Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Relationships or Results?

I feel like I should begin by asking forgiveness for the lack of communication over the past few months. Some of you were probably thinking I had given up Newsletters for Lent! While that was not my intention, I did allow myself to slip into a safe, reflective space over the last several weeks. 
As I reviewed pictures from my recent visits to communities I came across the photo above of a Lenten banner hanging in the cathedral in Santa María Ostuma, translated into English it reads: Lent invites us to reflect and act upon our lives. It occurred to me that all the profound, contemplative reflection and thorough analysis in the world gets us nowhere if we forget, or refuse to translate it into action.
This is where it gets tricky. Wikipedia reminds us that action is: The fact or process of doing something, typically to achieve an aim. Right. Doing something, something tangible, measurable; achieving a goal. I thought to myself, what is my “action”, what can I tell people when they ask me what I’m “doing”? It turns out what I was doing was reflecting and overanalyzing myself right into doubt and disappointment. I had avoided blogging or writing newsletters because at the six month mark I was frustrated with my lack of substantial results to report. I wanted to tell of some kind of benchmark or any kind of concrete indication that we are on the right track. Hard evidence is what people want, and I wanted to offer proof.
This is not anything new, nor is it specific to any one culture or society. Human beings have always longed for defining evidence, and have always struggled to believe in the absence of sufficient proof. In fact, the crux of the Easter story, and arguably all of Christianity comes down to just that; does an empty tomb prove resurrection?
Cathedral in Santa María Ostuma, La Paz, El Salvador
If you look closely, you will see that the cross rests on top
of a pineapple, a symbol of the town's pride in its
agricultural heritage
Luke’s Gospel tells us that two of Jesus’ followers left Jerusalem scratching their heads and discussing the week’s events with one another, and even with a stranger (who was really Jesus but whom they didn’t recognize) who joined them as they walked the seven miles to Emmaus. This stranger was clearly in the dark about all that had happened over the last week, but he was willing to listen and the disciples were willing to share what they knew.
They knew that Jesus of Nazareth was a prophet “considered by God and by all to be powerful in everything he said and did.” They knew that Jesus had been handed over by the chief priests and rulers to be sentenced to death, and they had seen him crucified. They were frustrated, disappointed and confused; they had hoped that Jesus would be the one to bring freedom to Israel. And as if that weren’t enough, now three days later the tomb had been found empty; the stone was rolled away and Jesus’ body was gone!
Next the stranger spoke and the disciples listened. He acknowledged their doubts and disappointment, he heard their frustration and confusion, and he encouraged their hope and reassured their faith by reminding them what the prophets had foretold. The stranger had lifted up the these travelers and comforted their grief through his actions. What actions, you ask? Companionship, nothing more, nothing less. Being willing to accompany the journey, though the road is long, hot and dusty. Listening first, and truly understanding. Speaking when invited, and sharing words of hope and inspiration. Seeing the value in traveling together and in the potential to grow from stranger into friend.
Preparing to share a meal with new friends from
Asociación A-Brazo, ENLACE and CHIMPS
(Children's Health International Medical Project of Seattle)

in the community of El Chaperno

Below: A special stranger-turned-friend,
Don Jesus - 102 years young!
 I pray that I might continue to actively accompany in El Salvador and not feel limited to measurable outcomes; relationships are results. How many times have eyes been opened, and the Risen Christ revealed, when we take the time to share a meal with strangers turned friends!