Poet Mary Oliver says, “ Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” As best I can, I try to live this way, but while in Guatemala the past ten days, the astonishment goes to a whole new level, as time and time again I experienced my spirit awaken to love expressed generously in the midst of poverty. Many families exist on two dollars a day or even less, yet when we visited their homes, they set a table and fed us the best they had. In these moments, I felt a rush of emotions that says so much more than words. The stinginess in me is being healed, along with ungratefulness and self-centeredness. The poor become my inspiration and hope, calling me to greater love and humility. Every day their lives are fraught with sorrow and daily challenges I could not begin to understand, yet threaded into their pain is a love that cannot be diminished. No matter how deep the sadness, no matter how long the night becomes, their light blazes forth and blesses, transforming the dross within me.
My great hope is that our team brought delight to the people we connected with and that moments playing games and doing art with the children of Nacimiento village be reminders of God’s divine love. My prayer for the families and communities we visited comes from Isaiah 35:1,10: “The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing…And everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” Isaiah promises that the desert places within us shall rejoice. Even though sorrow has its way, and mourning hides the light, we can trust that something miraculous is at work beneath the surface, being tended to in the darkness.
So many moments stand out for me, like playing Duck, Duck Goose, parachute games, building teddy bears and crafts with the children and meeting my sponsor child, Alder. But what really impacted my heart happened as we gathered together in humble homes with dirt floors and shared a meal or a glass of something (often coffee, or corn drinks of some sort). I found a poem by Jan Richardson that put words to this experience:
TABLE OF HOPE
To your table you bid us come.
You have set the places; you have poured the wine,
And there is always room you say, for one more.
And so we come.
From the streets and from the alleys we come.
From the ravages of poverty and from the places of privilege we come.
Running, limping, carried, we come.
We are bloodied with our wars,
We are wearied with our wounds,
We carry our dead within us,
And we reckon with their ghosts.
We hold the seeds of healing,
We dream of a new creation,
We know the things that make for peace,
And we struggle to give them wings.
And yet, to your table we come.
Hungering for your bread, (or in our case tortillas)
Thirsting for your wine,
Singing your song in every language,
Speaking your name in every tongue,
We meet at the table, sharing our stories, praying for one another, and together we heal each other. We are all hurting, but when we join together we can lean into the love and light others hold for us and find hope and sustenance for the journey ahead. I am so thankful for the opportunity to spend time with Rocky and Karren Chupa of Compelling Love Ministries and am awed by their commitment to making the lives of the impoverished better. I can see the trust others have for them because they love so well in action and in word. To be a part of their world for ten days has changed my heart, humbling me so my heart can expand, and hopefully spread more love into the world.