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.
All people need grace. And God’s grace is for all
I remember once walking through Los Diques with Don Victor. It was the beginning of one of our weeks and we were going around inviting people to the church. As we walked we met a teenage boy, who was 15 or 16.
Don Victor looked him right in the eyes and began to rattle off in his mumbling kind of Spanish. I couldn’t understand a word that was being said, but I did know from context clues he offered earlier on our walk, marijuana (or some other drug) was being grown and sold close to where we stood.
While I couldn’t understand what was being said, I knew from the young man’s facial expression that he understood Don Victor. I noticed his arms abused like a cutting board from needle marks. Don Victor knew this young man, knew that no matter what he had done that day, he needed to know that there was a place for him at the church, that he was valued by Don Victor and Jesus, and that grace was for him too.
Grace is for all.
At that moment, more than any other moment in Costa Rica, I saw Christ.
Jesus welcomed all. The tax collector that nobody wanted to have lunch with; the children everyone wanted to keep in their place; the leper that no one dared touch; the bleeding woman everyone had forgotten about.
And Don Victor did the same every day.
And Jesus stills welcomes all, no matter where you have been or what you have done. No matter what others say about you, Jesus welcomes you.
This is just one of the many lessons I’ve learned from Don Victor. All are welcomed. All receive grace. And grace is for all.