It can come straight out of an empty sky –
Hope like a cloud —
When I meet Lidia, when I cup her face and pull her near, and her mother stands right next to here, there in her white shirt.
Her mother named Blanca and smiling.
Blanca, Lidia’s mother come looking like an Elijah, looking for so long into that blank, white empty sky, looking for a gathering promise of hope.
Blanca, she tells us this right at the beginning, right at the meeting, a woman who must tell us of all her straining at the sky.
“I never thought this day would come. I am a divorced woman.”
Blanca says it like she’s long known what she would say if this moment ever came.
“When I became a Christian, my husband, he left me. He was jealous of my love of God and he beat me and he was angry that I loved Jesus and he leaves me for another woman.”
Blanca says this, her eyes never leaving mine and I wasn’t ready for this. For persecution and abuse and shatteredness, all in the first five minutes.
That a love for Jesus could leave you unloved and a relationship with your Father can leave you abandoned by your husband and she stands so straight, her faith-filled eyes never wavering.
Lidia stands behind her mother, and I look over at her, eyes so dark, fleeting, nameless shadows, and her and I, we are both daughters of the broken. I try to hold her gaze long.
“I raise my four children all by myself.” Blanca glances over at Lidia.
“I get up everyday at 4:30 in the morning and make the food for the children and I leave at 5:30 to take the bus to the rose fields and I get home at 8 o’clock at night. Lidia, she takes care of her little brothers while I work all the six days a week, all the day, all the days, in the greenhouses. I have to keep trying this hard for my children.”
This woman before me, she’s so small, so strong.
“Three years, we wait for a sponsor.” Her eyes brim, a cloud breaking.
I shake my head no, touch the translator’s arm. “Three years? Lidia has waited three years for a sponsor?”
The translator asks again.
“Si, si.” Blanca nods. She holds up three fingers.
It’s like an echo of Rosa’s words from yesterday, Rosa with the pigs and the potatoes and the pain — “Where is anybody to help?”
The three whole trips around the sun —
The three whole years that the leaves budded out back, unfurled and burned and fell — what have I done and where have I gone and what have I spent during the three years that Lidia and Blanca and her three sons have turned the faces up to heaven and begged and worked from dark to dark and waited and hoped for someone, anyone, to come?
Where have I been? Where am I going?
Blanca, she shakes her head. “We did not think this day would ever come.”
I want to say I am sorry that I waited this long.
I am sorry that I wasn’t here sooner.
Sorry that she is my sister and she is my neighbor and it’s not distance that divides us from our neighbors — only indifference. Where has my heart been?
Why hasn’t my heart softened and beat sooner, a thrumming rain in someone’s blank, drought sky?
“Now Lidia and her brothers can come to the Compassion program at the church when they are done school, when I am still in the rose fields.” Blanca, she points to the south.
“And the pastor with his Compassion program, they teach them the Gospel of God and to sing to Jesus and they learn how to walk with God and you have made what I never thought would happen, you make it possible for me and my children.”
Do I tell her of all the months I frittered away $38 and made it next to impossible for her and her children?
That I didn’t even give her a second thought when I bought a second and a third and a fourth, and of things I only wanted and didn’t need?
Where have I been?
And what was the sin of Sodom but this?
“Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” Ezekiel 16:49
Blanca wants to go down the dirt road to point out where they live and it’s only when we are walking with the divorced, abandoned woman — when Lidia murmurs something shy to the translator.
When the translator asks me if I will walk on the other side of the path – “so that Lidia can hold your hand.”
And it’s only when I feel her fingers slip through mine — when I squeeze Lidia’s hand tight, two daughters of divorce and division and brokenness holding on to each other — it’s only then, Lidia’s skin touching mine, that I know it in the deep places:
All poverty is first a poverty of relationship.
Falling out of relationship with God was our first fall into poverty — and into conflict and sin and hardship. And all subsequent poverty —- All poverty stems more from an absence of right relationships than a right resources. Anything that takes the place of the primacy of the Christ-relationship leads to a place of poverty.
