This week my friend Steve Young, who works with Living Waters for the World in the Synod of the Living Waters, sent me this reflection by Laura Lee. Laura is a junior at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. She is double-majoring in American Studies with a Race and Ethnicity concentration, and Biology. She is a member of Steve’s Church, Historic Franklin Presbyterian Church in Franklin, TN. She spent seven weeks in Mexico City this past summer on the Global Urban Trek, a project run by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.
I was very moved by Laura’s words, and she gave me permission to share it with all of you. Here are her words:
Today I have the honor of sharing just a little bit about my mission trip toMexico City earlier this summer.Mexico City is the largest metropolitan area in the world, housing between25 & 30 million people. Flying in on the plane, my jaw dropped to see thecity stretch from mountain to mountain, apparently endless. With such sizecome many problems. I spent a month working with a Mexican civilorganization in a squatter colony called Lomas de San Isidro. Crawling upthe sides of an abandoned government quarry, rickety homes shelter roughly6,000 people, none of whom are guaranteed political rights or recognition.
From my journal after 2 days there:
"I think this could be overwhelming, but I'm not overwhelmed - at least not yet. Dogs roam in packs. Children look out of dust-encrusted faces. Tin sides of a shack lean together, and as long as they stay put, it is good. People don't even own the land they live on. Sure, there are buyers and sellers and money changes hands, but if the "real" owner decided to do so, he could bulldoze the whole village. Lomas de San Isidro. You look up the hillside and it really is prehistoric. Just with sheet metal added. Oh, and we were doing construction/deconstruction without tools. We borrowed a machete with no blade. Found a screwdriver. Also borrowed a hammer. Used plastic bags as gloves, put the trash in old feed sacks. Tore apart a rabbit cage, put together a chair, cut down a tree, peed in a hole in a shed. And I'm almost used to it."
So, there's no such thing as "utilities" or sanitation. Ironically, Isidro is the Saint of water. All we offered at our community center were free medical services and classes for mothers and children. We weren't about to"fix" the problems in Lomas, our only hope is to encourage and enable community members to fight for themselves, to give them some hope in a dismal situation. After some more time there, I wrote this entry:
"Before today, I don't think it occurred to me that there are no options inLomas. I sort of kept some American paradigm in the back of my head that promises a way out, somewhere to go, something to do. In the U. S. we're always looking to the next big thing, making plans, dreaming. In Lomas de San Isidro, there are dreams aplenty - maybe water will come to the hill, maybe roads won't slide away, maybe my kid will learn English. But the dreams won't leave the choking dust of the abandoned quarry. And that is not cultural; it is not some kind of Mexican near-sightedness. It is the oppression of intractable poverty. Those are big words, but what I really see is a system that denies justice."
It was HARD to be surrounded by the smells and hardships day in and day out, it's hard knowing that the Mexican and U. S. governments allow these situations to develop just to fuel an economy. And yet, over and over again, God gave me abundance. I don't know what other word could describe the deep peace, happiness, and joy that I found in Mexico City. When an old, old woman came over just to sweep our floor, or the neighborhood kids came by to play - hours before our English class - I learned that service/mission is a great gift. Another entry:
"That doesn't mean that service always 'feels good' (breathing dust to the point of black snot does NOT), but in the hardest, toughest, darkest places on earth, we find that God's strength is doing a whole lot. I expected to be devastated by Mexico City, and instead learned what it means to allow God to be powerful. It's the most fun I've had in a while."
Honestly, that's the biggest thing I want to leave with you - a reminder of God's power. He absolutely equips you to do whatever crazy things are in His will. God had no intention of using me to "fix" the lives of His people in Lomas. But He did want His children to know that I care. He wanted them to have a pale gringa to tug on, leap at, and give gifts to. He wanted them to be loved.
Laura’s experience is an invitation to all of us, the same invitation that Jesus Christ has extended to the people of God for the last 2000 years. There are countless ways to move to the margins, and countless ways we encounter Jesus there when we do.
Thanks for the reminder, Laura.