It is a surreal experience riding through the Honduran countryside in a giant yellow school bus. There is absolutely no telling what your eyes will see. From the menagerie of animals alongside the road (I'm not talking about the fields beside the road. I'm talking about standing at the edge of the road) to the myriad of houses and shacks and lean-tos that dot the landscape. But this is where I found myself with my family on Tuesday.
We were wrapping up the last hours of a nine-day mission trip to the northern part of the country. I can't tell you the full impact of what I experienced last week nor can I adequately put into words how it touched my family. I can simply say we left El Progresso changed. How can you not be? I have a different understanding of many things. I reflected on them as we made our journey on Tuesday.
I know what intense poverty is. It's not having to live with basic cable; it's living without ever seeing a television. It's not having to trust in an unreliable vehicle for your daily transportation; it's walking everywhere you have to go no matter how many miles that may be. It's not relying on the government to give you food; it's going without food because the government is too poor to provide for its people. It's not your inability to pay the water bill; it's having no source of fresh water to draw from at all. I don't make these statements to down play those who live in more moderate levels of poverty. It's just to say that when someone is considered poor because they only have one TV or ride the public transportation or live in a two-room house, we are fooling ourselves.
I also learned the international need of belonging is best met with the international language of love. Like my friend, Pepe. Pepe is a 12 year old young man who lives in an orphanage just outside El Progresso. His smile could light a thousand villages and his heart overflows with love that he wants to give to somebody. For his privacy, I won't share the details behind why he was there at the home. Suffice it to say, he's there. And if it weren't for customs agents and international laws and restrictive adoption policies, he'd probably be here at my house today (at the unanimous pleading of all 6 of the Barrons). He might not be the only one.
Yes. It was a very good week. And it would be a great tragedy for me to come home and be unchanged by the faces and stories of people like Moises and Gabby, Julie and Wendy, Marvin and Luis. But a greater tragedy would be if I failed to tell you that they exist--along with billions of others like them on the planet. And you and I can make a difference. It might be by giving. It might be by going. You choose. But to ignore the "least of the little ones" as my grandmother used to call them, would be a sin in the greatest of proportions.
Anyone who sets himself up as "religious" by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world. James 1:26-27 the Message