As I climbed the stairs to go to my clean comfortable bed last night, I couldn’t help but think about where I had slept just 4 nights before. As much as I loved getting home my wife and family, I have resisted pushing the “reset button” on my life and going back to normal. Our Honduran experience continues to push me to question “normality” as commonly understood.
I had the blessed opportunity to sleep in cramped and uncomfortable conditions. Six of us shared four 3 inch foam twin mattress that were laid out on a two-day old concrete floor. We were in a small room that was filled with all the tools, wheel barrows, and the generator in order to protect them from thieves. Myself, along with another from our group, had been given the opportunity to spend the night on the mountain at the coffee farm (and budding community center) overseen by Carlos and Melissa. The Honduran workers, who had stayed there all week, had requested our company in this half-completed shack without plumbing or electricity and only openings for windows and doors. Carlos had agreed to our stay, but I believe he made it on the condition that a door be built to the room in which we were to sleep. Later that night a pile of lumber was transformed into a beautiful door that was built and hung.
I saw it as a blessed and sacred opportunity. Even as Jesus took on flesh he was able to go and experience things he had only observed before (as God) but never felt personally (as a man). In a similar (yet so insignificant) way we were invited to share and experience in the lives of Octavio, Daniel, Cristian, and Rolman. All week we labored and sweated together; we had dug septic tanks, mixed concrete, laid water lines, and moved blocks. We had laughed, talked, cried and prayed side by side. We had earned a right to enter into this place. As we ate, drank, laughed and talked that night they shared hopes and doubts, and we reciprocated. The Lord was present and through these relationships his love and hope were communicated.
In Honduras the average worker makes the equivalent of $5 a day. And like much of Latin America, most children cannot afford to stay in school after elementary or middle school. School costs money and the family needs the child to work. The financial situation between North Minneapolis and Siguatepeque are beyond comparison, yet the core problems facing young men, women, children, and families are quite similar: Hopelessness from isolation.
My observations show me that youth on the low end of the economic ladder (from wherever) often are isolated from healthy relationships through broken homes, broken promises, and lack of opportunity. Often this social isolation and brokenness leads to deepening hopelessness, and life without hope can set the stage for a drama of self-destruction.
Back to my night at the shack, the question nagging me is, how do I repay the blessing of experience and community with my Honduran brothers? A brother of mine from South Africa has taught me about the concept of solidarity. He wrote “In this movement, [solidarity] the I and the other enter into a sacred space of commonality. In the sacred space we understand that we are different, but our difference cannot divide us in pursuing the liberating message of the good news.”
Whether in Honduras or North Minneapolis people need more than stuff, they need to know their life matters. Physical needs must be met, but mere handouts fall short without a relational exchange.
Give what you can.
Receive what you need.
Plant seeds of hope.
The above recipe is foreign to a culture in which the individual is the master of her/his own destiny. To live the above and know solidarity with others will cost us all “normality” as commonly understood. Furthermore, this biblical recipe will liberate all if we come believing we are not our own but tools in the hands of a loving God.