The Other Side of the World...

Is Not So Far Away



January 9, 1994

It's 9:35 pm. We're in Bogota, Colombia—a much nicer place than I expected it to be. It's been raining since we got here...

January 10, 1994

...We visited a Compassion project today—a very nearly desolate facility full of very happy little kids who are faced with some terribly dire situations. It makes you wonder why we distrust Jesus' words in Luke: "Blessed are the poor..." Of course, the longer I go, the more I wonder why I doubt any of His words—or His mercy or His goodwill, His love for me, His faithfulness. No one should talk too much about anything until they're 80 or so, and I'm afraid that I am more apt to talk and less able to learn than most.

I am tired again tonight—a good kind of tired. Some aches are well earned. I wish I could see the sky tonight. Today with those kids, with Juan and Alexander and Wendy and multitudes whose names I of course can't remember, I saw part of the sky. Even in spite of the skepticism that persists behind my eyes, their eyes were so infused with faith and with love and hope that I could see (if only passively, second-handedly) beyond this wee little world into that vast invisible one where rulers and principalities exist. It was something to see. It was something!

January 11, 1994

Columbia juts up from the ocean like the head of a very proud horse, and is covered with green. The rains fell again today and covered everything with a shine. Bogota was like a polished jewel under the sky where night was already setting in. It's cool here—a very fine climate. I don't know how it is when I'm not here, but it's been beautiful for these three days.

Today we saw the district where the street kids hang out. It's unbelievable what their lives must be like. There is no desperation in their eyes—only a hideous, sick vacancy that makes them look like withered ghosts or the shadows cast when a ghost passes under a moon. There's no life left in these kids. They would envy ghosts if they had energy enough to envy. But they look like machinery more than like me—like things driven. It was awful to see.

Of course, I'm sure that the same gloom haunts the eyes of millions of businessmen, well-dressed entrepreneurs, BMOC's. Why are they so less threatening than these? They may not mug a passerby, but they would sell the soul of everyone living to buy a bar of French-milled soap. Then they would scrub their faces to look good at the funeral. This world is full of the damned. Lord have mercy. Lord have mercy.

Beaker took on the sponsorship of three more children at the project today. He is the original bleeding heart and I thank the Lord for that. It's so easy to get hard. Though it is the meek who will inherit the earth, though it is the pure in heart who will see God—it takes some great strength to be anything like pure or meek. And the witness cloud must applaud his steps—every one of them.

Tonight we all went for a walk in that rain that shined up the streets of a "safer" part of Bogota. We looked at books and leather goods and pottery and ended up at Shakespeare's—this great coffee-house/bookstore. We drank some cappuccino and then the power went out and we laughed and laughed like emotionally overcharged people will when they are tired—and eucalyptus trees stand a mile over their heads and hold themselves with a certain peace-and-quiet beauty.

January 12, 1994

Today we are in Calli, Colombia. Today began about 19 hours ago in Bogota. The van to the airport was about 20 minutes late. At 5:45 am, who cares? The flight from Bogota to Calli was beautiful. The mountains down here must be built on springs—they seem to shoot straight up—or maybe they've been cut real deep.

Calli is not a particularly beautiful city. A little boy sang for me at the first of the two projects we visited. This project was in a not-so-good part of town. The second project was in a really bad area. They look too small and too old for their ages—these children. Too much poverty, not enough bread.

January 13, 1994

The drive to Buena Ventura was spectacular. These mountains rise so steeply and the grasses and trees and flowers are so rich and colorful. Nothing makes me feel as inadequate as trying to put language on what I saw today.

The little huts on the roadside had split bamboo siding. There were goats grazing along the road and goatherders on bicycles. Men driving wedges through slate and carving bowls and spoons and forks out of comisa wood with machetes—sitting on one-legged stools under bamboo huts, over piles of wood shavings. There were beautiful vacation homes, chalets, Thai-style cottages, Tudor mansions. There were little suspension bridges over a fast running river. There half-shadowed people sitting in the doorways of shacks, watching the trucks and buses blow by. There is no way that I can guess what they are thinking.

But in Buena Ventura, the people were gracious and even graceful. They had features that were all their own. Of course, people down here are generally smaller than the people back home and less "soft". They do not have "bigger" builds—they look sinewy and their faces seem gaunt—not spooky gaunt—gaunt like Lincoln looks gaunt. They stood in the nearly suffocating heat with absolute composure and peace. While we sweated and were instantly weather-weary, they seemed, not oblivious to it, but accepting of those conditions and possessive of a resolute dignity. There is a beauty in them that struck me in a place I did not expect to be struck—in a place I did not know I had.

January 14, 1994

Tomorrow morning at 6:30 we will leave this hotel for the last time, by 9:30 we will be leaving Colombia. This evening we all went back to Shakespeare's—the coffee shop, and did the male-bonding thing. Bogota is very lively—there is a lot of pedestrian and automobile traffic. It's not rowdy, exactly. It sounds like people cut free of their week-long ball and chain and keep each other company. I like the sounds of this Friday night. It sounds like it should. I'm no idiot—I know that beyond this noise there is darkness—that beneath this laughter there is something empty. But I know that beyond this darkness and beneath that void there is a sun that's gonna rise, there is a day that's gonna dawn and that some will escape into its light. So the sounds seem ironically appropriate.

Tonight while we ate dinner with everyone, we laughed because the din is dissolving. We laughed because our somber faces would not hasten the time—they could not hold it off, so they broke into the kind of reckless hilarity that is fitting for those who belong to a day not yet born, to a home not yet visited, to a world being prepared. "The wind blows where it will..." We have only to thank the Lord for causing it to blow our way. Oh, Lord, "Thine is the glory..."