Wednesday, November 23, 2011

GUATEMALA 2011: (35) A Reason for Baldness

No... I did not lose a bet.
 And, No... I am not sick.

There are still people who are encountering my naked head for the first time, even though I have chosen this look for over a month now. There are those who simply don't comment, those who react politely, and those who blurt out a response (I respect the blurters).

No matter what the initial reaction, the question always comes down to a basic, "why?" Three folks have asked me if I lost a bet, and one well-intentioned lady actually asked if I was sick. I must confess... I only allowed her to believe I was for a few brief seconds (served her right).

I have been able to walk up to people I have known for years and even stand in front of them without being recognized. All in all... it has simply been good fun. But, I must tell you (now that I feel confident enough) that it was done for a purpose. 

What can $30 a month do for you? For me... it meant a haircut and an eyebrow wax. Yep... that is right, confession time. I have genetically absolutely crazy & bushy eyebrows. They will grow without stopping. I have measured them at over 3" in length... no joke. They will grow to the middle and form a Muppet Burt Unibrow. And I had the buggers hot waxed once a month. You want my man card? Meet me at the gym.

We have sponsored a young lady at Mimi's House with Catalyst Resources International in Guatemala for over a year now. Through Facebook we learned a couple of months ago that they had gone from 6 girls to 10... overnight. They needed sponsorships desperately and immediately. Kellie and I immediately shifted some money to cover one more. We wanted to do more... but it simply wasn't in the budget.

And so... I decided that something had to give. I considered buzzing my hair... but wasn't sure what to do about the Burt-brows. I figured... well, let's make the commitment, try the hair... and we'll just take the rest a day at a time.

I committed to sponsor a third girl. I made an appointment with my hair guy, and shocked him when I told him to buzz it down. He started with the largest guard, and I told him to go smaller. After three descending blades we settled with a four and I walked out of the shop... along with my newly waxed (and very red) brows.

I went home and after 3 days I took it down to a 3. After a week, I cut it down to a 1. A week later... off came the guard and I clipped it smooth. Over the past 6 weeks I have experimented with various shavers, razors, clippers, and trimmers... and I have discovered how to keep my unibrow in tight maintenance (also some advice from Men's Vogue & Esquire online).

The third sponsor is now a part of our budget... along with the purchase of a couple of warm hats.

And... as a bonus, I get to tell folks about how the cost of a haircut (I leave out the brow part) can help house, feed, clothe, educate, and provide a future to a beautiful life that once had no hope and very little chance. I get to tell the stories of the girls I have played soccer with, and shared jokes with (en tu cara!). 

I get to tell them how a forever difference is made that will last generations.

The haircut... well, honestly I like it. Low maintenance, hats don't mess it up, I can ride with the windows down, it looks cool with dark sunglasses, and it feels kinda cool to rub. 

And oh yeah... I don't have to hide out while the swelling in my eyebrows subsides anymore either (that was always a bit humiliating).

So... what is your story? What are you willing to eliminate to change a life? Please don't just pass by the other side on this one. I can tell you from personal experience... if you are searching for something real... something true... something that just feels right...

Give this a chance.


                      P.S. I have the clippers charged and ready to go.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

GUATEMALA 2011: (34) On The Eve of Truth

We had the most incredible Christmas Tree. I have never seen one like it. My mother worked on it for hours and every inch of it was intentional. It had real light bulbs on it... not these little dinky lights, or L.E.D.s that we have now, but real Thomas Edison bulbs with screw caps, wires, and filaments.

On Christmas Eve, we would turn out every other light and I would sit for hours with a plastic white, red, and green Christmas plate full of nuts... and I would crack the nuts and marvel at the colors: We had these incredible lights that were filled with some sort of liquid that would bubble up in color. I would sit and stare at them in simple awe while I let my mind run wild.

