The Middle of Nowhere
Now this is funny because that was all I could think as we made the drive to Grano de Oro the night we arrived here. Greg was the only one of us who had been to Grano. And he had only been twice before. He had a vague idea of how to get here and about how far it was from town. A vaguely optimistic idea that is. So after we passed through Turrialba, the closest large city to where we were headed, he began to pepper us with encouragement that we were almost there. "About 15 more minutes," he would say optimistically as the van climbed and descended narrow mountain roads. "Oh, now we're really close," he encouraged as the paved road gave way to dust and rocks and wooden suspension bridges. And on we went, further and further without arriving at our destination. And all I could think was, "This man is taking me to the middle of nowhere."
The Middle of the Middle of Nowhere
But I haven't felt that way again since that night. From the first day I lifted my head from my pillow on my bead in my house in this town, lifted my head to rising sun and the cool mountain air and the chirping of hundred of birds, I have felt like this was the center of the universe. Now four months in, when I walk the dusty roads of this place and respond to the greetings of friendly faces, I smile as I realize that in almost every home I pass, I know at least one face, at least a part of their story. And I want to know more. My mind races as I plan visits, invites, think of ways to build more into these relationships, to love deeper. How to know these hearts and histories so that the love of Christ can spill into every corner of these hearts, these lives this town. I pass our Church and dream of the day when it is too full, when there is adequate space to teach throngs of children who come to learn about Jesus, to understand that He is fully present there in that Church, and to receive Him with open hearts. I dream of young people assured and confident in themselves and their faith spreading out from here to sing of His greatness.
The Center of the Universe
I watch Cabecar families make their way into town. Women with babies strapped to their backs, whatever piece of cloth they could find securely fastened just above their chest. Men leading horses laden with items to sell or to bring back to their homes in the mountains. I wonder about where they live and how long they walked to get here. I wonder if they will accept the invitation if I invite them to come home with me. I wonder if their children would hide in a corner, shy and unsure if I speak to them. I want to know if they are hungry at night, if they are sick or cold or lonely. I want to know if their babies might have worms or bacteria causing their bellies to bulge. And I want to fix it, to feed them, to make their babies healthy and whole. I want to win their trust so they don't hide, to figure out how to get to where they live and speak to them in their own language.
Because I want to tell them about this God, this amazing, loving creative God who crafted this end of the earth especially for them. Who loves them with a love that is deep enough to make their lives last forever. To tell them that although their bodily needs are great and the earth that feeds them something to be cherished, they are so, so much more. That they are souls created, like these mountains, to take people's breath away with their beauty, to love and be loved, and to live forever. Because of a man named Jesus, who lived in a little small corner of the world, poor and simple just like them, and yet, saved all of humanity.
Friends at the Center of Our Universe
As the bus continued toward the city, finally, reaching the paved road and lurching forward at a slightly quicker pace, my thoughts turned to the missionaries I know and the little places just like this one where they live and serve. I think of how they too have allowed Him to take them to the middle of nowhere somewhere, to mountain villages and tiny islands, to little slums in big cities, to big jungles in small countries. and made them the center of their universe for the Lord's sake.
And then my thoughts raced to all the millions of places like this one on the earth, all the middle-of-nowhere centers of the universe for somebody in Africa, Asia, Russia, in the middle of the oceans and at the tops of mountains. All the places hours from the nearest city that teem with the lives and the stories and the culture of my brothers and sisters in Christ. And my hurt began to burn with the desire to know those places and the people in them, with the longing to pat round Asian cheeks and rub weathered Indian hands, to laugh long and long with wide African smiles and sit in the still cold of long forgotten churches of Eastern Europe breathing new life. And I was pained to know that I couldn't. That even if I give every day of my earthly in service to Him I will likely never get to do all those things. For Him. In love.
Us, Our Neighbor, and the Bishop of the Middle of Nowhere Center of the Universe
(Bishop Rojas, Bishop of Cartago)
And that made me think about Him. This God who created all those middles of nowhere in this great big world and populated them with people painted in different shades whose mouths sing in tune to different melodies but who were all meant to know, love and serve Him, to sing of His greatness. And I know a little of His longing as I think how many do not yet know His love, how many more do not really understand His mercy, and how many have forgotten what their grandparents once knew deeply. It is a sharp pain and an aching desire all at once to realize how many people do not hope for heaven, how many mothers place babies in the ground and think it is the end of the story, how many of my brothers and sisters are hungry, lonely and sick from things that could have been prevented if someone had only acted on their behalf. And I know just a portion of His thirst, the thirst that held my sweet Jesus to the cross, the thirst that is not quenched with water but with the love of souls.
The Fruits of This End of the Earth
And so today, I rose with the morning sun, aware that I am here. Only here. And for today, this is not the middle of the nowhere, but the center of my universe. For today, I quench His thirst by pouring out His love here. And I am comforted to know that it is enough for Him. He has not called me to everything. He has called me to do something, and I am doing it the best I can. And He, He becomes the center, the knot that tethers all those ends of the earth together in one singular purpose, one eternity. And if I do my part, one day I will walk not dusty roads but streets of gold where no one is hungry or lonely or sick. And everyone shines with His light. And I can only hope that I will find the faces I have loved there to pat the seats next to them and smile wide as they realize that I too am traveling with them.
Planting My Feet and Loving in His Name
in the Middle of Nowhere
Center of the Universe
that is the place.