Formerly titled "Where Feces Dot the Landscape"
I made my way through the streets of Samborondón, Ecuador, picking my way between the piles of animal droppings that covered the unpaved roads. My flip flops were thin, and certainly no match for the sharp rocks and rusty nails that lined my path. I had been sticky before leaving the church, having covered myself in mosquito repellent, but now, as the sun beat down on our group, my sweat began to mingle with the repellent, creating a truly unwelcome experience on my skin. Unpleasant smells wafted up to my nose.
My cold was getting worse, despite (or perhaps because of?) the sweltering heat. As I blew my nose one more time, I tried to focus on my surroundings rather than my rapidly deteriorating mood. We were passing marshy areas, where houses were built directly over the green waters on precarious beams. Some residents had begun to build brick houses, as opposed to the bamboo constructions which surrounded them, but for reasons unknown, had been unable to finish them, and now the local flora had taken over. We passed a house built entirely of concrete which had been recently painted. I silently wondered if drug dealers lived there, since it looked like a mansion in comparison to the other houses. On the few rough, unfinished brick walls of the neighborhood, names of political candidates had been painted, adding a limited amount of color to our drab surroundings.
Children could be heard, playing both indoors and out. Animals of all kinds, ranging from mangy dogs to sparsely-feathered ducks and turkeys to dirty pigs, wallowed in the dust and mud. Adults, mainly weary women, went about their daily chores. They washed, cooked and scrubbed, all the while keeping their shoulders slumped. Any twinkle that may have resided in their eyes before was now long gone. Disappointment seemed to mark their every step.
As I walked, I wondered what I was doing here. I like to think that I am a compassionate person, but now I am starkly aware that I have limits on showing compassion. I like to serve others as long as I am within my comfort zone. I will gladly send money to my "adopted" child in Thailand. And I can write notes easily enough to encourage missionaries around the world from the safety and security of my computer. Sure, I'll willingly give someone a ride, if it's on my way. And I'll read an occasional missionary biography, so I feel good that I'm opening my mind to other people and their needs.
But maybe my heart also contains the black seed that is within these people. However, where their blackness comes out in more visible ways, such as adultery, drunkenness, satanic rituals, thievery and homosexuality, mine fills the dark recesses of my soul with pride, arrogance, selfishness, judgmentalism and impatience. And the consequences of their choices, like poverty, abuse, suicide and families torn to shreds, are viewed by most to be ugly welts in the social fabric. However, the consequences of my sin are self-aggrandizement, isolation, loneliness, pushing others away, and the loss of sensitivity in my heart. These infect society at every level and are just as destructive (or dare I say more destructive?) to the human soul.
I am no better than these people, despite my great comforts at home, despite the fact that I make more in a month than entire families make in a year. Any my closet, despite being more sparse and older than those of most of my friends, would be considered to hold the clothing of a queen. And yet, I am no worse than them either, despite their contentment and joyful community living. God created us both, and loves us equally, an idea which is so difficult for me to grasp.
I have been humbled. God took me through a difficult journey to discover the blackness of my own heart. Yet I return to my home blessed, full of thankfulness. My view of the world has changed, and I pray that it will never again be the same.