Today (Wednesday) I encountered joy once again in a most unlikely place.
Dick and I joined Joel Van Dyke (who works with grassroots leadership development in the faith community in Guatemala City) to take a wheelchair to a little boy living in the garbage dump in Guatemala City. That's right, not near the dump but IN it. This would be my first visit to this area of the city, and I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I wasn't afraid, except maybe afraid that once again my heart would break at the suffering I would see.
As we walked down the road into the area where the people lived, kids and adults came out to greet Joel as an old friend. Maybe it was only in this sector of the dump, but he seemed to know the names and stories of almost everyone we met. In a strange way, it felt like walking with Jesus through the streets of a small town in Galilee. I could surely see the Jesus in Joel shining through as he visited with his friends here.
We soon were at Ector's house, and were warmly greeted by his mom. When she saw we had brought a new wheelchair for her little boy, I thought her face would break she was smiling so hard. She quickly ran to get Ector from his grandmother's house (just two doors down) where he had been visiting.
And then I recognized it. In the midst of one of the most poverty stricken and crime ridden areas of Central America, I encountered great joy and a solid sense of community. Everyone was excited about the new chair and came to watch as Dick did the seating. The little girl caring for Ector's little brother, was really his aunt, Carmen. When it was time for Juan David and Maria Katelina to go to school, an elderly lady came up to get them, seeing that mom was "entertaining" the strangers and could not take them herself. Rosie, another neighbor, went to the "tienda" to get drinks for the visitors. And all of this happened so naturally. And I realized that the sense of community, the caring of each other (sharing each other's burdens, if you will) was the source of the joy I was observing.
Is there still need here? A tremendous amount. But today I witnessed first-hand the truth that joy is not found in our circumstances, but in our attitude. And the joyful attitude of the people I met today humbled me once again. If joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God, I was definitely in His presence with my brothers and sisters in the dump today.
(One need we uncovered today was that Ector, though highly intelligent and eager to learn is not allowed to attend school with his brother and sister because of his disability. We would love to be able to find a tutor to work with him in his home, but first we need a sponsor. If you or your small group would be interested in sponsoring him ($35/mo or $420/yr) please email me and I'll help you arrange this.)