Before we left for our vision trip in Guatemala, Keely prayed asking God to give us His eyes, that we might see His heart for the poor and for justice. I loved this. And I prayed this. Earnestly. But all the while, I had this reservation…this fear, whispering in the back of my mind: What if you don’t see God? What if you look everywhere- at hunger, at abuse, at injustice- and wonder, ‘But where are you, God?”
I follow ‘Daily Bible Verses’ on Instagram, so every day – you guessed it- there in the middle of pics of cute babies and hipster coffee, is a Bible verse. And the day after Keely’s prayer, and my trying-to-pray, as I was mindlessly scrolling, there it was: John 20:29 — “Blessed are those who have not seen Him, and Believed.”
What was chilling about this for me was that “Believe” had already felt like a “theme” of sorts for my year. I was on a walk in January, with that glorious Colorado sun reflecting off the snow and breaking through the evergreens, snow and mud mixing underfoot, and I felt God give me that word. Let me buy you a cup of coffee and I’ll tell you the whole story, but for today, we’ll leave it there. It was so strong. And more real than I’d felt in months: “Believe that I can change the world. Believe that you can be part of it. Believe.”
You see, somewhere along the way, I had stopped believing that. I had gone from a hands-raised-in-praise-pumps Evangelical in my 20’s, to a sorta-skeptical, world-wearied non-Evangelical in my mid-30’s. Do I believe God can change the world? Sure. Do I believe He is going to? Ehhhhh…maybe, not really.
So I chose to go to Guatemala. I was going to choose to Believe.
Our week there was a roller-coaster. Every CarePoint we visited, we saw such utter despair in the surrounding community. People living in atrocious conditions; abused, hungry children; abandoned mothers cooking on dirt floors. But in every CarePoint we visited, we saw such hope, determination, faith: men and women changing the story of their place, of their people. They stood in quiet (and sometimes, not so quiet) defiance to the violence around them, slowly and with great love, bringing to life the church that I feel like Jesus spoke about. It was obvious that kids felt safe; they were running and playing and learning; moms were being cared for; young men and women were receiving skills classes; clean water was flowing; nutritious food was available. I saw God changing the world. And I wanted to be a part of it.
At the first CarePoint we visited- a center for kids living in the City Dump- we got to meet an infant named Edgar. The little guy was tiny and covered in flea bites; his story of neglect was heartbreaking. We were passing him around, each holding him, but when he got to me, I just couldn’t let him go. I wanted to hug him and hold him close and even when I saw Keely and Will making eyes at me like, “Time’s up! Our turn!” I totally pretended like I didn’t see them. I prayed, “God, how could you let Him go?” And swiftly heard, “I never have.”
I believe that God is there. We saw Him – in Carol, this remarkable woman who started this center and has given her life to rescuing hundreds of kids and mothers. We saw Him in the local, Guatemalan staff of Hope Chest–Nestor, Andrea, Ishmael–who daily support and encourage these leaders and the Kingdom work they’re doing. We saw Him in Ana, a mom at the center who takes trash from the Dump and turns it into beautiful jewelry she can sell to support her kids. I believe that God is there, even there, especially there, in a dilapidated building on the edge of the dump. He is with that baby. He is for that baby. In carrying His Light and His Love, we are part of His story of rescue and redemption, too. And in this crazy, upside-down way that God is really good at, that baby is a part of our story of rescue and redemption, too.
And so I still feel it: an invitation to walk into the unknown, trusting my creator, believing. It feels scary in many ways, but really good and right in other ways. One huge thing I walked away from that week feeling is that our worlds are not that separate, but we live them so separately. This is God’s world, God’s church, and for one beautiful week, my tiny little world became so much bigger. I came home wanting to live not-so-separated. I feel like that is part of the opportunity we have in our partnership with Belen, and why I’m so excited about what God has in store for All Souls and our people, and their church and their people, Together.
And just to top of the craziness of the theme of “Believe” for me, the day–the very day–we got home, there it was in my Instagram feed from Daily Bible Verses: Mark 5:36 “Be not afraid, only Believe.”