The top of the tree was crowned with a star like I have never seen since. Every year I look for its match, and I have never found it. The outside was a standard gold star, about 10 inches in circumference. Inside of the gold star was a sphere that was made up of small rectangles of plastic. Inside of this sphere was a clear bulb that was suspended inside of a rotating sheet of plastic that was formed into a tube. This sheet of plastic had multiple stars on it, all different colors. The heat from the light rose through the aluminum baffles at the top of the colorful cone and caused it to rotate. The light shone through the rotating sheet, was magnified by the rectangular panes of glass... and huge, colorful stars were cast in movement across the ceiling, the walls, and even my own body.

It was absolute magic. The sense of wonder to a my child-mind was overwhelming, and I would sit for hours contemplating the beauty expanding around the room... and anticipating far beyond just the coming morning. I was captivated by the beauty of the moment... and I could feel the expansion of my mind. If there was such beauty in such a simple moment... then what must the world hold?

As I reflect back as an adult... I understand that this moment every year was the pinnacle of my Christmas experience. When I reminisce... my mind doesn't first go to presents and Santa... it goes to these quiet moments of wonder.

And now, Kellie and I have two little replicas of ourselves that still see the world through the lens of our four walls. And during those dark nights leading up to Christmas... I attempt to capture in their memories these same feelings and forever convictions. We gather in the darkness of the room and draw in the light of the tree into our very souls.

Now we have energy saving L.E.D. lights, and a beautiful angel that sits atop the tree... but the same classic christmas music spins from the stereo, the same hot chocolate steams from a mug, the same nuts are cracked from a plastic Christmas platter... and the story of Mary & Joseph finding refuge from the night and laying the baby in a manger is read as they sit quietly in the moment.

And this Christmas season... I am a child again.

This is a time of anticipation... and we nearly missed the perspective. You see, this is a time of waiting for our family. We began a process over 5 years ago to adopt our third child. We have learned the beauty of patience.

Have you ever waited longer than you felt necessary? Can you imagine extending that feeling for weeks... for months... and even years? I am sure that some of you have. Time can crawl. And expectations unfulfilled can often lead to bitterness.

But... there is beauty to be found in the waiting. There is wonder in the expectation. From where I sit tonight... I can see the reflections of the stars all around and all over me. I am consumed by the light of the promise.

This is a beautiful time of life... this in-between. And we are not alone in it. You know that at some level, you are here too. I challenge you to look towards the beauty and take in the moment. Look at your life with the eyes that you used as a child.

Take a moment and find the wonder.

Even if we never reach our goals... I can tell you that there is beauty in the waiting, and there is worth to the journey. Life isn't about reaching the end... it is about walking each step. We find what is important and we make it our priority.

Our family has BIG plans... and this adoption seems to be cresting the horizon! We hope to receive our referral within the week. I believe that this is our moment. And while this is absolutely huge in our lives... I can tell you that there is much more to come.

Much of my writing as of late has themed on true belief, and faith in action. If you have read my words... then you have seen the source of my conviction. Our vision is firmly focused on Catalyst Resources International... and our steps have begun moving in that direction.

The three weeks I have spent in Guatemala have been the most life-changing moments in my life. My experiences there have shaped who I am, and how I see the world around me. It has changed my perspective on God, and given me new goals in life.

I hope to see many of you in Guatemala... it is an amazing opportunity. There is a lot of apathy in our country right now, and lots of frustration. Taking a trip and crossing hearts with these beautiful people will alter your daily view on life. You simply can not see what is there and not be forever aware.

And so... in the meantime, I pray that you will follow what I have to share as we step out on this incredible adventure... where we will risk the small things that we have to touch the stuff of heaven.

Soon we will welcome a new daughter into our lives... and then we will begin looking beyond. I will have an incredible story to tell... to anyone who will listen. And I will have an amazing path to walk, with anyone who is willing to step beyond the doorstep... and walk beside.

And so for now... I anticipate.

Check out what is happening in Guatemala. This video is linked from Catalayst Resources International. And the people in the video have forever seized my heart. This is true religion... the caring of orphans and widows. This is true religion... when you feed and clothe those who are in need... are feeding and clothing the body of God. Come touch the face of God.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

GUATEMALA 2011: (33) Interpretation of a Dream

The Clouds gathered, the night fell, and I dreamed...
I stood on the poured concrete floor and looked at the walls of the room in which I stood. Sunlight filtered in through the newly installed window. The glass had been cut by Carlos, as always, because he used the proceeds to train children to paint. Two works from his studio hung in my bedroom at home.

