This morning during my run, I found scenes from the trip to Vamos Tamaulipas flashing through my head and a New York conversation playing as background music. I remembered a friend telling me about his work in Africa, work that provides clean water to thousands of people, a gorgeous expression of setting things straight in a broken world.
At one point over lunch, Scott put both his hands on the table and looked me straight in the face. “This has cost us everything,” he said. I found myself startled. Scott’s eyes did not waver from mine, and as I processed his words, my heart pondered the glint I saw in his eye. It was not heavy as he spoke of his whole life given to this one cause. I saw joy, freedom, confidence. And I hungered.
This last weekend in Vamos Tamaulipas, a low-income colonia (neighborhood) outside of Reynosa, Mexico, I helped measure the feet of a bunch of kids so that our church and a couple of others can provide shoes for the kids for Christmas. In December, I’ll return with a team from GVCF to deliver the shoes door to door to the kids.
My friend Heather and I have been on multiple trips to the colonia with teams, and this was our second time staying in the colonia with our friends rather than at missionary housing north of the border. Staying in our friends’ homes has transformed our times in the colonia, for us and for the teams we are a part of. One Mexican family has become like family. Many of them we now know by name.
I need to let you know that I do not love Mexico, not as much as a lot of other places I have been. But I also need to let you know that there is something about these ongoing trips, this buying of shoes for kids, this learning a different way of life.
I do not love Mexico as much as a lot of other places that I have been, but I will keep on going back to Vamos Tamaulipas, because I love the people I am coming to know more and more. I find myself thinking about them, whispering prayers, longing for more compassion, more people, more resources. I want to see this community transformed. I want to know the names of more kids. I want to get better at Spanish.
At night ideas pop into my head, and in the morning I coax them out of my brain. Maybe we can start help this one get a better job and that one receive medical care. All of this has happened and is happening as teams come and go to Vamos Tamaulipas all year long. I think it is the way of Jesus…
Ever so slowly, I am learning to see beauty where I am, and when I am not at home, the place I most frequently am is Vamos Tamaulipas. And something that is very John 1 like, very word-becoming-flesh-like in my life takes place with every foot measured, with every story heard, with every prayer breathed, with every meal prepared when we are down there. I don’t know how it works. I just know that I am changing.
When I sat there with Scott, I found myself longing to get back to Africa (and believe me, I still long). But as we measured feet last week and as we hung out with friends, celebrating accomplishments and mourning losses, I felt my stomach churn with the same hunger I felt over our conversation a few weeks ago.
Only I felt it for Mexico.
The family we stay with when we stay south of the border is adding onto their house so that we will have rooms of our own to sleep in in Vamos Tamaulipas. They want us to be comfortable, to have our own space. And it’s beautiful and amazing and gut-wrenching that they who have so little would go to such great lengths for us. But something about that expression makes me hope.
I hope that this will cost me everything. That one day those of us at GVCF who have gone and gone and gone to Vamos Tamaulipas will look into the faces of little kids we’ve brought shoes to year in and year out. We’ll listen to their stories of how they saw God move as they tell his big story. We’ll see them come to understand that we give shoes to show his love tangibly. Sometimes the shoes are too big. We do these imperfect works to reveal a perfect love.
I love it. My favorite photograph from this trip is posted below. It makes me hope, hunger and hurt all at once. I want shoes to warm every little foot in that colonia this Christmas. And I want those warm little feet to see a bigger picture than human goodwill. Poverty, corruption and abuse abound in their community. I want love and grace and peace to collide with all that is wrong in their lives and revise their stories. It is happening. I believe it.