By Roberta Updegraff
“The most profound mysteries are not hidden away in remote, secret places; they are mostly an unrecognized part of everyday life. We fret over mowing the lawn and miss the deep mystery of how the grass grows. We seek to shush a weeping baby but rarely ask where tears come from and what they could possibly mean."
Michael Card, Hesed and the Mystery of God's Loving Kindness
There are many, many inspiring quotes on dreaming. And there are also many hollow, silly sayings. What they all have in common is our perception that we all have aspirational dreams. Years ago, on assignment in Africa, a mission co-worker pointed out that when a person’s mind is fixed on how to fill just daily needs, there is no time for dreaming. Foresight takes mental energy not available to those whose intent is set on alleviating hunger, danger, or physical wellbeing.
A decade ago I asked a couple of the Renacer teenagers about their dreams for the future. They hadn’t thought about their prospects—at least that they were willing to confide even with coaxing. What one young man did admit was his fear. He was afraid of what awaited him when he aged out at Renacer and would be forced to make his way in the world. Santos couldn’t imagine—fear held him captive. That young man stumbled into adulthood, making mistakes, learning hard lessons, and finally settling in a job that gives him some satisfaction. It isn’t regular employment but undergirds his work ethic. He’s in his thirties now.
Going to school was not a dream she allowed herself
Santos has four sisters. They grew up at Renacer after the death of their mother almost twenty years past. His oldest sister shared with me her delight in receiving a book bag and uniform when she came to Renacer. She had been the caretaker for her sick mother and her younger siblings. Going to school and learning to read was the dream she had not allowed herself. When she aged out at Renacer, we had hoped she would become the first girl to embrace our scholarship and transition to a career. But that didn’t happen. Her younger sister became pregnant, and Caroline became a mother once again. Then came a young man who lied about his intentions, and she had a daughter of her own.
We established our university scholarship over a decade ago. I believe God called us to do just that. We had transformed through our years of work team visits to a ministry of presence at Renacer. Leslie Santee helped us clarify that call with the videos she produced for us that May. For all our years of visitation, we struggled to see what difference those visits had made. Only two young men had accepted our scholarships. Several of the girls had become single mothers, and almost all of the boys ended up in disciplinary programs at Project Victoria or on the streets, involved with drugs and gangs.
The youngest Carolina and Santos youngest siblings now receive our scholarships. What changed? How was it they dared to dream? That they were brave enough to pursue those dreams? It could have been the encouragement of their big sister and brother. Maybe the examples set in motion by two other alumni who risked dreaming. Or it could have been the young man who embraced his and completed his education with one of our scholarships and went on to work on a cruise ship.
But, I think there is more to it.
Those two young ladies are among ten alumni enrolled in post-secondary educational programs in Tegucigalpa. I used to take for granted the sweet thankyou speeches they children would give at our welcome and farewell parties. They would beseech God to bless us because we came so far and cared so much. I overlooked the obvious in their similar adult notes thankyou notes. While I (in particular) fussed over making our visits work, searched for words of encouragement to keep them on the “straight and narrow,” and prayed God’s protection over them, I never asked how it was that we connected in the first place. How was it that this ministry was ideally suited for them—and us? And most importantly, how was it that should love us—strangers who came for but two weeks a year from a country that spoke another language?
God spoke the answer in a devotional, “Listen.”
I would have told you that I am a listener—I have to be in Honduras since I am interpreting so often for the Honduran children and the Gringo team members. But I come to realize over the months that ensued since reading that devotional that I had practiced selective listening. I, too often, anticipated what the speaker was going to say. And up until then, I had never thought to listen with God. This trip God had put his finger to his lips enough times for me to learn to quiet my soul, open my mind and listen to what He would have me hear.
Listening with God opens us to hear the heart of the matter.
“We’re family,” one of the young ladies reminded me, as she hugged a Renacer brother, a troubled young man, who seemed to have a turnaround. “We love and look out for each other.” One of the younger girls confided in me that her fear of disappointing an older Renacer sister kept her on track. And then one rainy afternoon the scholarship girls threw a dinner for us. We sat in the dark (electricity had gone out) with rain pounding on the roof. One by one they opened up, laughing, crying and confiding. I put my finger to my lips when my Gringa partner wanted to interject, asking me to translate. “Listen,” I whispered and felt God smile.
“I could not have imagined that someone who had not met me—probably will never meet me could care.”
As Leslie interviewed the young man next in line to graduate, I recalled his hard journey through adolescence and young adulthood. We had prayed often and hard for Jans. When my friend June’s church adopted a scholarship recipient to support, she contacted Jans and offered her friendship. He had confided that her faithful Messenger and e-mail encouragement had carried him through some tough places. He made a friend—a mentor and adopted-mother. I smiled recollecting the times June contacted me concerned for Jan’s health, wondering about something he did or sharing her joy at one of his accomplishments. Indeed, the most profound mysteries are in plain sight, unrecognizable without God’s eyes and ears. They are recognizable in the friendships God weaves into our lives.
Please watch the Video on the Home Page to see learn more about these wonderful children and young adults.