The 6" plank walls stood 8 feet tall at the sides and peaked in the mid-line of the structure. The aluminum roof was securely nailed down and I imagined rain pelting down percussive on the metal driven into countless collisions on a wind wrought night. I smiled as I thought of Enoch, Ruth, and their two girls sleeping safely underneath as the storms raged. 

The doorway stood open as sawdust was being whisked out by the rhythmic swish and slide of a straw bound broom. We had nearly completed the house on this incredible Guatemalan mountainside. And now... it was time for my job.

An empty shelf was required to be build that extended from the wall. It was very specific... I can picture it's dimensions in my mind. While in 8th Grade, I took a semester of wood shop and one of my projects was a shelf. It was small, about the size that would hold knick-knacks or a picture frame. The shelf I was required to build... was a shelf from my past. I was knowledgeable and equipped how to construct it. This was my job alone.

I completed the shelf and I hung it securely on the wall. 

And someone immediately walked in and filled it. 

This was upsetting to me... the requirement was that I build an EMPTY shelf, and this one had been filled. And so... I constructed a second shelf, identical to the first. Again, this was a process that I took great care with, precisely following the structure and aesthetic of the shelf that I had build as a student. As with the first shelf, I fastened it securely to the wall... and it immediately became filled.

I needed an EMPTY SHELF.

And so I constructed a third... which was filled. I was becoming increasingly frustrated. I built a fourth, faster now... and it was filled. My construction was now familiar, each movement measured and precise. I didn't require the use of a rule or measure... I simply knew it's measure.

And so I build. I covered the walls of the room... and each time I completed a shelf it was filled. I moved into the second room... now constructing shelves with the ease and precision of a master craftsman. And yet... no matter how fast I produced a shelf, it was immediately filled. 

There was no space left in the second room... and so I moved to the final space in the house.

And more rapidly than even the second... I stood silent as my eyes covered every space on the walls... even the space above the door... it all was covered with shelves, and they all had been filled.

I realized that I was still required to have an empty shelf... and so I walked out the door to the outside in order to begin construction on another house. All my shelves were filled... and I needed an empty shelf... desperately. 

I felt panicked.

And then I heard a rooster crow and I awoke. I was laying in the top bunk of the Team House and it was time for breakfast.

It was the start of a beautiful day... and an actual house needed to be completed.

Who is so bold as to tell me with confidence the meaning of this dream? Comment below.

GUATEMALA 2011: (32) Three Days To Forever: Build A Home

Or, One Man's Perspective on How to Build a Home

So if I stand let me stand on the promise
That you will pull me through
And if I can't, let me fall on the grace
That first brought me to You
And if I sing let me sing for the joy
That has born in me these songs
And if I weep let it be as a man
Who is longing for his home

Psalm 127:1

New International Version (NIV)
 Unless the LORD builds the house,
   the builders labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
   the guards stand watch in vain.

Fresh cut lumber is one of my favorite smells. I can remember it from when I was young, being with my dad out in the woods, swamping out a tree for a heat source through the Ohio winters. It also takes me back to the summer that I worked alongside my father and Pappaw as we built a wooden deck outside of my childhood home. It is the smell of possibility, and it readies me for day.

This is not your typical lumbar-yard. Home Depot can keep it's neatly stacked, uniform, treated boards for the urban warrior. This is the real deal. No guards on the blades, and pure raw power. This is how we obtain boards, Guate-style.

So pull on your gloves and fill your water bottle. It is time to go to work. We weave and bounce through city streets, to a two lane highway that climbs its way up the mountains, beyond San Cristobal, and outside of Guatemala City. The road seems to squeeze us as we rise, drawing smaller and rougher with each passing kilometer. After 45 minutes of tough driving, we find ourselves on a narrow dirt trail alongside mountain passes with sheer drops. We leave time behind us as we make our destination and begin our first walk to see the homesite and meet the family.

