There are two prominent figures that overlook the market and downtown Tegucigalpa, Honduras. The first, El Cristo del Picacho, is located in a beautiful park with an incredible view of the capital city. It costs 10 Lempiras (roughly $.50) to see this Jesus, which seems to debunk any theology about salvation being free.
The second is a yellow house on the opposite hill, which is home to one of the more prominent drug lords in Honduras. Everyone knows he lives there; he simply has paid-off police and other law enforcement to ensure security for his residence and dealings.
In between these two cultural "icons" is a plaza buzzing with activity. The streets of this plaza serve as residence for many of Honduras' most marginalized and ignored.
There are the "glue boys," homeless youth who flee domestic distress and develop addictions to yellow shoe glue that provides a cheap daily high. Most pay no attention to kids like Mil Años, a young boy nicknamed for his aged face that results from his addiction. Micah Project, instead, calls them family and extends them invitations into their community where they can be lifted from addiction, receive an education, and discover the love of God in Jesus.
The plaza is also home to a young leper, who sits at the main entrance of a Catholic Church. Our youth took notice and offered him hot food, cold water, and quite possibly the only expression of hospitality and affection he encountered all day. Talk about a story that will preach!
Then there are the severely physically handicapped, aged "glue boys," homeless old women, and a long line of others. As our youth walked with leaders from Micah Project throughout the streets of this Honduran Central Park, stories of Scripture came alive. It was almost too much for some of our youth.
And we remembered those overlooking the city, symbols of liberation and oppression. We were in the space between them, a very thin place where we could hear echoes of the benediction from the previous night's debriefing:
May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, hard hearts, half-truths, and superficial relationships. May God bless you so that you may live from deep within your heart where God's Spirit dwells...And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, in your neighborhood, so that you will courageously try what you don't think you can do, but in Jesus Christ you'll have all the strength necessary." (Franciscan Blessing)
It is true, Honduras is a country in distress. The nation is plagued with political corruption, insufficient education, significant malnutrition, pervasive poverty, increasing drug-related violence, and a police force confused about who to defend- drug lords or vulnerable citizens?
It is also true that beauty, love, and hope are sprouting up like mango trees in the back yards of Guaimaca homes, an hour outside the urban center. If we are not paying careful attention, we may miss these stories and the sweet attestations to the kingdom of God falling from their branches.
Each day of our evolving youth-to-youth partnership in Honduras began and ended with cross and resurrection stories. Youth were invited to share where they encountered suffering and despair and where their eyes and ears were opened to signs of God's hope and redemption.
I am convinced this should become a daily, personal and corporate discipline. The temptation is to either fix our eyes on Cristo del Picacho and forget the drug lords wreaking havoc behind us or be overwhelmed by the drug lords and others just like him, unaware that Jesus has entered into real human suffering and promised all of us new creation.
The call of disciples of Jesus is to live in the spaces between Picacho and that yellow house on the hill, or at least make pilgrimages of partnership there, with an honest and awakened hope that this new creation can and must begin now.
And I am firmly convinced that this especially begins though the youth of our respective communities.
Here Are Some Resurrection Stories from Year Three of Our Partnership in Honduras