I keep a close watch on this heart of mine
I keep my eyes wide open all the time
I keep the ends out for the tie that binds
Because your mine, I walk the line
The words of this Johnny Cash song have taken on a whole new meaning over the last few weeks. As Carie mentioned in her last post, we are well into the season of groups from Canada. In fact, by the end of March we will have had somewhere around 200-250 visitors from Canada. And it is an exciting time, as we get to see groups come in and change neighbourhoods in a matter of days. We get to see about 100 people from the community working together with between 10 and 20 Canadians. They build together, they play together, they eat together, and for a few moments we get a good glimpse of heaven, or the Kingdom of God. We are thankful for the joyful noise we hear made up of laughing, playing, joking, and working together. And so, what is my role in all of this? Well most days I feel like I am simply walking the line.
Let me give you a little background. We are focusing our construction efforts this year in San Antonio Caminos and San Felipe, both of which are medium-sized communities within 20 minutes of our home in San Vicente. Our plan is to split the 120 or so houses that will be built by the groups, between these two communities. As well, food delivery, medical clinics, and our goat project, have, and will continue to play an important role in our work in these villages. There is no question that we are dealing with some of the poorest of the poor in this country, and for that reason many (if not most) of these families do not own the land on which they live. Most people have squatted on government land sometime over the last 30 years, and continue to live under some sort of “squatter’s rights” agreement with the government, allowing them to stay. In San Antonio Caminos, one such area is an abandoned train line. A lot of the tracks still exist, but the train stopped running 15 to 20 years ago. The land allowance on either side of the tracks provided free land, and as such seemed like an ideal place to build a shack. For this reason 100’s of families live along these old, rusted train tracks. Recently, much of Trent’s and my time has been spent walking up and down this old train line.
We walk to make sure that homes are being built properly, we walk to ensure that materials are getting to where they need to be, and we walk to take tools from one site to another. But we also walk for other reasons. We walk to hear and see stories of need and pain, we walk to celebrate with families when they are picked for a new home, we walk to sit with friends and acquaintances and share in their lives, and we walk to find a nice quite spot to dine like princes with some of the humblest, most beautiful people in this world. We walk the line, and the old road, and the goat trails, and the corn fields. We walk.
The other day I was walking with three people from San Antonio. I don’t remember exactly what we were doing, but we were together checking on something or other. And then I stopped and reflected for a moment. My company was made up of an unwed mother of 8 children, an overtly homosexual man (which is a lot less acceptable in this society where machismo rules), and another lady who, although I can’t confirm it, is probably a prostitute, or at the very least has been abused by men in this society. My reflection left me with two thoughts. First of all, what label are these people assigning to me? Am I the wealthy North-American? Am I the guy that has more than he needs, or can use? Am I the guy from that culture that has helped start and perpetuate many of the problems here?
My second thought was that this way of walking feels more and more right to me each day here. I want to walk with people to whom the walking matters. I want to walk with those that teach me about myself and my preconceptions. I want to walk as my Lord walked. So, I continue to walk the line.