I still can feel the excitement that filled my lungs and spread through my veins as I stood on that slab and took in the view for the first time. A few Guatemalan men had been employed prior to our arrival to dig out the mountainside, level the earth, and lay the foundation which consisted of: a dug footer, a cinder block base, and a poured concrete floor. All done by hand using only machetes, a pick-axe, a hoe, shovels, a trowel, muscle, grit, and determination. As always, the concrete is produced on the ground by folding together the ingredients of water, sand, gravel, and cement... all which must be carried by hand to the site.

As I reflected on the work that had already taken place, I breathed in deeply to the crisp morning air and listened... really listened to the sounds. I could hear the soft snort and rustle of the piglet as he rooted alongside the path. A rooster and a goat were apparently competing for bragging rights as the boldest herald of the day to come. I could hear the steady swish-thump of a nearby machete being used to clear the undergrowth and level ground. The wind softly lifted the tied ends of the bandana at the base of my neck as I received my first red-dot bug bite on my left calve.

I looked up to see the bug making his taunting retreat after causing me to slap myself, and as my eyes focused on the surrounding skyline, I noticed that the family was gathering to meet us.

This was my first view of Enoch, Ruth, and their two daughters, Leena & Angelina. Ruth is expecting their third child, coming less than a year from the second. The structure behind them is build with hand-made bricks, four small trees for corner supports, and corn stalks. It had a rusted sheet of metal as the roof. It is enclosed on three sides and serves as their kitchen. This is their only structure. At night, they are able to sleep with nearby relatives.

The entire area has just withstood the most devastating rainy season in decades, and much of the landscape and structures are destroyed by landslides. Loss of life has been high as people have been swept away by torrid water or collapsing earth.

We lay out our tools, stumble into each other for a couple of hours trying to figure out which end is up, and then we begin making the first cuts. Soon hammers are swinging, and walls are being raised into the air!

We have two teams on two separate jobs. The Team of Four: Kayci Roh, Melissa Gorrell, Brian Schermerhorn, and me. We were led by Edgar and Diego. The Team of Five: Brent & Joni Ahlers, Melissa Renner, and Stephen & Cameron Mathis. They were led by Ramero. We were often reminded that this was not a competition... and we all agreed, as we worked our hardest to outpace the other team. 

The sun warmed our backs as the breeze cooled our faces as we worked, saw-dust covered throughout the day. Brian and I evolved this unspoken, rhythmical process of cutting boards: shift the board, slide the tape, align the square, mark the line, zip back the tape, rip the board, shift the board, repeat ad infin.

We broke at 1:30 for a 15 minute mauling of our daily staples: PB&J, Chikky Cookies, Tortrix Chips (Barbecue or Lime) and an apple. We worked until dark, struck the worksite, and made our way back to Mimi's House for dinner, a hot shower, and comfortable bunks. 

The food was incredible, the company was amazing as we discussed the day among friends, family, and the incredible atmosphere of the Greene's home and the 10 young ladies who are having their lives rebuilt with the love and gentle calling of this unbelievable place.

On our return to the second day of work... the daylight illuminated the work that had been completed. We resumed our systems and roles refreshed and eager to  catch up (the other team had outpaced us...slightly). And of course... it didn't matter because this wasn't a competition (oh, but it did).

Kayci on the Wall
     Pause that Refreshes!
                                        Edgar & Melissa G. framing up a window.

The children of Cerro Alto had developed quite an interest in both of our teams, and we soon discovered that the non-competitive work could stand to slow a bit so that we could invest some quality play time interacting with the kids!

Within minutes, the boys were high in the trees, and our antics knew no language barrier... it seems slapstick comedy and the humor of monkeys are universal! 

 These four boys were absolutely amazing, and provided endless entertainment as we worked. When I climbed up the tree to join them, they laughed so hard that I nearly slipped and met the earth! They took great pleasure in asking me, ¿Cómo te llamas? 

Apparently, Chad is a difficult name to pronounce. It seems that it sounds very similar to a word that translates to "cheap," and they took great delight in calling me that. And then... they discovered that it also sounds like another four letter word, and for much of the week... my name was a bit... ah, unspeakable!

