Words are meaningless without context. One cannot possibly understand the weight of “eight times” without its story. Is it eight times I saw my favorite movie? Or eight times I visited my favorite restaurant this past year? If only. Those two words would then invoke feelings of joy and happiness.
However, for a few of us, hearing those words felt like a millstone. The irony is that it was not our burden to bear. It was not our pain or our suffering. And yet upon hearing them, we could feel the crushing weight of their meaning.
Had we heard those words from the comfort of our home, we might have shown compassion, but we would not have really understood. It would have been fleeting words that would leave the minute our attention was drawn elsewhere. But we didn’t hear those words amid our comfort, but rather in our discomfort. We heard them after climbing Calvary and they landed like lead on our souls.
Thirteen of us began our ascent to Calvary with anticipation of what lay at the end of that dusty road. Some of us were accustomed to elevation changes and steep climbs. Others of us were pushed beyond the limits of our workout routines. I could hear the heavy breathing and see skin glistening with sweat. We passed homes, if we could call them that, barely stitched together with aluminum and pieces of wood intermixed with lush vegetation. Other houses seemed better off, the concrete blocks providing sturdier protection from the elements.
We talked, we laughed, and we smiled not knowing many tears would later be shed.
At the top, few of us were prepared for what we saw. Many of us had seen poverty, but nothing like this. We had read about it or seen it on the news, but we had never experienced the desperate faces of the world’s forgotten.
At calvary, five families had lost everything to a devastating fire. To us, what they lost we would never let our families use. They lost beds our families would not dare to sleep in; clothes too dirty to donate; kitchen wares too beaten to ever use again. But to them, it was EVERYTHING.
When we arrived at Calvary, we were their hope and the answer God brought to their pleas for help. But we didn’t feel like hope. Yes, we brought new beds for some and eco-stoves for others, and our hands to put it all together, but it was but a drop in the bucket in a sea of scarcity. A few of us stared at what used to be the kitchen floor of a family of seven. We couldn’t imagine how that had ever been a kitchen. All that was left was a crater of mud and debris. Their charred flooring had been swept away by a torrent of water from a firefighter’s hose (who had arrived two hours too late).
The room that held their “beds” had sunk three inches into the ground. Could we even safely place their two new bunk beds in that room? We deliberated, discussed it, and made a decision. One bunk bed could go there and another at grandma’s “house” a few doors down. It was the best we could do and pray the structure would hold.
Inside, some of us, if not all of us, felt overwhelmed. But their smiles, and their hugs, and their kind words gave us permission to laugh, especially the kids. Their joy in the midst of adversity was contagious, and our grins grew, and our laughter soon resounded all around. That joy this community displayed so beautifully was also embarrassing. Not for them, but for us. Having all, we have many times struggled to find the joy in our own lives, and yet here we found it among the ashes.
And we found it in the family who informed us, “eight times.” The trip to calvary had to be made eight times to get the water they needed to fill their water basin. In this community with no running water, the men, but mostly women had to make the trip up Calvary eight times for life’s most basic necessity. Water. After climbing Calvary once, and experiencing its discomfort, our hearts poured out in anguish. All we have to do is turn on a faucet.
We thought we were there to help them. And we did in some very practical ways and their gratitude was precious. But the experience had a profound impact on us. You see, many of us have felt or experienced God in our homes or our churches, but only in shadows or behind a veil. Our own comforts and self-sufficiency have blinded us from who He really is. But up on a mountainside that bears the same name as where Jesus suffered and died, as one of our teammates so eloquently put it, we saw the face of God.
About the Writer:
Luisa Rodriguez is a military wife and a mom to two girls. She is the creator and writer of FruitfullyLiving.com, a website that helps women understand their God-given roles and purpose according to the scriptures. She is also the creator and writer of BiblicalWarfare.com where the reader can learn about the Bible’s battles and warriors.
Luisa authored A Royal Mission, a Christian fairytale that teaches young girls about identity and purpose, Preparing Our Daughters for Puberty, a mother-daughter Bible study, and soon-to-be-released Holy Boundaries, Sexuality Bible Study for Teens and Parents. She is also the creator and designer of numerous notebooks and journals.
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