Biblical stories come to life
From the Pastor's Desk
July 7, 2018
There's an HIV shelter in Tijuana, Mexico, that brings me close to Jesus. Albergue Las Memorias is an amazing place of men, women and children who live in community caring for one another. When people first arrive, they are often quite ill, given a bed and nursed back to health by other residents. Once they are restored to health they do the same for the next incoming folks.
I see biblical stories come to life whenever our church visits this place. Prodigal drug users are welcomed back "home," given blankets, food, love and encouragement. Physical bodies are resurrected with first steps down the hallway and out of the infirmary. Modern "lepers" whom family members and society have abandoned are held and touched. I see Jesus in about 100 faces hanging out, eating meals and providing healing and acceptance.
There are many emotions that come about in a typical visit. This past week, some of us arrived and offered our usual "spa" day. We washed feet, rubbed on lotion and provided massages to residents, beginning with those most ill. People in the tuberculosis unit nearly always die and sadly, there is about one death per week. The residents and those of us who visit, try to provide some amount of comfort to the bedridden. Then we offer up the same acts of service, including facials, to the ambulatory residents and we paint little girls fingernails bright and sparkly. It is an afternoon of healing touch and joy.
Sometimes we play games or do crafts and get to know their stories. Beautiful and bright 8-year-old, Maria, (not her real name) enjoyed arts and crafts with us and hugged me. This little girl's dad held two university degrees, but he died from a heroin overdose. Look out world, Maria, is going to take you by storm, thanks to the love and care she gets living at the shelter with her little half-sister, "Mary."
Several of the residents have suffered strokes related to their addictions, HIV and health status and they are mostly paralyzed on one side of their body. They didn't think they could manage making paper flowers, with only one good hand, but wanted to throw a great fiesta for their retiring missionary. So, some of the guys paired up and together used pairs of two good hands to make flowers. One of the men, "Juan," who has lost a leg, speaks six languages, only he can't speak any of them since his stroke. Instead, he writes in multiple languages on his wipe-off board.
We were happy to hear that 20-something, "Isabel," found a husband and no longer lives at the shelter. She was discovered positive for HIV as a young girl, but nobody knows why. Her parents were afraid of HIV and they dropped her off, never to see her again. The residents cared for her and made sure her beau was worthy of her hand.
There are as many unique stories as there are people at this mission partner of ours. As I sat with beautiful trans-female, "Joanna," who I'd like to adopt, I heard about her self-hatred and the father who shuns her. Joanna is no longer willing to be a street worker. Now she has dignity and self-worth and feels the love of God. I knew that Jesus was there with us, amongst the outcasts, the sick, the poor, the living and the dying.
If you wish to see Jesus, it seems easy at this place, where children enjoy a piñata on one side of the dining hall and someone else is slipping into death in the adjacent infirmary. We who visited, got to share our blessings, touch and be touched, and intensely experience being disciples of Christ.
We attempt to visit about once every six months if you should care to join us.
About Tehachapi Community Church, UCC:
No matter who you are, no matter where you are on life's journey, you're welcome here!
The Tehachapi Community Church, UCC is an open and welcoming community of faith that believes that each person, created in the image of God, holds a piece of the truth. Therefore we respect each person's unique spiritual journey. We invite you to experience the difference that religious freedom in a caring community can make in that journey.
We are located at 100 East E St., in Tehachapi. Worship and Sunday School are at 10:30 a.m. on Sundays. Please join us for coffee and fellowship at our Friendship Hall after worship (approximately 11:30 a.m.)
All are welcome.