Even through the hilarity, and maybe even a little because of it... we soon found ourselves approaching the end of another successful day.

And again... as the sun dropped below the mountains, we found ourselves squeezing every last drop of sunlight as we packed up the site and made our second drive in the darkness through the mountain passes and on to Mimi's.

Day 3 was a punch-list day. We needed to finish an interior wall and install windows and doors, as well as receive and set up some basic furniture, supplies, and utensils. We also had some time on our hands due to a broken ignition key that gave us an that incredible, unexpected, miracle of an experience that was our Luna story (see last post).

But before all that could take place... we had three significant events: (1) The Dedication of the Home & Family, (2) The passing of the Key to the home, (3) the hanging of the cross.

This was my third experience of a final day spent with a family as we together built their house. It always starts out with a good deal of apprehension, tension, and awkwardness. It always ends with tears of gratefulness and a total emotional overload. I have stood with my hat in my hand and tears in my eyes as I listened to incredible men give thoughtful, pertinent, and eloquent speeches while an entire village listens in to hear the translated words. I stood at the steps of the house, smiling... ready to experience this for the third time.

And suddenly, the keys were in my hand, cameras were pointed, and all eyes were on me. 

I looked at the faces of these who had travelled 1800 miles with me to lay their lives open to a forever-altering experience. I noticed the difference in every face from our initial walk down that path just a few days earlier. Saw-dust now covered what had once been dirt and a house stood where a hillside had held only empty dreams.

I met the eyes of the men who had worked alongside us... men who knew the realities of these circumstances far better than a rag-tag group of gringos who would fly in with smiling faces, nice shoes, bags of candy, words of hope... and then just as quickly leave.

I turned my face up and looked into the eyes of Enoch. And I held his gaze as my mind flash-forwarded through much of my own life and the steps that brought me to this place. I wondered how I would feel if I were in his shoes. I marveled at his strength. I saw the beauty of his wife and children. I began thinking of the story of their lives from this point on... and I knew that I better begin speaking now... or I would not be able to even form a thought.

And so, with no preparation, no Bible in my hand, and with a village listening to my words... I did my best to express my thankfulness to be a part of their lives, and tell them briefly of the love of Jesus. 

Hilarious... impromptu dedication & video quality... but also immeasurable.

I have watched this video repeatedly. I am horrified by the sound of my voice, I don't like the way I hold my mouth when I form my words, and I think that I missed some great things that could have been said. Even so... the moment was made perfect by the people that were there.

We had come together to build a house, establish lasting relationships, and place footsteps in the earth that gave evidence to the fact that with all of our differences, we are exactly the same. Created in the image of God... with the same needs, facing the same choices, and given the same chance to find our way home.
John 14:2-3

 2In my Father's house are many mansions: 
f it were not so, I would have told you. 
I go to prepare a place for you.
 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, 
I will come again, and receive you unto myself; 
that where I am, 
there ye may be also.

I said a lot of goofy words about beautiful views and safety under a roof... but I did get one small nugget of truth out, and it was stolen from the dedications I'd heard before from Edgar & Fontaine... I told them that this house would meet their needs and give them comfort and safety... but it was not the reason we were here. I told them that we were here because of what God had done for us, and that He gives us all a way home.

Reminded me of a song that is dear to my upbringing...
This isn't my kin... but it might as well be. This is how I was raised.

Words & music by Ira Stamphill

                                                I'm satisfied with just a cottage below 
A little silver and a little gold 
But in that city where the ransomed will shine 
I want a gold one that's silver lined 

I’ve got a mansion just over the hilltop 
In that bright land where we'll never grow old 
And some day yonder we will never more wander 
But walk on streets that are purest gold 

Don't think me poor or deserted or lonely 
I'm not discouraged I’m heaven bound 
I'm but a pilgrim in search of the city 
I want a mansion, a harp and a crown 

I’ve got a mansion just over the hilltop 
In that bright land where we'll never grow old 
And some day yonder we will never more wander 
But walk on streets that are purest gold

I finished my prayer, and was handed a small cross that was painted by Julissa, one of the young ladies that is staying at Mimi's House. Julissa is a gifted artist, and she painted this cross that I presented to Enoch & Ruth as I nailed it to the threshold of their house. My prayer is that they look at it daily and remember the events of the powerful week we all shared. 

