male) started to hog the ball and I would take it from him and give it to someone else, appeasing him by hugging him and teaching him Usain Bolt’s lightning pose. Later in the game, the boy took the ball and insisted I pitch even though only the little kids had up this point, calling me “Mi amigo” (“My friend”). Incarnational ministry, a ministry of being, can come in many forms. This all sounds great, right? However, we have also learned about the brokenness that exits amidst this beauty.
There is systemic, relational, and personal brokenness that is ingrained in the people and communities. With a politico-socio-economic system stacked against the poor, what opportunities are actually available to kids like our little boy? He’s smart, engaging, and passionate about the things that he does, but when he grows up, will he be able to pursue the dreams that he has like many of us in the States? The house he lives in is mostly concrete. They have three closed-off rooms, one sink that was blocked off by a mountain of junk when we arrived. They’re fortunate to have a pipe with hot flowing water. You might have noticed I didn’t mention a father earlier when describing the family - it’s because the little boy’s father passed away four months ago. The little boy, in the words of our host mom, “is the only company I have.” Relational brokenness in the family is more the norm in these parts than you’d think. So far, I’ve seen more of the personal brokenness in the animals - numerous street dogs neglected, malnourished, and with fleas - so we’re told to stay away. This is not the way God created these people - this community - to live.
Learning all this doesn’t discourage me though, because the animals, the people, and this community have not lost hope. They have real joy and contentedness, love, and peace. They live simply and they live together - they are beautiful and strong. Recognizing the brokenness only deepens my respect and love for them. And I will continue to think and pray about ways I can partner and support this summer and in the future. God is present here and has indeed broken my heart for this place.
Written by Brendan