I’ve been rereading The Journey by Adam Hamilton as part of my preparation for Christmas this year, and I am once again struck by the similarities of the town I have grown to know and love and the town of Nazareth.
I currently minister in Patarcocha, a small village in Peru. It is not modern, by any means. In fact I only know two people who have real toilets, and our house is not one of those two. Patarcocha is still a village that lives life the way it has for the past several hundred years. People still cook with wood on adobe stoves. Women still wash clothes in the stream. Fields are still
plowed by hand with oxen pulling a wooden plow, and the planting is still done completely with the labor of family and neighbors. Sheep are led out to the fields each morning and brought home each night. It is generally a quiet
place with a slow lifestyle.
In the research that I am reading about Nazareth, the tiny town
of Mary and Joseph was incredibly similar. Nazareth was a town of 100-400
people. My village of Patarcocha has a population of 200. Nazareth
had very little in the way of‘modern conveniences’. The people of Nazareth were manual laborers - carpenters, bakers, farmers, potters, shepherds, etc.
They made their goods and took them to the nearest big town to sell them
in the markets or to the more wealthy‘city people’. If a family from Nazareth was able to provide for a better education for their child, they sent them to Sepphoris. Men or women who wanted a better paying job would travel to Sepphoris to work for people who had need for paid laborers or housekeepers. People from Nazareth could actually stand at the edge of town and see the bigger, better Sepphoris in the distance.
Life in Patarcocha is much the same as in Nazareth. We can see the bigger
town of Chupaca just at the base of the mountain, and across the valley lays the large city of Huancayo. People who can manage the funds quickly find a way for their child to attend school in Chupaca. Goods are traded in
Chupaca or Huancayo. And the population is changing rapidly in Patarcocha due to the flight of the youth and men, both headed to Lima or Huancayo for the promise of better jobs and a better lifestyle. Patarcocha today is,
therefore, a village that is predominantly populated by single or abandoned
mothers, children, and abandoned elderly.
I’m particularly struck by the verse in John 1:45-46 in which Nathanael says, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” in response to the news that Jesus had been born. It is a sentiment spoken many times today regarding Patarcocha. When people learn that we live there, they can’t catch themselves before the words spill out, “Why?! Why would anyone live in Patarcocha? There’s nothing good in Patarcocha. They are country people.
Backwards. Quechua Wanca.” Of course, there is a scowl on the face that goes with the sentiments. This has always made me sad, that people look at the people of my village with such a low esteem.
Maybe I cannot completely change the view of others toward my village or my people, but I can take every opportunity to say what a great place Patarcocha is. I share with others about the wonderful things I have learned while living here. I work constantly to build up the esteem of the people here and point out to them all the beautiful things about life here and about the people whom I have come to call family. And I know in my heart that God is doing a great work in hearts and lives here. You know what? Something good DID come from Nazareth and something good lives in the people of Patarcocha.
These are beautiful people with so much to give to God’s kingdom and they
are doing it, one step at a time. I think I would have loved Nazareth too, had I lived there more than 2000 years ago.
Is there a ‘Nazareth’ in your area?
Is there a place or a neighborhood or a town that others look down
upon? I urge you, during this time
of preparation for Christmas, to consider that place and to look for the good in
your local ‘Nazareth’. You never
know what you might find unless you look for it.
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!