A week that changed all of our lives.

Team EDGAR: Melissa, Kayci, Diego, Chad, Brian,
Enoch, Ruth, Leena, & Angelina (in the snugi).
Team RAMERO: Joni, Melissa, Estephan, Cameron, Brett

Full Team: Day 1

Full Team: Departure Day

We look forward to our return.
Want to come with?


"If I weep let it be as a man who is longing for his home."

Sunday, November 13, 2011

GUATEMALA 2011: (31) The Moon of the High Hill

I first encountered her in August of this year, and her gaze from across the hill stopped my breath. I will never forget the power of her eyes. From their depth my soul felt as if it were being viewed by God. I came home and captured the following memory in my post, Provision of The God:
She held my gaze with a confidence that should have been unnerving. But as I was pulled into the reflection of her deep brown eyes I felt only a sense of peace and knowing. She began to walk towards me, and never took her eyes off my own. Again, and even stronger, I felt myself being pulled through the years to a place that existed only in the past. I felt like I was being observed and noticed by a perspective that saw much more than I could take in.
As she approached, I reached out my hand and took hers. She smiled and I had a friend for life.
I had a single picture of her, and it became the wallpaper on my phone. Countless times I have looked at her picture and realized perspective on my own life. She has unknowingly held my hand over many days, and I have hoped that I could see her again.

My original picture from August.

I came home to realize that I didn't even know her name. She seemed to appear in my life, searing forever the moment... and then disappeared. If it were not for this picture, I would have wondered if I had imagined the whole encounter. Maybe it was just a vision... the result of a stretched mind, an overwhelmed soul, and a fatigued body.

November, 2011

The wheels of the Suburban stopped turning on the dirt road and the dust arose and filtered our vision. As my boots found purchase on the mountain terrain for the third time in 2 years, my eyes began to search for her. Now more than ever I was convinced that something greater than the mind of a child had looked out to me through those eyes.

I found her. I tried again to take her picture. She smiled at me and would turn her head each time I tried to take a photo... and then my camera froze up. It has yet to recover.

Kids can be cruel. For the past few days I have been a bit angry with the kids of Cerro Alto. While working and playing in Cerro Alto, I learned that her name was Luna. At least, she was called Luna. I was told that Luna was short for her full name, Eveluna. I was thrilled... it was such a beautiful name. Luna is the Greek name for the Moon, and throughout many languages, is still regarded as such. I was thrilled that this beautiful little girl who had captured my heart had such a perfect name.

Luna did not speak. I am unclear as to whether or not she can... I heard conflicting reports. I do know that she could understand, and respond with smiles and nods. And I know that her heart and mine speak the same language. Luna did not run and play with the other children. She often stood on the outskirts, and the world seemed to often pass her by. She wore the same clothes that I saw her in 3 months prior, and she still had no shoes.

Luna... photographed by Joni at the worksite.
So why was I angry with the boys and girls of Cerro? I learned that her name was not Luna, it was not Eveluna.... it was in fact, Evelyn... although we continued to mispronounce her name throughout the week. We theorized that she was called Luna as a taunt because of her condition. We surmissed that Luna was some sort of mean joke that reminded us of Lunatic... and the stigma that can often accompany mental illness.

My heart ached for this girl. This incredible, beautiful girl who had the eyes of God.

My uncle was on this same trip. I had not spoken to him of Luna... and yet he saw her too. Stephen came to me and asked me if I had noticed her. He mentioned that her legs were cracked and dry, and that she was constantly scratching at them. He pointed out that she had marks on her legs left from the digging of her nails.

Stephen approached our team leader, Melissa, and asked if it would be ok to try to help the little girl. It was at this moment that my world again stopped as I observed the heart of God as it poured out from the life of a deep-eyed little girl.

I stood shock-still as my uncle began talking to her and she walked across the dust to him. He looked into her eyes as he spoke softly. She smiled. He lifted her and sat her on a stack of cinder blocks. Melissa then approached and began speaking in soothing tones directly to Luna. 

