Leidi is the leader of our local church’s child sponsorship ministry. Last Tuesday, she was in a story-telling mood, and I listened away the noon hour at an old, splintered table in her back yard.
Leidi grew up in a poor neighborhood. Because her family owned a colmado, a small front-of-your-house grocery stand, she considered that they always had what they needed. She noted, “Early on, God put compassion in my heart. It’s just the way I am!”
“When I was eight, I was walking in my neighborhood with my grandma. We passed a house, and I heard women laughing inside. I poked my head in, and the neighbors shouted, ‘No! Stay away from there! There are crazy ladies in there!’ I said, ‘I don’t care!’ and stood looking for a while at their grinning faces. I asked, ‘How do these women eat?,’ and the neighbors responded, ‘We throw them scraps sometimes.’ I determined that I would bring them food, much to my grandmother’s chagrin. Every day from that time on, I carried a big pot of our food down the street, went into their home and set out 3 plates. They smiled with their wide smiles at me, but I wasn’t scared.
Leidi’s life continues to respond to her neighbors’ today. Besides hosting the child sponsorship ministry in her back yard, she opens her life to the sometimes inconvenient needs of the children. She grows in wisdom from her interactions, and the complexity and level of her response and commitment has also advanced with time.
Isaiah has lived in Leidi´s home now for 5 months. It is the second live-in stretch he has spent with Leidi in his 11 year old life. And it isn’t because there is an open guest room in the 2 bedroom home that she, her grown son and another woman already occupy. It’s because his mother couldn’t feed him, and wasn’t taking responsibility for his schooling. Isaiah had been kicked out of every public school in the area, and gone 2 years without formal education.
Now, Leidi persists with her church friends and gathers the 15 dollars a month needed for his attendance at a small Christian school, visiting often weekly to ensure that he won’t get kicked out. She leaves 2 smoothies in the fridge instead of one for after-school snacks for her “sons.” Life is not simple with Isaiah, who stole money once from the home. But this is Leidi’s response to God loving her: loving others. We could fill your inbox with good news from the people in prison and on drugs that Leidi has ministered to in her bold and humble way. We can see how the image of Christ has grown in her because of them, too. She is a real testimony to us.
What moves us to respond to others like Leidi has so many times? Do I let myself form relationships with others whose lifestyles are different than my own? What does it take for me to focus on something other than my own agenda for the week?
- Looking deeper, when I do respond, have I read or reflected with others on how best to respond? Do I act to relieve my own inner tensions or guilt, or truly find ways to accompany people? Am I willing to let myself be transformed too? Finally, is there a time to say ‘no’, or ‘no’ to some forms of financial or other giving, and yes to others?
The rhythm of life here in Santiago forces us to face these questions in a way that makes our heads spin. The questions arise as frequently as every stop light on our drive to the University, as a hand taps or insistently raps on our window begging for a response. The constant internal dialogue this provokes is almost like having a 2-3 year old child as a conscience, asking “Why, why, how?, why?!?” And sometimes, we just want to play the “silent game” with this 3 year old conscience.
Thanks be to God, Jesus did not give us the silent treatment. In the life of Christ we see all sorts of levels of compassionate responses to guide us. We see direct healing and forgiveness. Then there are justice teachings like the returning of unfair taxes, debt forgiveness and caring for the widow. There are so many stories about sharing meals, bread and fish, bread and wine. We also see in Christ the challenging of unjust systems and social and religious structures that seemed at the time such a normal part of life.
Underneath these responses, as in Leidi’s response, exists a reality of “plenty”, not fear or scarcity. May God help each of us as we learn to live in the boldness of “there is enough!” for us and for our neighbors. May we experience that strange messiness of the hard work of entering into the lives of others that somehow might be part of helping to free us from our own burdens too. “Peace be with us,” as we work out better ways to respond to one another and ourselves in the day to day.
We are here, celebrating our 4th wedding anniversary, Laurie’s birthday, and Easter. We enjoyed a Saturday at the beautiful beach 2hrs away. More news on physical therapy ministry next time.
Thanks for living life with us– all our love,
Nick and Laurie