A bus of American high schoolers pulls up to a church in one the darkest most impoverished neighborhoods of Monterrey, Mexico. Boys playing fútbol pause, well-worked women drop their conversation to observe, and little girls holding hands skip to find new friends. But beyond the many people standing all around us-some with shy smiles, others with hard stares- are shacks built from boxes. Packaging material for various foods I eat on a regular basis is the shelter that these people call home. We huddle into the sunlight, our knees shaking beneath our many layers of clothes, and see children dressed in well-used jackets and pants filled with holes. They are the very people behind the statistics I have heard for so many years. The poorest of the poor. Here was my chance to answer the call I had felt God so firmly press on my heart- a chance to spread his love to those society does not love, to bring freedom to those in bondage, and to feed the hungry and clothe the needy.
After handing out hamburgers in a church packed with babies, children, older sisters, mothers, and grandmothers, and trying to use my limited Spanish to create an instant relationship with several of them, I was feeling a little awkward and extremely inadequate. Just then, a little girl, who I hadn’t seen yet, came and grabbed my hand. She said a few things really fast and then led me outside. She took me down, into an unfinished/barely started cinderblock building. I asked her what the building was and she said “una casa.” I asked whose house it was and she replied “No se.” For anyone reading this who doesn’t speak Spanish, this means “I don’t know.” Although this was a little unsettling, she seemed sure of herself, so I continued to follow her up onto the roof, which was lined with re-bar, and completely empty, other than an old wooden bench. She led me to it, and I took out a pack of UNO cards- which ended up being the most valuable thing I packed. Kids kept coming as I taught her how to play it, circles of kids around us, just watching, and hoping to get in on the game.
Later, I found out that this building was the new addition the church was building, with the help of organizations like Back2Back. The vision of the pastor and the dozens of women who volunteer at the church is amazing. They truly understand how God intended that the church should function- as a light in a dark world. Our decision to follow Christ is not a selfish one. It has great implications for us and our lives, but it takes a great deal of sacrifice. We must count the cost of being His disciple before we follow Him, because we can’t have an amazing relationship with Him if we continue to live our life as we wish. We have to surrender our own agenda, and pick up the lifestyle of the kingdom. We are the church. We should be living for God and others- feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the sick- bringing the riches of our compassionate God to the ones He longs to hold, talk to, and provide for. The pastor who planted this church in the Rio could have easily planted a church in a nice neighborhood, with an economically stable congregation, and a nice thick tithe. But he didn’t, he laid down all worldly desires in order to follow His whispers, and meet God where He has always been, and come along side Him in the workings and desires of His heart.