Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Saturday Night...

Now it's Saturday night, I am taking the opportunity to sit in front of our house and just watch life happen on our street...and it is beautiful. The moon has just passed full, but still shines brightly. In fact, the moon illuminates the mountains of the Sierra Madre range...just to the south of our city. I can see the white stone that makes up much of the range, the sharp edges of the mountains silhouetted against the sky. The breeze blows lightly, just enough to rustle the leaves of the ficus trees that are on our street.

After a long while, a time of rest has come--Holy Week. So, since Friday, we've been slowly unwinding, allowing all the stresses and tensions of life roll off.

Mr. Garcia, who lives just across the street in front of our house, has his grill fired up. He is meticulously attending to the meats cooking over the fire, and the smell is wonderful! He has the front door of his house open, and I hear the sounds of a soccer game on the radio. Every once in a while, I hear the tell-tale yell of the announcer, "GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL!" Someone has scored on one team or the other. Mr. Garcia fans the fire, turns the meat and enjoys the quiet of the night after a long week of work.

From just up the street, I hear "norteño" music...the popular sort of balladsy (is that a word?) music that tells stories of lost love, of loved ones crossing the border in search of something more, or of dreams deferred. It's not quite loud enough for me to understand the words of the song, but I hear the rhythmic bass that confirms that it's norteño...

Children are running groups of two's, three's...or more. They are laughing and playing in the street. There are few cars...and because of the many speed bumps, no one really drives fast. The children pass me, waving and joking, seemingly intent upon some important task. Two girls pass by, hand-in-hand, walking slowly, talking in whispered voices. They see three young fellows talking, so they soon turn around to walk back past them, hoping--it seems--for the boys to take notice of their passing.

The family that lives to the right of our house, the Martinez family, enjoys the coming and going of all their children and grandchildren. As I sit, one couple comes out, sleeping daughter in arms, piles in their car and leaves off with waves and last words exchanged through open windows. As they drive away, another car arrives and yet another couple with three children pile out and amble into the house, greeting each other with hugs and kisses...laughter and smiles all around.

As I sit, a young couple walks buy, holding hands. The look in each others eyes, talking, smiling. Just as the get in front of me, she says something to him and laughs. He stops and feigns a hurt look on his face. She releases his hand and runs...and he follows, running, both of them laughing, disappearing up the street.

Two cats meander by, paying little attention to me. One follows the other. They may live on the street...or they may belong to someone. They aren't skinny or fat...just cats on the prowl at night.

Across the street and two houses up, the door opens. A teen-aged girl comes out with a basketball under her arm. In her other hand she has the lease to her small dog--not a chihuahua, probably some mix. Little brother and sister follow her. They are chattering happily and excitedly as the head up the dark road toward the Catholic church. The Catholics have a basketball court...and it's lighted!

A few cars are moving slowly along our street. Most of the drivers or passengers look over and greet me with a wave or a kind "Buenas noches!" Dogs bark--some close by, some farther away. The breeze blows gently, the moon bathes the world in a soft glow. I feel the tensions and stresses of the classrooms sliding off my shoulders, swallowed up in the cool of the night.

As I look around this world in which we live, I see what I always see...but often forget to see: people--regular people who laugh, love, live. I see people who want peace, who dream dreams. And, I see people that God loves so dearly...and who He has called us to love. How often we go so hard and so fast that we fail to see the world that God has put around...both the beauty of nature and the deep beauty of the people that are all around us.

May another Saturday night come be reminded of all the richness that surrounds us in this life.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

We're Doing Okay...!

Well, if you've been watching the news, you have seen that the violence that was mainly in western Mexico has now moved to our part of the world. Competing drug-cartels engage in an almost-all-out battle for control of the trade routes that bring drugs to the U.S. Towns and cities in our area that were for the most part tranquil have seen a rise in violence.

Last night (Friday, March 19), we had our weekly small-group gathering from church in the San Jerónimo area. During our Bible study and share time, we received news that just five blocks from where we were, the federal troops were in a gun battle with suspected drug-traffickers. At the same time we were meeting, the church youth were gathered in another house some blocks away from us...perhaps a little closer to the fire-fight.

This is the closest we have been to the upsurge in violence. Living in a city of some 6,000,000 people, a city with some of the greatest wealth in the western hemisphere (if not the world) and some the most abject poverty, a city of limited natural resources and limited job opportunities, we expect violence to be a part of the mix. However, this is a new violence that has drug-cartels and federal troops fighting it out on the streets and highways of the city. Thankfully, in most of the clashes, the federales (as they are known here) come out on top. If there are casualties, the narcotraffickers are the once who suffer most. (Not that we're happy when anyone suffers or dies!) However, there are those times when innocent by-standers, or passers-by, take fire and end up wounded or dead. This tragedy of violence has us praying and hoping like we haven't before.

People have often said in the US, "Well, when I take drugs, it only hurts me." Or, "Hey, man...I'm not into the hard stuff--I just use a little pot...and it's cheap...just a few dollars a joint." I have news for all of those people--when Americans buy drugs, no matter which ones, it's hurting a LOT of people and it's costing a whole lot more than a few dollars. It costs lives and futures and sons and daughters. We don't have a "Mexican problem"--we have an intricate, international issue that is fueled by an American appetite for drugs. I don't know the answer, but I know that the violence we are seeing is all about getting marijuana, cocaine and heroin across the border into the US.

Our prayer is three-fold--one, first and foremost, that the narcos would see a better way, a life that is constructive rather than destructive, that they would find the One who can fill the emptiness in their lives. Two, we pray for peace...whether it come by the success of federal forces or a divine act. And, three, we pray that Americans who use drugs or involved in the drug trade would see the incredible path of death and destruction that their addiction or "recreational drugs" leaves behind them...and that they, too, would find that perfect Thing that will address their cravings and needs--the person of Jesus.

Please pray for us. Pray that we know best how to live, that we live with prudence. Pray that we can be voices of hope and calm and peace in this part of God's world.