Several days ago we bumped down a rutted dirt road towards one of the poorest areas of Lima. Dust, dirt, garbage, shanty’s…mangy dogs were everywhere. The neighborhood was called ‘Oasis’…and that seemed almost a cruel reminder of what it was not.
The van jolted to a stop several times at piles of garbage and rocks so high it was impassable, and a sudden detour was needed. (These kinds of things aren’t cause for frustration around here….just need a little friendly yelling out the window and some creativity, and you’ll find another way;o)
Pastor Walter, a new contact to the Christmas dinner ministry, led us to a look out over the water front…and the same dusty roads and shantys lined the grey ocean lapping at the shore far below. No umbrellas, no sandcastles, or picnickers at this beach. He told us about a little boy who had suffered brain injury from a car accident on the road below us and survived for only two years. So much sadness.
He shared about a church down the road, about the people who came into this neighborhood and others, because they care about the children. And as we talked more I discovered that he knew a Peruvian lady I had met through my Joni and Friends trip in 2012…and was teaching in ‘Beyond Suffering’ in Spanish, the course I’ve been taking this fall. As we walked and the dirt worked its way into my shoes…I had a feeling this was not a chance encounter.
‘God, give me eyes to see what you want me to see ‘ …this has been my prayer.
He shared how he has a son with special needs himself, and because of his son, his eyes were opened to see the need and his heart was moved to care. As he took us out onto the balcony of one of the churches, purposely placed on the hill, he explained that it was called ‘Mirador (Lookout) de Cristo’ because, he said, God is looking out over the neighborhood. He sees the hopelessness. The many children with out a future…girls who become mothers while they are still children.
And in Pastor Walter’s voice I heard the compassion of God’s heart for these children, the same compassion that brought Jesus to this earth, to be ‘ God with us’. The compassion that has made him willing to drive here, and hike up a dusty road to share the view with us, the urgency in his heart to call others to care. To share the fact that the 700 children they will reach out to this Christmas is not enough. There are so many more who need Hope.
“Through the Tender Mercy (the compassionate, steadfast Love) of our God, the Dayspring from on High has visited us…’
Yesterday we left the dirt roads of Lima and drove 350 kim south of Lima on the highway, passing mile after mile of sandy hills, shacks perched on the hills or nestled in valleys, hardly a tree in sight. (This was my impression when I wasn’t too busy holding my breath as cars and trucks passed a hairs breadth from each other at break neck speed. This trip made Lima roads seem tame and relaxing. Oof. )
Coming over a bend we viewed our destinaton , Huacachina. A small natural desert lake measuring about 200-metres in diameter had bubbled up from the dry earth. Someone had discovered it years ago, and now a picturesque village flourished here. Lush green trees, palm fronds, brilliant bouganvilla. Feathery lavender blossoms and the bright orange of the ‘Flamboyant’ trees stood out against the blue sky.
THIS was an oasis.
Hotels with airy verandas…restaurants with candles and inviting tables. Walkways around the water and boats to enjoy it up close. But all around surrounded by sandy hills, rising up into the sky, scorching under the South American sun.
Just like the green grass at the special needs school…my eyes were in shock taking in all the beauty. I sat on a rocky ledge by the water and rested my eyes on the calm lake.
‘You lead me beside still waters… you restore my soul’
And I think back to walking that dusty road through ‘Oasis’… and
hearing the heart of Compassion of a man who so desperately wants to bring beauty into that dry, dusty, place….and share the water of Life with those who are thirsty.
A year ago I wrote these words in my journal…
‘I will make rivers flow on barren heights,and springs with in the Valleys…’
This year 2016, this past week, I have experienced those ‘springs’ of joy. Those ‘rivers’ of love in unexpected places. Despite the dry places, the deserts…or maybe because of them. And I want to trust with all my heart that these rivers can flow through the neighbourhood of Oasis….that there are ‘springs’ of Hope waiting to burst forth.
Even if all I see right now are the barren heights.
“When there is no hope in sight, sometimes it’s good to know that our sight is limited”