Post 18: Ay Amor
Prayer makes your heart bigger, until it is capable of containing the gift of God himself. Prayer begets faith, faith begets love, and love begets service on behalf of the poor. Mother Teresa
I was off in Nicaragua with New York Witness for Peace where we were detained by Contras, groups fighting the Nicaraguan Sandanista government, at gunpoint on the Rio San Juan, at the border with Costa Rica. We were taken off our “flotilla” or boat and lead into the Costa Rican jungle. Eden Pastora, one of the leaders of the Contra groups, issued veiled threats if we went on with our trip along the San Juan River. After a “brief misunderstanding” we were released. It was our “15 minutes in the news.” One religious paper said our detainment was a sham, we were actually singing revolutionary Sandinista songs in the jungle.
I was there. We were with Contras who joined hands with us and prayed the Lord’s Prayer before we were released. Once home, I learned the cold hard truth that newspapers lie and distort the truth to sell their ware. It doesn’t matter if it comes from the left. Or the right. Or if the news is secular or if it is religious. It doesn’t matter. It was and remains a huge eye opener.
I question everything I read to this day.
One thing being in Nicaragua did was encourage me to travel and study abroad some more. I was accepted into a mission program for young adults with the Presbyterian Church USA and assigned to Bogota, Colombia. I was at Seminario Teologico Presbiteriano y Reformado – or the Presbyterian and Reformed Theological Seminary. Students came from all over Colombia and Venezuela to study for ministry. Up there, high in the Andes Mountains, 8,660 feet above sea level, the weather was fairly cool and cloudy year round. I thought: you mean I came 2,591 miles to encounter the same summer/autumn weather patterns of Cleveland, Ohio?!
During the time I was journeying south of the border, I learned Barry released a film based on Copacabana, wrote his autobiography, Sweet Life, Adventures on the Way to Paradise, and released another creative album called Swing Street. Even in Colombia I was able to ferret out information and learned that the title of the album referred to 52nd Street in Manhattan, between 5th and 6th Avenues, which was the jazz mecca during the late 1930s and early 1940s. More of that jazz.
It felt like I was now worlds apart from my old friendalows.
In Bogota, the street I worked on was home to many gamines, children who lived in packs in the parks because they had been abandoned by their families. Their families could not afford them anymore. The Seminary provided an afternoon program for these children; lunch was provided and quickly devoured. I was gently reminded that a six year old I played with was really 10 years old. She was small due to the effects of years of malnutrition. Street children sniffed glue as their main meal to stave off hunger. It brought to mind how I used to find my brother’s glue stashes in the basement when I did laundry.
Mother T. once remarked that there are different types of hunger in the world; in the West there was a deep hunger for love. Memories of these children seared my mind. I waited for a bus, and a child who was horribly disfigured approached, begging. Later the seminarians informed me that disfiguring a child was a common practice among the desperate poor – it made the difference between a eating and hunger for a family to have a child so marked as a “beggar.” Another day, on the way to the seminary, an emaciated child was methodically going through cases of empty soda bottles, slurping out the final drops clinging to the bottom as if it were liquid gold. I would open my purse and twenty children would appear out of nowhere. I will never forget this.
Give the gift of music to the next generation through donations to:
The Manilow Music Project
8295 South La Cienega Boulevard
Inglewood, CA 90301
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