Jesus in Gethsemane, artist: Michael D. O’Brien

In his book God and the Pandemic, Tom Wright says the initial calling of the church is to take our place among those who mourn. We are to start there—often with those in tears, who feel locked away from love and/or hope, just like Jesus’ disciples felt in the immediate days after he was killed. All their dreams had turned to ashes. There seemed nothing more to do. How to live with the death of a dream? 

Two of Jesus’ disciples just left. On their way to Emmaus, a stranger joined them (see Luke 24:13-35). He helped to open their eyes to the meaning of Jesus’ death. It was over supper together that they recognized the stranger was really Jesus. He was not dead! He was alive! Their spirits were roused; they immediately went back to the city and began to spread the good news. A path appeared where there had been none. Everything changed. They knew what they must do.

I had an experience like that in 1986, when I was allowed to join a group of social justice advocates, writers and theologians to spend Lent in Nicaragua. During our stay, 20 of the 25 of us got sick. We stopped at a hospital. All they could do was hand out Pedialyte bottles to each of us as there were no medicines available.  It was a time just after their revolution. The U.S. was worried that communists might be taking over there. There were stories of kidnapping, rape, and torture, the most horrific for me being the stories about U.S. backed ‘Contras” bombing day care centers so that the government there would give up right away. We visited one center where the teachers had done many things to try to cope with the situation. In the backyard, where playground equipment once stood, were ditches/trenches that the children were to jump into when they heard the planes coming.

When teachers heard the planes coming, they would play a game with the students. While banging on pots and pans, teachers told students to drop to the ground and pretend to be fish by swimming to a small concrete room in the back of the center, while moving their mouths in such a way as to keep their ear drums from bursting due to the bombs. Then, they would make a run for the trenches.

The mayor of that town was the son of wealthy Catholic parents who sold their property and moved into a poor barrio to teach literacy using the Bible. For that they were considered subversive. They were finally kidnapped and killed. The son went to prison, where he too was tortured—his toes had been burned and melted for example. When we met, he was bringing the first ever water system to the town. 

Over time, my own eyes seemed to open. As we thought about the families of immigrants coming to work on our farm at home, lament gave way to a new vision. We knew what we needed to do.  Babies and toddlers needed an affordable safe place to be while their parents worked.  So we built an on-site day care center. And families needed safe, affordable housing where their children could continue their educational processes in peace, away from gang violence. This led to the birth of Vista Hermosa community.

The Easter season does not begin with resurrection! It begins on Ash Wednesday, when what we had been working for seems to have turned to ashes—like so many of the hopes and aspirations of people all over the world for 2020 because of the coronavirus. As we sit in solidarity and wait with those who suffer now, trusting that even now our Deliverer is standing by, new visions for a preferred future can begin to take shape. Like Maria…who read the story about Shaunee in last month’s newsletter and was inspired to write to us about her own story. Her dream to become a teacher seems impossible today…and yet she continues to trust that God hasn’t forgotten her.

For a woman in Haiti, it could mean finding access to a loan fund to keep her small business alive and her family fed. For those feeling alienated, it may mean having access to safe, affordable housing in a caring community. For Maria, how does she continue to earn an income for her family while finding the time and financial resources to go back to school? Broetje Family Trust wants to nurture and create communities of those who understand that life-giving visions can come out of the laments of broken dreams. Do you have a dream that has been deferred? Tell us about it

Lenten blessings,


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