This week I learned about the death of Don Victor, a pastor who answered God’s call on his life to be in ministry of people in a shantytown. I’ve been reflecting on his ministry this week.
Where pavement meets gravel in Cartago, Costa Rica, is where you enter the shantytown of Los Diques. This is a place where people with no other means go. Families escaping abusive fathers. Mothers addicted to drugs. Grandmothers raising grandchildren. Young boys whose only way out is to join a gang; young girls whose only way out is to sell themselves. And this is a place the government would rather not exist, which is why they have been so reluctant over the years to give the basic necessities for these people.
Yet, none of this mattered to Don Victor.
There was a major controversy in the early church ( something I know we are not accustomed to today). Luke documents the controversy in Acts 15. There was one major division between Jew and Gentile.
The Acts 15 controversy centered on whether Gentile Christians should go through the same rituals that the Jewish Christians did. It was an issue of what qualified someone to be welcomed into the community. The Jewish Christians were not recognizing the Gentile Christians membership in the church.
Back in 2005 I was in seminary and making plans to do a directed study in Costa Rica that included a mission trip to Los Diques. After much preparation and great support from family, friends, and a church who caught the vision, in January 2006 the first team made their way to Costa Rica.
Since that first trip in 2006, my experiences in Diques have influenced my preaching, teaching, leadership, and ministry in general in various ways. It’s not uncommon for me to share the story of Don Victor, the pastor at the Church of the Light of the New Day in Los Diques, when teaching or preaching.\
Not long after Hurricane Harvey left a path of destruction in southeast Texas and southwest Lousiana, my colleague Rev. Joanna Dietz, an ordained deacon in the Virginia Conference, organized an Early Response Team to travel to Texas to engage in the clean-up efforts in Texas. After following her post on Facebook, I invited Joanna to write a guest post. She and her son, Andrew, blog together at Mother, Son, and … Where’s the Holy Spirit?!
It started out like any other day, watching the news and moving through my work routine. But as Harvey hit and people began calling from around the Winchester District to see what we were doing in response, I felt that tug. You know, the one that says, “You need to do something radically different here and step out in faith.” Things quickly took shape and I found myself with four other people in two cars headed down to Texas with our ERT (Early Response Team) badges, which allow us into locations that have experienced disasters.
Our first impressions were of piles of possessions on the road, hay bales that had floated across roads, and business signs ripped from their posts and scattered across parking lots and sidewalks. Some areas had remained virtually untouched beyond the occasional blue tarp on the roof, but down by the river in the poorer section of town, flooding had done severe damage to many of the homes. This is where we spent our time in Victoria, TX.
It has been hard sitting at home and watching the images of what Hurricane Harvey is doing come across social media as well as the news and not be able to do something. We have friends and family who live in Houston, thankfully who are all safe and well. In addition, we have a lot of family in Louisana, which also being impacted by Hurricane Harvey.
Here are four ways you may be able to help.
As the pictures and stories keep unfolding from Texas, let us keep all of those in the storm’s continuous path in our prayers. Both in Texas and in Lousiana. Remember to hold in prayer the first responders, those connected to the church who are already responding, and those churches in Texas that have been serving as shelters.