The air was suddenly still. The village was strangely silent.  I turned my head and saw that all the kids had stopped their playing. All eyes were on Luna.

My heart caught in my throat and my eyes began to cry as I saw Melissa take a moist clothe from a package and begin to wipe clean the cracked and filthy legs of this child. Melissa knelt directly in front of her and spoke to her softly as she began to remove the dirt and clean her skin. I heard Melissa ask, "es bueno?" 

The smile that spread across the face of Luna was immeasurable as she nodded.

Melissa continued to clean and moisturize the cracked and neglected skin of this child's legs. She spoke to her the entire time, telling her in English that we love her, we hope she likes the wipes, and that she is beautiful. As Melissa cleaned her legs... I could not help but notice her feet.

While her legs were damaged and painful looking... her feet were almost too much to look at. The village owned a couple of cattle that they would raise and sell for income. This small child had no shoes. Life had demanded that she walk barefoot among dirt, refuse, and cow dung. Her feet bore the evidence of all of it.

My mind was hit with the force of a head-on collision with the in-my-face reality of biblical stories. I thought of how the New Testament tells of Christ kneeling to wash the feet of his disciples. I thought of vivid oratories from preachers past of how the feet of the disciples must have been absolutely filthy from treading through the countryside and the city... caked not only with dirt, but with feces and garbage.

My soul broke in half and I had to hide my face as I openly wept. I simply hid behind the wall of stacked block and sobbed. I couldn't even catch my breath. Melissa had Luna's small, broken feet in her hands... and she was washing them clean. 

This was true religion. This was the best of humanity... reaching beyond our selfish fears and desires... to reach the need of "one of the least of these."

As I said... time for the village of Cerro Alto had now irrefutably stopped. It wasn't only the children who were watching. This little girl... this child who had been shoved to the outskirts of society... was now raised on a pedestal and was having her feet washed by an American woman. This was a shocking and significant moment. And although it had happened seemingly without notice, at this moment it's significance stopped the world.

A member of our group, Brett voiced it for us all as he said, "this is a real foot-washing moment." Melissa was now re-creating the ultimate example of Christ. 

Days later, while on a bus returning from an excursion, we decided to take a moment to tell one another about the most significant moments of the week. A member of our group shared the following story:
"While Melissa was rubbing and cleaning the feet of Luna... suddenly I was shocked as the face of the little girl seemed to shimmer, and my breath was taken away as I realized that I was looking directly into the face of Jesus that seem super-imposed just underneath the face of the girl. I knew that at this moment, we were not only washing the feet of a child in Cerro Alto, but we were washing the very feet of God."
This is our story. This is why we go. Scripture tells us, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
Matthew 25:39-41.

Photo by Brent & Joni
I will testify to you... on that day, on that mountain in Cerro Alto... I too saw the face of God staring out through the face of a child. I saw it in August, and I saw it again in November. And I will tell you... seeing the face of God is life-changing.

So tonight, I was still wrestling with the dichotomy of the beauty of the children of Cerro that I encountered, along with the crass treatment of little Luna. It tortured me that they would make fun of her condition... even though I understood that kids are naturally pre-disposed to do so, and I am am probably more guilty that the average guy for poking fun of people. Nontheless... I turned to google.

I did a search on Spanish spoken slang in the central America's and I focused on the word, Luna. And I found this:

"A charming term of endearment for a loved one."

It seems that my anger was misplaced. Once again... I am faced with the reality that I have much to learn from the people of Cerro Alto. It seems that the calling of this girl as "Luna" is not derogatory, but in fact... they recognize her as one who is worthy of love.

She will forever be my Luna sobra cerro alto, or my Moon over the High Hill.
Luna... as photographed by Kayci Kyung Roh on our first day back.

My dear Luna... thank you for finding me that hot August day in the  crowd. Thank you for finding my hand and meeting my gaze in the moment. I am so thankful to have met you. My life, and the lives of my friends are made better as we have seen Jesus in your eyes.

May we never miss Him.