so, in my newsletter this month, i talked about a place named demeter. for those of you who have ever been on mission trips to
they are hated, neglected, and looked down upon by the dominant society. to top this all off, this month, the private owner of the land where demeter is has decided to use it (for what, i don't know), so just as it has been getting really cold, the 1,000 people that live in demeter in homes, which most in the us wouldn't ever imagine living in, but filled with a strength and love that many in the us are in desperate need of, will be kicked out. the homes they have painstakingly built will be destroyed and they will be forced to either move in to an already cramped living area with family, make some miracle happen to find a place in a social housing project, or they will be left homeless. they will disappear in the records of doctors and community health workers who will no longer have an address to contact them. and they will be left to brave the cold, harsh winter without a home, let alone a house.
my question in my newsletter was: where is god in all of this? i still want to know where you think god is, but now i'm going to also offer two of my ideas/thoughts.
1-one of the most obvious places (and this may be an imperialist understanding) is in fraňa and the work that she and precious few others do as a community health worker for far too many roma settlements. god is there in the concern that fraňa has and in her passion for work with roma. god is in the time she spends with them and learning from them and fighting with them against the oppression and prejudice they face.
2-god is also there crying with those who cry and who are losing homes and suffering. i'm reading a book right now by peter j. gomes. in it, he has a chapter that i just finished on the bible and suffering. he talks about the idea in celtic mythology of "'thin places' in the universe, where the visible and the invisible world come into their closest proximity" (p. 214 the good book). that is to say, the "thin places" are the places where we are closest to the divine. they are the places where we can most readily find god.
he goes on to speculate that maybe the thing places are found in the suffering that people experience. it is when we suffer that we dig deepest, when we realize not only that we can't do it alone, but that there is a greater power to help us, not out of the situation, but through it. when we suffer and realize that we cannot possibly "go it alone," then we begin to rely on the greater power found in jesus. we know that we must lean on god and god will be with us in our suffering and will help us to get through, rather than escape, our suffering.
though those who are suffering in demeter may not know/believe it, i see god in the suffering and in the resourceful ways they find to keep going and to "suffer through" whatever they are experiencing. at the end of the chapter, gomes states that we must "look to those who have been excluded and placed on the margins, to those who by the terms of the world are not successful, to those who, in jesus' words, 'suffer and are persecuted'" (230). it is in them that we can see god and can find god's will for the world. they are in the thin places and have the best chance for showing the world god's will and god's love.
some responses that i received were also very poignant and are very much worth sharing, so here they are:
1- the most obvious answer for me is that i see God in there with them. God, to me, lives in the slums more obviously than he lives in the fancy schmancy areas of town. i guess that's based on what i learned in college (that the bible really speaks against wealth and for the poor as one of its main themes) and then the experience i've had getting to know other social groups while i've traveled. ... i think he's way super en contra against injustice for the poor and helpless. there may or may not be different paths to God ... but no matter how many paths there are to him, that doesn't mean there aren't a bunch that still don't lead to him too! and instead of determining that now by doctrinal position, i would do so by how we treat our fellow man. -thanks kati g.
2- i see god in the people living in demeter, as god is frequently distrusted, ignored, and/or badly treated by those who think they're better. i see god in the people living in demeter for their (god-given) ingenuity that allows them to make a home and a life out of (essentially) nothing. i see god in the people who come in to help those living in demeter for their care and concern for all of humanity. i see god in the people living in the projects who are willing to share what little they have with those who are being forced to leave demeter. satisfied? -thanks stef b.
3- Where do I see God in those situations. It's a difficult question to answer. Often, I feel, people would respond by asking how you could possibly see God in a situation like that. How is it possible to see God in a situation that at first glance seems filled with so much despair and cruelty? In situations like that I think I see God most. God is in each person you come in contact with. Each person who holds even a shred of hope; an ounce of faith is an image of God. Times may be difficult, but those individuals have a sense of faith that many of us who live a comfortable existence do not have. Seeing children laughing despite what they do not have; seeing a smile of someone who is ill; a mother selflessly giving her children her portion of food so they can be full and she be the one to go without; those are all the face of God. We often question why these situations happen, why God lets these situations happen. For that question, I do not have the answer. All I know is that they have God within them. -thanks
i'd love to hear more about where you see god if you've got some thoughts. feel free to leave them as comments or to email me. if you email me, let me know if i can post them or not:)