by Vicki Schmidt
I traveled to Central America for the first time in 1984 and I went to change the world. I went to bring my love and help the poor. I went to do what I understood to be a gospel calling – to bring the good news to the poor. What happened to me was unexpected, but I should not have been surprised. The Bible talks a lot about bringing Good News to the poor; the reality is that I did not understand what kind of “poor” the Scriptures were talking about.
At that time in my life I understood poverty as not having the finer things of life, to include all the stuff my culture entices me to surround myself with so I feel rich and full and complete. It wasn’t long after spending a few days with new found friends in Latin America, my thinking began evolving. I discovered that while I had riches and gratification of my physical needs, there was a poverty of my heart and soul which was being defined for me by those whose lives were touching mine.
This new understanding was like the difference between night and day. How could it be that I am the one living in poverty, a spiritual shabbiness and lacking a deep commitment to a God of grace and love of the purest sort. How could it be that my sisters and brothers who suffered so deeply through civil wars and government oppression understood themselves as rich because they were followers of Jesus and had a depth of spiritual understanding beyond what I had known as a believer in Jesus! I witnessed their rising above all the devastation of their lives to see their God giving them power and purpose in their lives. I heard them testify to being carried in the arms of God, and lifted by the Holy Spirit always with them in their daily struggles.
What they had in spiritual riches far surpassed the value of all my physical amenities. The experiences led me to a conversion to the poor, a conversion to the spiritual richness – the overwhelming flow of God’s grace and mercy and compassionate care into the lives of my sisters and brothers. This is the God they showed me, the God they trusted.
Upon returning to my home I became passionate about inviting others into this same spiritual journey. Because my changes were difficult to explain, I just kept asking people to “Come and See”. “Come and see the richness of the poor!” I continue to pray for those who have been transformed and those who will yet experience this.
Indeed the Spirit of God was at work in all this when I met Richard Fenske and together we began inviting people to enter relationships with our sisters and brothers in Latin America. This is a work that must continue – the life changing transformative relationships that bring peace and justice to all God’s children.