We recently had an interesting experience that took me by surprise.
We had been noticing the absence of an acquaintance of ours, a woman in
her early 40s. She was our only real connection to the owner of our house (her mother is the owner). We usually
saw her a couple of times a month, as her family still owns farm land around our house and she came to check on crops. She always came to the back door and we talked. But lately, we hadn’t seen her and it became noticeably odd since it is now time to replant the fields and she was not around.
So we mentioned it to our neighbor.
“Oh. You didn’t know? She is in prison.”
Wow! That was a shocker! Well, not really… we knew that she was in some sort of trouble because we had received warrants and court summons for her on several occasions since our house belongs to the family and is evidently listed as her legal address. We passed these papers on to her when we would see her and she took them and laughed them off, so we weren’t too surprised that she was in trouble, but prison was an extreme we hadn’t considered! We continued to talk to the neighbor (who is a cousin) and found out that she is in prison for HUMAN TRAFFICKING! That was a shock, for sure! But, small town gossip being what it is, we weren’t too ready to believe the first story down the pipeline. However, a couple of weeks later, another family member showed up at our door to sell us tickets to a fundraising dinner to help the family pay for legal fees. The family member was truthful and told us that she was in prison for the same crime that we had heard about before.
This really took me back a bit. How do I feel about knowing that I have been sitting around chatting about life with a human trafficker? I really wasn’t
sure how to feel about it. I had some astonishment and some anger.
I was surprised that we had been so naïve and hadn’t seen it, although
that isn’t something that just pops out in casual conversation. I felt a little violated. I was a little scared that I had been that involved with someone who had so little value for human life and I had allowed her to be close to me or to my daughter. Frankly, the whole thing gave me the heebie-jeebies.
But why, exactly, does this bother me at all? I know for a fact that we have treated, ministered to, and prayed for terrorists and narco-traffickers in our medical campaigns. I have personally translated for battered and abused women and children as they met with the doctor, only to have the husband/father/perpetrator show up later in the day for treatment. We minister to alcoholics and drug addicts. We know, for a fact, that practicing witches have been in our ministry and bible studies and their children have attended our schools. None of that gave me much alarm or caused me to think twice. So why does this human trafficker get under my skin?
I really don’t have an answer. I’m still trying to work this out in my own mind and my own heart. I’m seeking God’s guidance on this one. And I’m struggling with it. I know that Jesus summed up the whole law in two statements - love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself. And then we have the teachings about ‘who is your neighbor’, which basically gets summed up into every human on this earth is your neighbor, and that all have sinned and
fallen short. So why is this so hard?
My good friend and missionary colleague, Louise Reimer, is working in the women’s prison here in Peru. She enters the prison each week and holds Bible study and discipleship groups with women there. Interestingly enough, the
human trafficker I’m writing about appeared in her class one day. Just one day. She hasn’t been back since that one encounter.
I have so much esteem for my colleague. I’m so glad that God called her to that ministry! In many ways, I feel that she is so much stronger than I am.
I’m not sure that I could go into that situation each week. I think God calls each of us according to the gifts he has given us and I guess he knew that I wasn’t the one for a prison ministry, but Louise was. She sees past their crimes and their issues and sees real people who need Christ and need a fresh start. She doesn’t see murderers and drug dealers and human traffickers. She sees people with names and families. She sees a series of poor choices and bad decisions. And more than anything, she sees possibilities and hope for change and growth and a different future. I’m really proud of my friend and her ministry.
My 8 year old daughter wants to make a surfboard. She has been talking about it for a couple of months now. It isn’t so surprising, really. Her older
brothers have gone through surfing stages. She spent a significant portion of her youngest years watching them carry their boards out into the waves, first in South Padre Island, Texas, and later in Costa Rica. When she could only crawl, she was placed on her hands and knees on her brother’s board and gently floated around in the shallows. Surfing is a part of her good memories of her brothers. So, we shouldn’t be surprised that she wants to build her own surfboard, right?
The irony here is that we are missionaries in the Andes Mountains of Peru. We live at 11,400 ft. I laugh when we are in planes sometimes and they announce that we are flying at 11,000 or 12,000 ft. “We LIVE at that altitude!” I
always silently comment. We are FAR above sea level, and this kid wants to build a surfboard! There is no water in sight up here. In fact, we frequently have no water in our pipes, much less water enough to surf or even float somewhere. We don't even have a bathtub!So why does this kid think she needs to build a surfboard?
I still can’t give you the answer to that question. I’m trying to be a supportive mom and be encouraging of creative endeavors, so I haven’t squelched the idea. We’re just not ready to move forward on this project yet, so to speak. But it continues to be in her plans, so it continues to be on my mind.
What is she thinking? What is she going to do with a surfboard?
I was contemplating this when it came to me that Noah’s family probably had some of the same concerns.
What is he talking about? Why does he think we need a boat? There isn’t any water in sight! We obviously aren’t going to need to float anywhere. Has Noah lost his mind?! What are we going to do once we finish building this monstrosity of a boat?
Maybe she knows something we don’t know. Maybe the next big flood is coming (although highly unlikely and unbiblical – God promised not to do that
again). The people here believe in the flood story. There is no denying it, in their minds. Daily we find reminders that this mountain was once covered by the sea. Fossilized shells and sea creatures abound in the rocks that we walk
on. Fossilized coral shelves form layers on the mountain, giant white and grey stripes on the rocky landscape. Yes, the Quechua Wanca people whole-heartedly believe in the flood story. They live amidst solid proof that it occurred. I have always loved that a piece of the Bible story is right here and so real for the Quechua people, and that those connections have always been there for me to use as springboards to sharing more about God and his Word.
Maybe my daughter and Noah have a special spiritual connection,
something that makes them both look out at giant mountains and no water and seepossibilities. Maybe in today’s
world, Noah would have had a surfboard.
I don’t think I’ll suggest that to Sarah – she will try to balance two
goats on her board, then two chickens, then two guinea pigs… Come to think of
it, had she been a boy, we were going to name her Noah James…
Who am I? In my USA life, I was a teacher in Texas for 15 years. I was also a professional photographer, a Southern Living / Martha Stewart wannabe, a soccer mom, and a short term mission team coordinator / intern director for missions in Mexico... you name it, I probably tried it!
In 2006, my husband Billy and I became cross-cultural workers (CCWs) with TMS Global. For five years, we served in three rural Quechua Wanca villages in the Andes of Peru. And when I say rural, I mean RURAL - like no potty! We have three incredible children... two adult boys who live in Texas, and the Sarah (14) lives with us in whatever country we are serving. I'm still teaching, still taking photos, still leading teams and mentoring, I just do it all in full-time service now! And I'm working hard at giving Southern Living and Martha Stewart a run for their money! I spent my days in Peru learning to live a Quechua lifestyle in a rustic adobe house - cooking Peruvian foods, sewing with Quechua women, raising my chickens and goats and pigs, and planting my gardens. Now I live my life in small town Spain, serving other cross-cultural workers and immigrant peoples, writing, and trying to figure out what life looks like for a Texas girl serving Christ in Southern Europe. Life in His service is AWESOME! I'm happy to share it with you here... Enjoy!