And it’s when we aren’t in right relationship with God, when someone or something in our life plays God, we work poor. The power hungry who play God in developing nations make very real people and whole countries poor and when I’m hungry for possessions, playing God, I make very real mothers poor.
And when we are all in right relationship with God and man, resources right themselves.
Blanca who walks ahead of us, who was sent out of her Amazon jungle home all alone at 13 to find work in a city where she knew no one, Blanca with a busted marriage, she walks this cactus-lined path, testament that poverty is ultimately relational.
Lidia’s fingers curl around mine and right here, the path so dusty, we entwine a bit and I can actually feel it — what the poor really lack — The poor lack linkage. What the have-nots don’t have is connection.
Connection with God and connection with those who have much knowledge to share and much love to give and much hope to offer and Lidia’s hand feels warm and right in mine.
And maybe this is the thing:
The poor are called to claim their identity as children of God and the non-poor are called to cast off their identities as gods.
The poor are beckoned to apply the gifts they’ve been given — because they have worth.
And the non-poor are beckoned to appropriate the gifts they’ve been given — because everyone has worth.
God is calling, beckoning the rich and poor alike – and He’s calling us all into right relationship.
The sun’s hot and we walk an edge of Ecuador and my hand’s sweating holding Lydia’s but I don’t want to let go—
Because the world’s real poverty is a poverty of lovers.
A poverty of people living loved and loving living and living His love.
Of people making relationships not rationalizations.
Of people who quit comparing and competing and begin caring and living compassion — who’ve touched the hurting next door and the hungry in the next continent and know the face of God.
Lidia turns and I catch her smile.
At the edge of a hill, everything falling away, she points towards her home and I see and I see her and where she’s headed.
I don’t know how to tell Blanca where I’ve been.
I don’t know how to say I’ve spent while she’s stood in the dust and been watching the sky. I don’t know how speak of her $260 a month, a mother working 14 hour days away from her children, dark till dark, divorced from relationship.
I don’t know how to speak of all the sin of all the Sodoms.
But I do say this. Lidia is standing close when I tell her. Blanca stands closer.
I open up the photo album, like this opening up of everything above.
I turn the white pages to a photo of our six.
I point to our long-maned girl with a half smile, and I say, “This is our oldest daughter. Her name is Hope.”
I look up at Lidia, so shy, so soundless and watching.
“Esperanza.” The translator says her name in Spanish –
Blanca is listening to the translator, but her eyes, I can feel them, how they are watching my face.
Three years is very long in mother time.
“Our girl said to tell you, she will write letters through Compassion and we will all stay heart linked, and this — today,” I can’t stop my heart from bursting — “it’s just the beginning of a long and beautiful relationship.
I wave my hand between us and her and Blanca, she can’t stop nodding…
So we take it, this thin thread of silver, all these circles of silver linking and I string it around Lidia’s neck, a gracing and blessing, and I hook this necklace around her and it is right — how the poor and non-poor can be called together and connected.
“She wanted you to have this,” I bend down so Lidia and I are eye to eye.
“Our girl wanted you to have a bit of her name, a bit of who you are…. sisters.”
I say it slow and right into Lidia – because I know where I am and where I am going.
“Hope — she picked you.”
I lay my hand gentle on her raven hair, a benediction.
Blanca, Blanca desperate for esperanza, Blanca waiting desperate for three long years, she squeezes my arm,
“Tell your daughter – I am so happy — so thankful — that Hope, she picks a child — my Lidia.”
Lidia, she reaches for the pendant, her fingers feeling what’s etched and she whispers it aloud –
Letters smaller than a man’s fist.
It’s then that the translator says it, it all coming right down the mountain, dark and heavy with promise, him saying it to us standing close, mother beside mother, our daughters entwined —
“It’s looking like a good rain…”
Will you check in with all the other God-sized Ecuador stories that Melanie, Sophie, Kelly, Amanda, Patricia and Shaun are writing?
Will you pray about sponsoring a child in need today? They need you — and you need them…
Let Hope Pick Them… Desperate mothers are waiting for us to choose Esperanza
And what ever you are thinking and wherever you are at right now —
Thank you for giving the gift of prayer right now to just one child in need of Hope…