Where is God in the midst of poverty and oppression? I have asked myself that question many times over the years, always with a healthy dose of cynicism. Why did He allow this to happen? I questioned, clutching my iPhone as I stepped around a woman clutching two dirty faced children to her side, palm extended in hopes of a few pesos. Why isn´t the church doing anything to help? I sighed, gagging slightly at the sight of a man with a festering leg wound extended into my path. Where is God? I asked again as our group trooped past a man sprawled unconscious on a sidewalk in Mexico City.
Answers came in two different forms: Our hosts in Mexico City, and a book. I was nervous about staying with a host family in Mexico City. Would they have hot water? A bed? Internet? I was more concerned about maintaining the lifestyle that I was accustomed to than appreciating the generosity of strangers opening their home to me. These apprehensions melted away when Shannan and I met our host family. Horlando and Consuelo greeted us eagerly, smiles overtaking their faces. They introduced us to their son and daughter (whose name was also Naomi!) and insisted on carrying our heavy backpacks to their house. During the two days that we stayed with them, they treated us like genuine members of the family. To them, it didn´t matter that we fumbled our way through conversations or that we were only staying with them temporarily. They continued to ask us questions and told us over and over again, “This is your home.” They loved us so completely and genuinely that when we left it felt like I was saying goodbye to people I had known for years. Where was God? Here, with people who loved like Jesus.
My second answer came from the book, Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. I have been reading (devouring) it this week, and I came across a paragraph that took me by the shoulders and shook me, hard.
“I think every conscious person, every person who is awake to the functioning principles within his reality, has a moment where he stops blaming the problems in the world on group think, on humanity and authority, and starts to face himself. The problem is not out there; the problem is the needy beast of a thing that lives in my chest.”
Where is the Church? Where is God? Here, in me. I was so busy questioning and blaming others, expecting others to change things and be better, do better, that I eliminated myself completely from the equation. Where are you, Naomi? I have been asking myself during the last couple of days. What are you going to do?
I can´t ignore poverty here. It´s everywhere, and it has faces, names. It has stories and feelings, hopes and wishes. And now, it has me, accepting responsibility and asking what I can do.