Sunday, August 28, 2011
After a hard long day working at the Tijuana dump Freddy with his wide smile gave me a big hug. He was dirty from top to toes. Probably no bath for weeks.
Working at the dump, about thirty-five miles away nets him about one dollar per hour.
Nine and ten hours of sweating hard work gives you a poor wage. It's hard to live on a wage like that.
I've known Freddy since he was a kid; he's been on drugs and alcohol for years; at age thirty-five he now looks about a thin and wrinkled fifty.
Freddy reached into his pocket and pulled out a dirty coin he found at the dump. "Brother von, what's this worth?" ... and he handed it to me. I gave it a quick look; It looked like a U.S. Silver dollar. "Freddy, this looks like a silver dollar, it should be worth $30 or $40 dollars, let me see what I can get for it," and I put it into my pocket.
When I got home, I sat down, relaxed and then remembered the coin. Reaching into my pocket I pulled out the coin, wiped it off and took a closer look.
I noted the date on the coin.1803. I had never seen a coin like that or held one that old. It was a US coin. It was silver. It had no amount of money printed on it. Weird!
Could this silver coin be valuable?
Could a treasure actually be found in the Tijuana dump? ... out of the trash a treasure?
We had it valued.
This old 1803 coin is estimated to be worth from $2,000 to $5,000, depending on it's condition.
Wisdom. It seems so simple. Give Freddy his money.
He's probably on drugs. In his world that we know so well, they would kill him for $1,000, to say nothing of $4,000. And ... he has his enemies.
The coin is worth far less than Freddy is worth ...
Now we have to work out a reasonable solution and that won't be easy.
In our world we work in what many would call human trash; the dirty and damned ... but more than once we've pulled out a priceless and eternal treasure ... thanks for your prayers.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
This photo is worth studying. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, and if that's true, then this photo is worth thousands of words that compress into one ... apathy.
If you could encompass poverty, bring it into focus and place it into one room ... this is what poverty would look like.
Notice, the lack of emotion shown in this picture. This photo illustrates ... no hope.
This scene wasn't posed, it was a quick shot I took in a rat- infested Tijuana ghetto a few hundred feet from our border with Mexico.
Welcome to our world of reality. Where mothers will sell their children's school clothing for food ... and fathers will sell their daughters for drugs.
Our ministry is working with the real poor where we find them. We work with kids, adults and families; we work out in the sprawling neighborhoods and within the ghettos of Tijuana's inner city.
We work while we can, sharing "who" we have and His love.
I find the love of Jesus takes many forms, (Matt.25:33) from the Gospel message, teaching and discipline, to distributing food and clothing. The love of Jesus can also take the form of meeting medical needs, and help in schooling also ministering to those in prison.
This is how we translate "Doing the Word." (Jam.1:22)
As the world economy falters, and America's economy slows, Mexico's economy continues to spiral downward ... Tijuana's poverty is growing to a dangerous level. The environment around us is becoming dangerous and explosive ... just waiting for an occasion to ignite.
From apathy to despair, and hunger to anger, resulting in desperation ... what's at fault? ... who's at fault? We haven't time to point fingers ... we're called to meet needs. Immediate needs.
As I said, we work "while" we can with what we have, and what we have is what folks give us to work with ... charity?
Indeed charity may begin at home but it must not end there!
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
I'll be honest, I was in a hurry. It was a matter of hours and I was to leave for Venezuela. I had an evening speaking engagement in Mexico to brush up on and had to get down to a market and buy some U.S.A. magazines to take to the missionaries working in the jungles of Venezuela, then I had to pack. Hurry time!
Time was short and like I said I needed to brush up on my message. I was speaking that night on love.
I drove quickly to the market rushed in and bought some tortillas and magazines to take with me to Venezuela.
Rushing out of the store with my package, I headed up the parking lot toward my car.
I was interrupted by a short older man standing there on a walker.
He smiled and quietly asked me if I was going his direction and he pointed sort of East, "would I give him a lift to his house just a few short blocks away". He said he was a little tired. (I had a flashing thought he may need the exercise.)
Well, I was in a hurry. I had my message on love to prepare for and if I was going any direction, it was West.
