The latest journal update from our Deacon Cindy Hamilton, living and serving with her husband Brad in Peru. Pray for her!
Hands down the hardest week of mission opportunity in Cajamarca, Peru came while interpreting for Wheels for the World.This is a Joni E. Toda worldwide ministry. I have a most profound respect for this ministry and do not hesitate to recommend it to you for a ministry to support with your prayers, time, talent and money. What they do is wonderful, life changing, and difficult.
Here is how it works: All year long there are people in the US gathering up donations of wheel chairs of all varieties as well as walkers, canes and crutches.This is undoubtedly one of the best-organized short-term ministries I have experienced. They gather teams of people. The group I served with had 8 teams. Each team had a physical or occupational therapist, a mechanic, at least one helper and an interpreter.
Each patient brought in was interviewed, prayed for and heard at least two gospel presentations. I loved being given the freedom to share as the Spirit led. After the interview, we prayed for the patient, telling them that we were asking for just the right chair for their needs and that God would guide the mechanic and the PT or OT as each chair was retrofitted to the patient.
So, there is the brief description of what went on. But, how do I tell you about this week? It was hard. I have never been around so much human suffering, and it was all around me all day for five days. There were lines of people waiting, many on pads on the floor. That was familiar to them. Many of the people that came have spent most of their lives on a pad in a corner of their home. Think of home as a place made of mud bricks with a mud floor, no electricity, no running water, no indoor plumbing of any kind; a dark space.
There were blind people and severely deformed children and adults. Some paralyzed from birth or by accident; one man came who was blind and much of his face was being eaten by a flesh eating parasite.
By the time I worked with WFW I had interpreted for several short-term mission teams, most of them medical and I had never seen anything close to this kind of suffering. These were the hidden people whose lives were beyond my experience and yet they were the loved people, someone cared enough for them to bring them to church to receive help.
I grieved with the mothers who had children of various ages who would forever be in diapers. How did they manage with this extra burden when their lives were already so very difficult? How did they hold resentment at bay?
The great irony of this time was my daily meditation. I had just begun the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises and was in the third week of preparation. The grace I was to be praying was to have a sense of wonder at my own creation and the part God has given me in it. For most of the week I just grieved, how could I focus on a sense of wonder in my creation when I was seeing all of this human suffering? How could I come to grips with the creation that resulted in so much sickness? How was I to respond to it, what was/is my part of the creation in this?
My husband, Brad, rescued me on the last day as I prepared to leave for the church in Cajamarca; knowing how I felt, he said to me ‘just be the best piece of the puzzle you can be today’. This came from a conversation I had a few years ago with a professor just after turning in my graduate thesis. He asked me how I felt about it. I told him I thought it was insignificant. And he said to me, ‘Ah, but it is a piece of the puzzle’. I will explain this more in a moment.
You see, the grief I had was due to my inability to do anything significant for all of the people I saw that week. Added to that dilemma was the confusion of praying to be in awe of my own creation when I was seeing people whose creation simply equaled human suffering to me. Why God?
On Day 3 of preparation week 3 the scripture meditation was Isaiah 43:1-19. This is the order I recorded it in my journal:
v. 15. I am the Lord, your Holy one, Israel’s Creator, your King.
v. 4. You are precious and honored in my sight, and … I love you.
My question to this verse was who, who is precious and honored, who do you love? The answer is found in this verse:
v. 7. everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.
The message to me was that I had to get over myself. I have been given a healthy body and I do not know the same suffering or poverty of the Peruvians I was meeting, but this did not mean that there isn’t a wonder to their creation as well as mine.
God said because he is the Lord, the Holy one, the King of all creation he considers us precious and honored in his sight and he loves us. In fact if we are called by his name we have been created for his glory. This is for those wrapped in human suffering and poverty as well those who are not.
But then the question for me is, and has been for ages, how do I fit in? How do I honor God by being who he has created me to be as well as being mindful of the poor and the sick and the orphans and the widows? I cannot conquer poverty or set free those who are imprisoned in conditions beyond my control.
On Preparation Day 5, I found myself in Ecclesiasticus 43 (from the Apocrypha):
“(the stars) on orders of the Holy One stand in their appointed places; they never relax in their watches. We could say more but never say enough let the final word be,
HE IS ALL.
Where can we find the strength to praise him? He is greater than all his works. Glorify the Lord and exalt him as much as you can, for he surpasses even that. When you exalt him, summon all your strength, and do not grow weary for you cannot praise him enough. For the Lord has made all things…”
The Lord has made all things and requires that we all praise him. When we think of ourselves as just one, just me, it is easy to despair at our sinfulness, our smallness…the little that we can do to serve the Lord; to be useful to suffering people.
But, when I realize that I am a part of the entire creation, the part that God created me to be, I am part of a greater whole. I am just like the stars in Eccl 43:10, they stand in place at his command. Now, I do not stand in place but I can be in my place, wherever I am.
I am only one piece and yet I am a piece of the puzzle in the Kingdom. While I am in place it may be easy not to notice me, but if I am missing there is a hole in the puzzle, in the Kingdom. I am a part of the whole that lives and moves and has its being in God. So my piece and your piece are part of the glorious whole in God. Our being in the creation puzzle, the Kingdom, does not diminish God. In fact, without my piece, without your piece, the creation puzzle is incomplete.
So it is with those who endure unexplainable suffering: the creation is incomplete without them. I know it is not the original design, but it is the inevitable design. I do not know all the days of my future and what I am to do in response to suffering, but I know this, God has given each of us a part to play in the Kingdom. We need to discover what that is each day. It may not look the same from one day to the next or it may. My part will not look like your part, but each of us must be the best part, the best piece of the creation puzzle that we can be.
Nothing that I do is more important than remembering to exalt God with all my strength and ‘not grow weary for’ I ‘cannot praise him enough.’ Let the final word be...
‘HE IS ALL!’