Thursday, February 12, 2009

Loud Cries & Tears... and JOY!

"In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission."
(Hebrews 5:7)

The author of Romans spends quite a few chapters comparing human priests with Jesus, our high priest. But instead of immediately contrasting the two, he goes out of his way to show the humanity of Jesus... how Jesus offered up not only prayers & supplications, but "loud cries & tears," too. Jesus wasn't just "playing human." He wasn't just going through the motions, biding his time until he was once again exalted in God's presence. No. He was human. Completely. And he was moved by what he saw and who he met.

In the messiness of life, if one's heart is open, soft & available to the reality of the world around us, "loud cries and tears" often flow. I'm here in the Philippines now as a part of a Compassion International trip of pastors. Yesterday we visited a couple of sites... met many children and mothers... saw the joy in their eyes... heard stories of hope, grace & love. It was so encouraging. Then we went to 'home visits.' We traveled on foot to one of the houses where a compassion project child lived. There were 8 separate groups.

My group went to the house of Stephine Daborbor. He's a one-year-old boy in the Child Survival Program. his mom, Josephine, has TB. She's skinny & malnourished - but full of the love of God and love for her children. We walked down a narrow row of shanty houses... then turned through a 2 ft. wide walkway to the Daborbor's home. When we stepped inside, I felt as though I had to be extra careful where I stepped, or I might fall through their floor! It was made of plywood & loose boards... with a little contact paper for covering. Disjointed pieces of tin provided a roof over their heads. It was quite possibly only 6 ft. by 8 ft. total. They had a side room - approximately 4 ft. by 8 ft. Seven people lived there. They had a sink where water came out. No lights. A small table. A cabinet. Plastic "kiddie chairs" to sit on. A water cooler.
I looked around and had a hard time believing this was a "home" where people actually paid rent (approximately 1000 pesos/month - or about $22!). They slept on the floor. No beds. Blankets? Not sure. Grandma sat on the floor in the "side room," because her legs wouldn't permit her to stand. The smells of raw sewage & trash dumped outside rose into the house. Poverty lived here. That's for sure.

I imagine that Jesus, as he lives here with the Daborbors, spends time talking to God about them with "loud cries and tears." I'm sure his heart breaks for Josephine and her health... for "big brother" Johneric, 8 years old, who has as gentle and loving a spirit as I've ever seen in an 8 year old boy (and sometimes, I was told, when Josephine is too sick to take Stephine to the Compassion CSP center, Johneric skips school so he can take his little brother to get a hot meal and "TLC" from the Compassion staff!)... for Stephine himself, who actually looks strong and healthy, thanks to the feeding program at the CSP. And, praise God, neither of those boys have contracted TB from their mother (though next week, Stephine has another blood test).

But despite the impoverished conditions, I think Jesus also spends much time in joy, laughter and love at the Daborbor's. I left not feeling depressed, but uplifted! I could sense the incredible spirit of hope that dwelt there. I wanted to fall down and worship the God of the Universe... who is High and Exalted... yet chooses to live among "the least of these" here in this Davao neighborhood. Josephine made sure we knew how blessed she felt, and how much she wanted others to experience what she and her family has! Wow.

I left Josephine's HOME (yes it sure was!) reminded why I've been called to be a "priest." To share loud cries & tears as I encounter them among God's children (of all ages)... but also the share in the incredible joy of a life lived with the Savior! Amazing...

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