Since God’s children share in flesh and blood, Jesus himself likewise partook of the same things
Today began with a meeting of the microenterprise crew–the staff and several of the women who have benefited from small loans to help start small businesses in the area.
Lemonade International is insistent that this is merely a solution to help some of those that are gifted in this way. Lemonade International partakes of the flesh and blood of these people, weak as they are, and sees how they can serve them as individuals with individuals needs.
I leave encouraged.
that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil
I then find myself sitting on a bed next to Adán (Adam): a man many would have called a devil–one with the power of death. In a picture of him from a few years back, I see the teardrop tattoo on his face. In La Limonada, those tattoos still mean something.
Five years ago, Tita met him and asked him, “What can I be praying for you?”. Adam broke down and simply asked for a job. He knew this would get him out of the gang. And so he tried, but in Guatemala City, tattoos make this is an impossibility.
He sank into depression. Adam told us that he wanted to be a man for his family. It hurt him so deeply to see his godly wife so exhausted after a long day of work while he was home. He told us, “I wanted to take her tiredness as my own.”
He took a razor blade to his face to cut out the teardrop. He made a homemade tattooing machine and used this to try and burn and cut away the tattoos on his arms.
He wears sleeves, even in the sun, to cover up the thick, brutal, self-inflicted scars leftover from this process. I see this and my mind goes to Christ, who also still bears in his body the scars of all that inflicts Adam.
In a sense, Adam is joined to the sufferings of Christ in a way I’ll never know.
and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery
A few months ago, after five years of moving away from the gangs, looking for a job, and praying, Adam has found work. He directs traffic at a mall an hour-and-a-half away. There is continuing danger from the gangs who don’t like people leaving.
There has been an ongoing chance of death at every home I’ve been to in Guatemala.
And yet, though the “chance”, the “knowledge”, and even “likelihood” of death is a close acquaintance in La Limonada, I’ve yet to see in anyone the “fear” of death. Yesterday’s house was full of joy. Adam’s house, though rife with brokenness and danger, was still the most peaceful house we’ve been.
With knowledge of death comes a type of freedom from it.
Therefore he had to be made like his brothers and sisters in every respect
This week, the “every respect” of humanity has only broadened and deepened.
Jesus took on whatever makes us most essentially human, right? But he didn’t take on richness, power, and influence. He took on poverty, alienation, marginalization, and death.
Once more, it seems like these people know what it’s like to know both Christ and humanity itself at a depth I’m only just now seeing. To be hurting and in need is closer to what it means to be human in “every respect” than comfortable and “victorious”.
so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God
Identification leads to love, service, and sacrifice. In Adam’s house, something clicks in me. After we pray for this amazing couple, I see their son running around. I speak to him for a few moments. He is shy, but not too shy for a high-five-fist-bump combo.
Later, we meet Otto, a man who makes shoes for his neighborhood. He is skilled, and Lemonade International hires him to make their shoes on a regular basis. Even though Otto was in the gangs when he was younger, and his son was paralyzed by the gang he eventually joined, Otto still invites those gang members into his shop to learn shoemaking.
He gives us and every capitalist a sobering lesson, when he, fulfilling his priestly calling in the neighborhood tells us, “I don’t make a shoe and then think ‘Now I have a shoe, now I can make some money with it.’ Instead, I say, ‘Now I have a shoe, how can I help this neighborhood with it?”
to make propitiation for the sins of the people
And oh how great those sins are. We make a trip to the general cemetery of Guatemala City, where the wealthiest historic families and the poor are buried. The dichotomy is striking. The biggest tomb is a replica of an egyptians pharaoh’s temple that rises over 60-feet or so into the air. Right behind it is a wall where the bones of over 500 poorer individuals sit in boxes stacked 30 feet high.
The outer edges of the cemetery then look over the Guatemala City dump. Generational, racial, ethnic, gender, economic, and political sins find their nexus as we actually begin to peer down into the canyon, shocked at what we see.
Hundreds upon hundreds of scavengers pick among the trash, trying to find any recyclables they can sell. The dump trucks move around them. The best of days offer $8 to $10 worth of items. They are here every day, sun or rain, and have been coming for generations. For most of the scavengers down there, this is all they and their families have ever known. 70% of the people going through the trash heaps are women.
And everyday, the rhythm just goes on.
Oh if we ever surely needed propitiation…
For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
We are tempted unto despair, but we are offered a theological reflection. We hear of Ezekiel looking out over a similar valley of death, pain, and loss. The prophetic voice, those dead, and the onlookers all play their part to cry out to God with singular doubt, singular despair, and singular uncertainty over how, when, or even if God would act.
And for Ezekiel and the bones, he does act. He fashions the the physical structures for life and then fills them with breath. He brings Resurrection to where there could not be any.
He acts for Ezekiel, but will he act for them among the trash heaps of Guatemala? The question lays unspoken and thick between us all–binding us, shaking us, challenging us.
Before we left Adam’s house earlier, he says to us, “If you tell anyone anything about me, tell them this: a gang member can be changed. And God is real. And He is faithful.”
And my mind recalls the scars on Adam’s arms. The arms that hold his wife and son. The son that God has invited me to support in his education. And then, in my heart, Adam’s scars becomes the scars of Christ.
And I rejoice.
[here is some video I shot today of the Guatemala City dump]
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[photos by Scott Bennett]