The new school year just started in Costa Rica, which means our child sponsorship program has dominated our time and energies for the past month. Just yesterday, we handed out the last of 94 backpacks to two children whose mother is partially paralyzed from a stroke she suffered almost three years ago. Due to the stroke, she is mute. Due to her immigration status, she has no access to healthcare.
One of her neighbors let us know of her situation and her need. The same neighbor let us know that the father of the two children left his wife shortly after her stroke and started another family. Apparently, he splits time between the two. Yesterday he was "home" but you could taste the tension in the air from his presence. I felt the pressure of the anger and the resentment as I prayed for the two children and their family. To be honest, I was relieved to walk out into the sun and breathe fresh air.
Within 15 minutes, our little group passed three other children giveDIGNITY sponosored this year. Their mothers were walking them to their first day of school. When they saw us, they stopped and proudly displayed their handsome kids in their crisp new uniforms. The joy on the faces of the young students was evident as they got to show off their new shoes, pants, shirts and backpacks. Those three brief encounters made the weeks of shopping and returns and exchanges all worth it. Those smiles erased the ugliness of those who want to exploit this program and take advantage of free stuff for personal gain, robbing from their neighbors who might have real need.
In his famous sermon "The Weight of Glory" C.S. Lewis wrote, "Now, if we are made for heaven, the desire for our proper place will be already in us, but not yet attached to the true object, and will even appear as the rival of that object." I see this truth in my own life, when I long for peace and comfort after experiencing darkness and tension. I've been made to experience peace and joy and comfort in God's presence. I have this longing in me. And all too easily, I confuse my longing for God for longing for what His presence might give me in that undiscovered country.
I see this truth in the lives of others on the margins who've grown up next to a garbage dump. Life and family, and failure and betrayal have convinced many on the margins that they are garbage and don't deserve joy and peace and comfort. And still they have that inherent longing for more. The displaced desire reveals itself in so many negative ways--in pursuit of wealth, or temporal love, or sex or danger or in hatred and becomes a rival to our God-given longing for Him.
So, those moments of joy and smiles and pride are to be shared and celebrated, but not worshipped. In the hopes of restoring dignity, we need to restore joy and hope, but resist the temptation to make that an end, or an idol.
To those who have sponsored a child this year, or in the past, thank you so much for partnering with us in this manner. Pray with us that these children will come to recognize the source of their longing and desire and attach it to the true Object.
Quote of the month
""At the margins is the only place the Church will have credibility."