180 days into life as a missionary, this word is at the forefront of my concepts. As Google puts it, "Juxtapose: place or deal with close together for contrasting effect."
My life is an existence between overlapping plains of juxtaposition. We are surrounded by indescribable beauty, and incomprehensible poverty. National Geographic Traveler repeatedly lists Guatemala as one of the worlds most best destinations, and Happy Planet Index ranks Guatemala #10 on the World Happiness index, while Guatemala is in the top 5 of all nations in this hemisphere for suicide among young and expectant mothers.
The grip of poverty seems inescapable. So many can not bear the thought of watching her baby starve and slowly die. It is common in the city to see a mother, holding her child… step off the El Incienso bridge in Guatemala city in a desperate act to end the suffering and sense of hopelessness.
We see powerful faith that rises above circumstance in defiance of unsurpassable odds. We see smiles and laughter and love that hold families together that have nothing. Dirt floors act as beds and concrete holding tanks act as drinking water, cleaning water, and communal baths. And there we find people willing to share the meager food they have with strangers.
We clothe students and see them thrive at schools that are supported by many of you in the States… and we are also keenly aware that children simply disappear, the victim of a trafficker or collateral taken against a debt unpaid. And these are the children that survive birth, with infant mortality rates at 25%.
We see beautiful smiles from faces that have little or no dental care. Lost teeth are an inconvenience when the reality is that people frequently die from tooth decay gone bad. Simple, curable disease… still claims easy victims.
The textiles here are incredibly beautiful and filled with meaning. Each region weaves with it's own colors and patterns, often investing months into a single textile. The skill level requires decades to learn and the girls begin as young as 6 or 7. But despite the high level of skill, the average wage here is unthinkable for many of us.
$5 a day, for 12 hours of labor on a mountainside harvesting coffee seems to be very common. And yet food prices are just as expensive here as in the U.S., where college students complain about making $8.00 an hour to pour coffee.
Justaposed. Yes. And then there is the story of me. I am unqualified to do what I am doing. I am a pastor, a missionary, the founder of an orphanage, and beginning in January, the Administrative Coordinator of a school. My undergraduate degree was in psychology. I've managed retail for the last 13 years. I've had no formal language training. I have 3 kids, the youngest being just 2.
And yet… I find myself here. Here in this place of impossible contrast. Impossible beauty and impossible pain. It is the happiest place in the world, and also the darkest. It is here that I find my faith the strongest. Contrast is everywhere. I cannot miss the power of it.
Light stands out the sharpest among the darkness. It is here that I find myself Juxtaposed.
|One of my favorite TV shows. Compelled me to thinking….|
"knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified." -Galations 2:16