Monday, May 7, 2012

Michael Capshaw's Reflections on Chiapas

While I sit and reflect on the trip to Chiapas, the most lasting memory is the smiles of the children in the poverty stricken village of Chacacal. As we were driving down the road that led to their village there was a young boy sprinting behind the van. Barefoot and eager to meet us, he ran for at least a half mile. As we got closer we noticed more children running as well. There was excitement in the air. We could see it in them, later they saw it in us.

I knew that the next few days would be filled with God's word, good stories, and hard work, but nothing could prepare me emotionally for what was to come. This poor community had a "special" meal prepared for us. It was eggs and beans. They rarely ate eggs and typically reserved them for a special occasion. They also killed a bull for us so we could have meat the next day. I felt so loved in this village so far from home by people who did not even know me.
We got done with our meal that first day and everyone was sitting around not really knowing what to do. We decided to go grab a soccer ball (futbol) from the van. Within minutes there were over a dozen children running back and forth kicking the ball around (still barefoot) and having a good time. I was not able to easily communicate with anyone so this was a good ice breaker and a way to build trust. We ended up playing soccer for well over an hour. It was hard for me to believe that in a village in Mexico where everyone knows soccer that they had no soccer ball. It was sad when I realized the reason was that they could not afford one.

I thought I knew poverty from previous mission experiences. I worked with some Navajo on a reservation when I was in junior high, but this place made the Navajo look like kings. The lack of running water  made even the most simple tasks difficult. For instance, to get water to mix with the concrete the children would take a bucket to the river and bring it back. Washing hands? Forget about it. We dipped our hands in a bucket before we gathered around the table to eat.  
We got to spend a lot of time working with the children. The smiles and laughter coming from their beautiful faces was enough to make me vow to return. I have never seen people with so little be so happy. The first morning after waking to rooster crows at 4:00, 4:30, 4:45, 5:30, and 6:00, I finally decided the dogs barking too was enough to get out of my sleeping bag. I went outside to read my Bible and there were several people walking by. I could not help but to notice their  smiles. I sat and had a good ten or fifteen minutes to reflect on happiness. I was convicted. I realized that sometimes we Americans tend to feel like we need more to be happy. All we really need is to trust in God and to learn to be content with what we have; just as they were content with what they had – almost nothing.

We worked hard every day. At least three of us had blisters after the first day of using their primitive tool handles in the garden. I was perplexed the first two days by the  amount of people just standing around watching us work. Initially, I was upset. What were all these people doing standing around watching? The more I thought about it, the more I got it. They were impressed. They saw something different in us. Something that perhaps they had not seen before. They saw gringos working hard for no apparent reason. I believe this is what stirred a lot of the excitement. By the third day of working there were others, that had been watching the previous days, who joined in and helped to work hard.

When we spoke to the church everything had to be translated from English to Spanish (thank God for Dulce!) and then Spanish to Tzutzil, the Mayan dialect they spoke. It actually worked out well. The language barrier was tough, but it was interesting to see how love could completely destroy such a barrier. I felt connections with several people that I did not speak a single word to. God was moving in Chacacal. God is working in Chacacal. There is much work still to be done.

I would like to thank the church for all the prayers. I would also like to ask for continued prayer for Chacacal and the work that is being done there. The seminary in San Cristobal has wonderful plans to help this community prosper, but it does not come without price. It also does not come without hard work and sacrifice. One day I hope to be able to take a trip back to Chiapas with some more members of the church.
Thank you again.     
-Michael Capshaw

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