I started going to Honduras on short-term missions in 2000. I’m still going. When I’m not there, I volunteer at a homeless shelter. I joined the Episcopal Church in 1982. I began to understand Christianity through the joy and tears I have been blessed to share when serving others. St. Francis said, “Remember that when we leave this Earth we can take with us nothing we have received…only what we have given.”
When I start reading the opening lines to Psalm 46, I find myself immediately hearing the melody to the familiar Cursillo song of that name. I also find myself picturing the people who minister to me in Honduras and on the streets of Austin; people who repeatedly remind me what Faith really means. They’re not hungry for the latest Christian topics that fill my iPad and soothe my doubts. Nor do they find it difficult to accept the words of the Beatitudes or what we might consider the more challenging parables. They get it because they live it. Many people in the world today are still living in biblical times.
Recently, I was on a Water Well Mission in Honduras. I took my backpack with me wherever I went. Some years ago, a rural Honduran had told me how funny they find us with our backpacks… it’s a missionary identifier to them. I was thinking about this as I was riding in the bus on our way to the work site. Our backpacks hold all the things we are afraid to be without. Some of these things we see as “needs”… but many are really “wants”. They are our umbilical cord to our stateside lives. Jesus wasn’t laying the groundwork for a new reality show when he sent the Disciples out with orders to take nothing. He was asking them to let their faith and trust in God sustain and feed them.
A few years ago, we were on a medical mission near the border of El Salvador and Honduras. We were in a very remote and poor rural area. A baby who was severely dehydrated was brought to us . We had no salt to prepare a rehydration solution. I grabbed a few lempira (the Honduran currency) and rushed down the dirt road to find the salt. I came to a typical house made from mud bricks with the open holes that serve as windows and a door. Partially clothed children were playing behind a fence of sticks. I asked the children if their mother was there, and she came out of her house, wiping her hands on her apron and smiling a big, loving, toothless smile. She invited me in to her humble home, and I explained that I needed some salt for a very sick baby at our clinic. She went to the only shelf on her wall and found a small crumpled paper bag. She handed it to me and I gave her the money. She immediately gave me the money back, saying, “No, no…this is for the sick baby.” I hugged her and thanked her. My eyes filled with tears as I walked back, having seen the face of Christ.
I am frequently guilty of carrying God around in my backpack. I sometimes see Her as that energy bar or duct tape I go to when other things fail. The people I meet in Honduras and on the streets of Austin remind me what it means to live and be “faith full”. God is our refuge and our strength… not just in times of trouble.
About the Photo: It’s one of my favorites. I call it “Honduran Madonna”. It was taken in the village of Las Crucitas, Honduras.