Monday, October 29, 2007

Juarez Reflection: Here is a Story...

The anticipation is building as we wait in line for the Mexican "Scream House." Surrounding us are the cheap imitated body parts of the horror spectacle. We are here with some of our community friends who we have been meaning to hang out with. This spunky crowd of late teens and early twenties only helps to heighten the mood. One of my house mates, Whitney (whom I continually tease in what I hope and assume is loving banter), is becoming more and more fearful as I and the others hype up the grotesque and sordid nature of what we were about to see. As we enter, Whitney gains a death grip on my shirt, and at one point begins refusing to look around. This happens intermittently through the show.

At one point I feel the familiar tug at my shirt, which I generally find pointless since I usually in turn try to scare Whitney further, and I turn expecting to see her. However, as I turn I notice, amidst the noise and flashing lights, that it is actually not Whitney but rather a Mexican girl with whom I have no association. With wide eyes, her white knuckles cling to my shirt, and she whispers:

"No, Senor, No Senor, No Senor!"

A little shocked, I chuckle to myself and think, "Hey! Do what you gotta do"

Truth be told, most of the jargon, not unlike the "Hell Houses" in the US, hurt my heart as we entered different rooms of "Scare Tactic Christianity," but I was not here to judge or govern but merely to support and encourage. Hopefully, God was with us that night as we sought to encourage our ministry partners and friends.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Juarez Reflection: The Bridge


Having recently found a great enjoyment in tea, I drank fast the now lukewarm beverage as I anticipated the coffee I would soon be enjoying from the gas station on the way to Jenny's (She runs the comedor – or soup kitchen at Youthworks Site 1 – it is our responsibility to pick her up every Wednesday morning to help bring the food across for the people). The line on the border bridge is relatively short this morning. I am listening to a sermon by a good friend of mine, Jeff Cook, as he traverses through the Pauline doctrine of Philippians. I have my hands tucked deep in my hoodie pockets, and all the windows are rolled up tight; the mornings have become increasingly cold. I inch ever more closely to the border. I pull out my passport, and go over what I am going to say to the border guard in my mind. Finally, I make it to the front and the guard waves me forward. We go through the typical exchange – "What are you doing in Mexico?" – "What are you bring into the States" – etc. However, there is something different in his eyes; there is something shifty; there is distrust.

The guard asks me to step out of the van and open the side and back doors. As I do so, he mumbles something that I cannot understand, and I, having been prodded to respond in Spanish while learning in the last week, unhesitatingly reply, "¿Que?" This, of course, is not the right response to an officer who already seemingly thinks you are trying to put something over on him. He steps back, he becomes very stern, and he begins to look me up and down. I pause and wait for his response.

Then, the question…

"When was Paris Hilton here?"
"You know, Paris Hilton. She was here not too long ago with her kids, huh? When was that?"
"I-I don't know man! WHAT?"

Realizing that I was not a Mexican national, that I was not trying to trick him with anything, and that I apparently did not keep up with the doings of one snobbish Ms. Hilton, his embarrassment was evident.

All that said, sometimes border crossing is ridiculous…and I am glad I finally got my passport.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Juarez Reflection: Woe...

The messiah's hardened face glared into the fallacy of those that had for so long lead his people into the turmoil of spiritual being; he sets his face toward Jerusalem; he sets his face toward that dogmatic system that was killing his people.

"Woe to you Teachers of the Law and Pharisees…"

Woe to you Teachers of the Law and Pharisees for not wielding the law in order to be more fully human and less a slave; woe to you for allowing Israel to become more man's than God's; Woe to you for forgetting.

The small girl pushes the chair with all her might. For a few minutes, I am hardly aware of the activity because it seems to mold into the background of what else is going on. The prolonged activity seems to be very strenuous, and the few times that I do notice the girl, she seems to be exhausted with the work though her determination is evident. The metal legs scrape ever fervently across the concrete floor, hitting every bump and squealing the whole time. Finally, she reaches her destination. There is a small table in the corner of the room, and she bangs the back of the chair hard against it. She ascends to the seat of the chair, upon its back, and finally to the table top. Suddenly my full attention is enraptured in the intent of this small girl. Her eyes bounce around the room as if the bewilderment of her accomplishment had overwhelmed her, her face brightens as a glass of champaigne spilling overtop, and she begins to do something marvelous. She jumps. It happens only about three or four times, and never mind whether she was actually supposed to be up there or not. She jumps…she simply jumps, and for a brief moment the whole room seems to stand still (if I had been outside, I might even venture to say the whole world) that this girl's contagious laugh might echo out into the roaming desert and to the hearts of humanity. Then she climbs down and goes on with her toddler day.

The Spirit taps at my heart. "Don't forget to be human – Don't forget to be mine!"

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Juarez Reflection: The Sinking Heavy Ships

There is a song that sings:

"'I do not EXIST!' We faithfully insist.
While watching sink the heavy ship of everything we knew.
If ever you come near I'll hold up high a mirror.
Lord, I could never show you anything as beautiful as you"*

The bright orange paint runs ever slowly down my side, and the shock of the falling bucket continues to prod my racing heart. I take a moment to peer out into the freshly painted rooms, newly brightened with color and vibrancy, and I try to wipe the ever increasing stain on my clothes from the spilled paint. It has been a full day's work. I nod to my Mexican counterpart, both of us sweaty and beaten from the incessant hours of painting, and I bid he and the rest of the crew farewell (or whatever happens to be spill from my broken Spanish).

As I leave the orphanage, and the grand hospitality of the couple that ran it, I breathe the dusty Mexican air and remember that it was I who only hours before dreaded the day and the time spent with the beautiful people of God. I think on all those who had generously and graciously struggled through the language barrier with me through out the day, and upon the various beaming children that had been at the building heading to and from school on Juarez' half day schedule. I remember that I walked into this great day fearing my interaction with these people and doubting my decision to be at this particular ministry and ultimately my entire purpose for being in Juarez this year.

I climb tiredly into the rustic and typical Youthworks! vehicle feeling every tired and satisfied muscle. I drive home aware of each moment, each mile, each turn of the wheel, and my soul is bemused by the simple and yet overtly stunning sunset. I listen to the ever faint but steady beat of my heart as it rhythmically sings a lofty tune –

"I DO NOT EXIST!" I faithfully insist.
I watch the sinking heavy ship of everything I ever knew
If ever you come near
I'll hold up high a mirror.
Lord, I could never show you anything as beautiful as you!

*Weiss, Arron, “Messes of Men”. Brother, Sister. Mewithoutyou. Tooth&Nail Record Company. 2006