So I gently told him that I would be glad to BUT I was in a hurry and that, in fact, I was not going his direction and ... otherwise I would be glad to ... he smiled and interrupted me, saying "It’s no problem, if I go slow I can make it ..."
About that time God slapped me on the side of my head! "What are you doing, von?" "Can your message on "love" be more important than demonstrating it?"
Then I realized the fool I was ... Mister, "I'll be glad to take you, no problem!"
Now he replied ..." No, I know your busy, I can make it or someone else may give me a lift..."
"Nope! I'm taking you home . ! " He smiled and we walked, slowly to my car. Real slow.
I slid opened my Volkswagen van, side door and seated him placing his walker next to him and we drove off.
Sure enough, in just three blocks, he pointed out where he was staying.
I pulled into the driveway, and slowly helped him out and placed him on his walker.
He paused, looked up at me, and gave me a big smile saying thank you ... then he winked at me.
Winked at me!
It was his eyes and that wink that gave His Divine disguise away.
I actually feel I've met Jesus Incognito ... and almost missed him in my hurry to minister.
Friday, August 12, 2011
Many of us find Jesus in all the typical places ... The Bible, the Church, the worship and often in the beauty of His world ... yet we miss the compassionate Jesus ... by overlooking Him, and even avoiding Him as He walks disguised as poor and needy in the dark of poverty.
The way I read Matthew 25:35 It isn't so much what we, His people did, that condemns us; it’s what we didn't do that actually condemns us. What we didn't do to Jesus incognito.
Hungry, thirsty, sick ...
Do the physically needy trump the spiritually needy, or are they actually to be one in the same. There is a lesson here.
If we look in the right places among the wrong ... we will discover a different Jesus. A Jesus we would never expect, In a place we would never expect. In a form that would surprise us.
"When did we see you?"
We can find Jesus as a poor hungry child.
If we look close we can find Jesus as a blind and crippled boy.
Open the prison and we find Jesus as a convict, locked in his cell.
Look closely at that feeble bedfast woman in an institution, is she actually ... Jesus?
In the understaffed hospital He’s laying on a bed hooked to IV's and oxygen.
Would you see Jesus in that drunk laying in his vomit, sleeping it off in the alley?
Or Jesus, as the old woman slowly walking down the road.
Unfortunately most of us Christians seem to be living and working ... where Jesus isn't. Why?
Monday, August 01, 2011
Zona Norte nights are dark. The alley we were walking was dark and a bit dangerous. Lots of drugs and alcohol. Long smelly walls filled with dirty graffiti.
Young Freddy was relieving himself against the wall when he saw us; quickly zipping up, he turned and while extending his wrist to me said "Grandpa!!!"
He smiled and hugged me. (In Mexico, if your hand is wet or dirty, you extend your wrist.)
Freddy is eleven and weighs about 200 pounds. He’s, well ... he’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer. A heavy naive kid who bangs around Zona like the big ball in a pin-ball machine.
Everyone knows Freddy.
It hurts his feet to walk so he stands a lot.
To be honest Freddy is unlovely, and because he is unlovely, he’s unloved and ... just maybe a little unlovable.
On the outside he looks like a happy animated clown, laughs a lot. Fortunately he is slow and unaware of those making fun of him.
Or, maybe, by now, he just doesn't care.
"Grandpa, sit next to me while we play this game", Play-station. Soccer. I sat. I watched. "I was his cheer-leader!" I had a chance to study him and his street friends and their strange dark world.
Freddy is just one of hundreds of unloved and worthless kids roaming the night streets of the Zone.
Kids, each night, playing the dangerous game of tag with Satan, the lord of darkness.
Does anyone care about Freddie standing on the corner ... existing the best way an overweight eleven year old can, in the darkness of Zona.
Only eleven years old. And ... alone ... lost.
Spending the night leaning against a darkened wall of cold graffiti, He waits the long night for a friendly face but only the Zona parade of drugged people with blurred eyes pass by.
Sometimes an opportunity comes his way for a little extra cash ... by being used a short time by an inebriated man of passion!
Mother? Father? You're kidding!
Who would want a kid like Freddy?
Does anyone dare love the unlovely ... standing alone in the shadows?