More from the trip to El Salvador – The last stuff about day one I promise…
ROBERTO AND CHINESE FOOD IN CENTRAL AMERICA:
We’re staying in a nice hotel in San Salvador. Just beyond these thick walls wired for internet access and cable TV is poverty and crime. This bothered me when we checked in. How not immersive. How pampered we are even here.
It bothered Brian too. So he asked Suzie, one of the coordinators from Compassion in charge of this trip’s logistics, about the cushy treatment of us artist and speaker types. She explained that this is not a mission trip we’re on. It’s about observation. She went on to tell him that some artists, some Americans in general, shut down when they see what we’ll be seeing – this kind of sadness and depravity. So, to lessen culture shock and depression and freaking out of all kinds, especially on the part of some of the very young who’ve never been outside their hometown, we get cushy. We get American cuisine. A bus. A hot shower. Air-conditioning. And Chinese food.
That’s right. Chinese food.
We went to the Compassion headquarters for El Salvador this morning. We joined the staff’s regular devotion and prayer time. They asked us to share some music with them and then we took a tour of their offices.
And then we walked together, Roberto and our group, to Roy Lee’s – a Chinese Restaurant down the street. Chinese food in El Salvador. It was actually very good. Not very Chinese tasting but very good.
Over lunch I learned that Roberto is among the few, one out of a thousand, who has attended University here. He studied marketing and has another degree as well. He’s very young, somewhere in his late twenties and he’s engaged. He’s decided to devote is life to Compassion International instead of the corporation he once slaved for because the marketing world “had a different definition of ‘integrity’” than he did.
This move is even more strange seeing as how his mother is the secretary for the President of El Salvador. He’s grown up in politics. He could run for office himself. He has the relationships and the charisma and the brains for it. So I asked why he’s pursuing change through Compassion instead of the government. In such a small country, the size of Massachusetts, surely a godly man in the right office could bring about a revolution of the most benevolent kind or at least curb the poverty that marks this place.
He once thought so too. He explained though that when Christians get help from the government in their efforts to do good in the name of Christ, those Christians always have to compromise, at least in El Salvador. He claims that in his country parts of the bible would be off limits, parts of God would have to be avoided, in everything Christians did to help people if that help was funded or fueled at all by the government. The conversation with the least of these is thus limited before it even begins – if the government is along for the ride, or driving. He says this is what he’s seen in his country’s history. The Church then, he said, is the only institution capable of bringing all of God to the people of El Salvador. And that’s what Compassion does. It doesn’t just feed and educate and heal but it also brings any part of God and His character and Word to people that they need. And it does so through local people in local churches around the world.
The Church, Roberto elaborates, is an a more powerful institution than any government. An alternative politic? – I ask. Yes. Exactly – he nods.
Why don’t more people see this in my country – I wonder. If only more potential politicians like Roberto went around confessing loudly the inadequacies of politics and endorsing the Church with their life’s work. Maybe then we’d be as faithful as we are political and maybe then we’d see more of Heaven on earth.
I got no fortune cookie today. So I’m making a prediction of my own. I won’t be content singing quiet encouragements wrapped in polite pop songs to the American church anymore. There’s something else I’m supposed to be about now. But what else is there for me? What else does God want from me? I feel propelled to action, inspired by the lessons learned over sesame chicken. But I’m no Roberto.