Sunday, November 13, 2011

It's What You See

I love this quote and it must have been written after taking a good look at the GOOD BOOK! 

It has been a very rough few months... Thus I have not blogged much.  I have continued to work, doing the work of the ministry, but it has been three months of crisis after crisis after crisis.  My camera died in late July and I was unable to buy another until I went to the USA in September.  That cut down on my ability to document things; others took photos and promised to send them, but many of those were empty promises. 

I have felt like I was in a war zone and I guess I am in one sense of the word.  Honduras has just been given the distinction of being named the number ONE murder capitol of the world...  That is more than Syria, more than Libya, more than Afghanistan or Columbia.  I am wondering how that is possible.  I carry on my daily life, go to the grocery store, go to church, minister in small villages and at the prison.  I minister to the gangs in the street, visit the hospitals, continue with my medical and surgery teams.  I went to a women's retreat, I drive to the farm, I pick Mandarin oranges, bananas, Calla Lilies and Birds of Paradise out of my garden and life goes on or should I say, life and death go on.

This has been three months of constant death.  Seventeen of my gang boys have died.  One of them "Gangster" had called me a few weeks prior and had asked me to be godmother to his young twin daughters.  I had told him it was a big responsibility but I would pray about it.  I tried several times to call him back and then one morning I was awakened by a call from the gang at the jail saying that the police were killing the boys in a San Pedro Sula barrio.  I thought he was in La Ceiba, but he was killed that morning along with six others.  Then a few days later three more were killed and a few days later several more.  Then a few weeks ago one who was very special to me was killed.  So why was he so special?  I don't really know except to say that God placed him on my heart in a strange way.

So what does all this have to do with the quote by Henry David Thoreau.  "It's not what you look at that matters, it is what you see."  When most people see these gang boys, they are immediately scared.  They think the worst and I have to admit, when I first started working with them, I wasn't sure whether it was the Lord speaking to me or the devil sucking me into a trap.  Now it is common to get middle of the night telephone calls to go to the hospital or to let me know that something is going on.  Sometimes they ask me to pray and sometimes they are too shy to ask, but I know they called me, where I will pray. 

I am going to explain several things in this post.  One of those things is how the Lord has changed my heart to see human beings in need of love, understanding and a shoulder to lean on; I see this when others might see a different picture.

I am going to start by showing you a photo of Fausto... Fausto is one of the gang members who I had to bury several years ago.  But Fausto has a story which must be told.  His story has been waiting to be told.  And today I feel it is time.  Almost three years have passed since Fausto was killed in a car accident. 

This is the only pre-Christian photo which I have of Fausto.  Although he is smiling a little in the photo, he was a bad boy.  His name in the gang was "Puma".  When I look at this photo, I cannot remember him this way.  When "Puma" left the prison I didn't know he was leaving.  One day I went to visit as I do and he was not there.  Soon after, he called me to visit him for Mother's Day weekend.  He had called me "mom" for a while before he left the prison, but I was surprised to have him call and request this visit.  While at the prison we had been studying the book of John.  Mostly I just discussed the chapters with him one by one, so I knew God's seed had been sown in his heart.  When he called I immediately knew that it was God... so I made plans... not knowing where I was going, as he moved around a lot, I set the dates apart on my calendar and planned to leave on a Friday and return on a Sunday. 

Needless to say those around me were not so sure that I had heard from God.  In fact one person went so far as to tell me I was crazy and another told me that I was "NOT" hearing from God. I was told to "be prepared to be kidnapped or killed or worse."  But there was that small calm, sweet Holy Spirit voice inside of me which kept saying, "This is a divine appointment, don't miss it."

I called my daddy and told him I was going to visit "Puma" and I know my daddy well enough after these 50+ years that if he had felt it was not the right thing to do, he would have told me.  He calmly stated that they (mom and dad) would pray for me and to "keep in contact".

So I got in my truck and headed out of the city on the road which goes to the north coast.  Every thirty minutes without fail a call would come in on my cell phone from "Puma" asking me where I was.  When I left home he told me I was going to San Pedro Sula, but all the sudden, he told me to make a turn.  For a minute I got butterflies in my stomach (had I heard from God?) and then I got peace from the Lord again.  I followed his directions turn by turn, point by point and arrived in a small town five interesting hours after I had left home. 

I was met by his wife, his step mother, his four brothers and his sister along with an entourage of nephews, sister-in-laws and nieces.  I had taken along enough money to pay for a hotel room and food, but there was no way his Christian step mom was going to stand for that nonsense.  I was staying in the home with everyone else and her word was the final word.  I was surprised at what a tough but gentle lady she was.  We became instant friends.

All that evening and the following day, I shared about the love of God with Fausto.  Finally mid afternoon on Saturday, he broke and cried.  He said, "How is it possible that God could love someone as bad as me? I have been so bad, I can't even remember all the bad things which I have done!", he told me through large crocodile tears.  As I explained the mercy of God, he asked why I was not afraid of him when "EVERYONE" else was?  I told him, I guess it is because God gave me eyes to see him as he really was, a man with a gentle heart and a kind demeanor.  Hidden inside a shell which he had built because of all the hurt which life had thrown his way.  He cried more.  In all my years of ministry, I had NEVER seen anyone cry a lake of tears, but between his "burros" there was a lake of tears.  I don't know what "burros" are called in English, but they are a tan colored work boot which comes above the ankle. 

His mom called us for lunch and I told him, "It is now or never... are you going to give your life to God or not?"  To my surprise, he said, "Yes!"  I thought it might be several more hours of the Lord working on his heart, but it was not to be.  He was ready, so we prayed and the grand "Puma", one of the feared leaders of the gang, accepted Jesus into his heart.  He cried like a baby and told the Lord that he couldn't remember all his sins he had been sinning for so long; but he wanted to make a change.  And that day, he did change, in an instant, he changed. 

Later that evening his brother took a photo which he later shared with me.  I want you to look at this photo, look beyond the tattoos and see the face of a new Christian.  I had never seen him really smile until that day.

To make a point, I want you to look at the two photos side by side.


That afternoon and the following day, "Puma" was like a little kid...  "Tell my brother, tell my other brother, tell my sister, tell everyone about Jesus." One of his brother's and one sister-in-laws were already Christians and went to church with his step mother.  That weekend all his other family members present, except for one brother accepted Christ as their Savior.  His mother was delighted.

I was surprised about 3:00 pm when "Puma" said that we were going for a ride.  After we were in the car, he asked if I could baptise him.  "Of course I can!", I told him, not knowing that we were on the way to a private pool to baptise him.  His entire family was in attendance, including all the nieces and nephews.

I had never baptised anyone without them having a shirt on, but everything about this week was unconventional, so why not?  He had not thought to bring an extra shirt with him and if he had worn the one he had on into the pool, then on the ride back in the car, all his tattoos would have been exposed, which was not a good thing.  So that afternoon, I baptised "Puma".  From that time forward, he always called and said, "Mom, this is Fausto."  The name "Puma" disappeared from his vocabulary, at least with me.

I carefully explained to him what baptism meant.

After he came up dripping wet, he had a HUGE smile on his face.

Then he sat pensively on the side of the pool with a HUGE grin on his face.

And so the life of "Puma" changed to the life of "Fausto". 
The week before he was killed in a car accident, he had asked me if God would let him be a pastor.  I told him, "Yes." and he said he wanted to be a pastor to the gang.  I carefully explained that churches are made up of all kinds of people including past enemies, even rival gang members...  The thoughtful look on his face spoke volumes to me.   "Even them?" he asked.  "Even them!", I answered.  "I can do it with God's help," he said.  "I know you can!", I replied.  I was beaming with pride because I could see that in the time he was with the Lord, he had grown by leaps and bounds. 

A few weeks prior to that, he had called me to his home and told me he was tired of running.  He was tired of being chased by the police.  He was tired of hiding.  He was tired and wanted to go home to be with Jesus.  I encouraged him to consider what God wanted for his life and so when he said he wanted to be a pastor, I was pleased at this change of heart.  But it was not to be. 

Even in his death he was despised.  The news headlines said he was a dangerous leader of the gang, who was running from the law and being chased by the police at the time of the accident.  All lies.  The news said he was being chauffeured around by the Vice-Minister of Security's police chauffeur and they said a hit man was in the car with them.  What the news didn't say was that Puma's wife and the police chauffeur's wife were sisters.  What the news didn't say was that the young man with them was married to the chauffeur's daughter.  What the news didn't say was that they had just returned from a fishing trip and to visit his step mother who by that time was dying from cancer. 

So as he was despised and feared in life, he was despised and lied about in death. 

Remember I said that a few weeks ago one gang member who was very special to me was killed. So why was he so special?  One of the things which Fausto said to me a few weeks before he died was that he had brought "Cabeza" Celin Pinot into the gang and he really wanted me to focus on getting him "saved".  As a "special" favor to him, he made me promise.  Since Fausto had left gang life, he really had no contact with them.  But "Cabeza" became a point of prayer in my life. 

I tried several times to speak alone to "Cabeza" but he never allowed me to get very close to him.  He knew I wanted to tell him something, but I never had a chance when there weren't many others listening.  I wanted to fulfill my promise to Fausto, but it was so hard.  Finally one day, I had a small window of opportunity to really cut to the bone for a few short minutes.  I told him that Fausto wanted him to receive Christ.  He just stared at me.  He was uncomfortable, but he listened for a few short minutes, maybe no more than a minute as I explained that he needed to give his life to the Lord and that Fausto had requested that I tell him that.

 The other day, "Cabeza" was killed as he was forced to leave the prison at 11:00 at night.  He and another gang member were assassinated as they left the prison with their permission given by the court earlier that day to go free.  They were held up on purpose until it was way after dark and too late to talk to their attorneys and then they were killed half a block from the prison with automatic weapons.
I went to the prison the next day with the people from Human Rights and these are the photos they took with my new camera.

 So tonight when I was surfing the web and read the quote by Henry David Thoreau. "It's not what you look at that matters, it is what you see."  It struck a chord with me.  In fact it inspired me to blog again after several months of silence. 

You know when Jesus saw the woman at the well, he saw her as a potential minister, he saw her as she could be.  He saw her with a useful and productive life.

When Jesus saw the tax collector, he saw him as he would become, not as he was.  When he saw Saul who persecuted all Christians, he saw him as Paul who wrote most of the New Testament.  When he saw Puma he saw him as Fausto and when he saw Cabeza he saw him as Celin. 

The ending to this story is wonderful in the midst of all the killing and all the death and all the sin.  "Cabeza" left a note for his girlfriend of many years, I suppose he had a premonition that he was going to die and he gave the note to her at a court hearing the same day he was killed.  In the note and in person at the court hearing, he told her that while he was in maximum security, in lock down the last 7 days of his life, he had accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior and he was now a changed man.  A friend of a friend of a friend talked to the girlfriend and heard about the note.  She knew that I had prayed for years for the gang members for salvation and she shared with me.  What had been terrible grief for me was turned to joy!  Although I was not close to Celin in life, I was close to him because of the burden God had placed on my heart for him.

God is so faithful to answer my prayers!