July 9, 2011

Christian. It is a term used over and over again, with many never knowing the meaning. As a youth minister I constantly asked my students the true meaning of the term Christian. They would always answer “to be Christ-like.” We daily refer to ourselves as Christians but how often can we say that we are being Christ-like? This is what I constantly challenged by students. To not just be Christian, with all the stereotypes of the world surrounding the term, but to be Christ-like.

Today I was sitting and talking with a fellow Cristiano. Last night we both went to an amazing concert at the Gran Teatro in Santiago. It was put on by a major church here in Santiago. It has been going on in other cities around the Dominican Republic for more than 15 years but this was the first time it was “allowed” in Santiago. It was a grand affair used to attract the biggest of the big in Santiago. Little did these big-wigs know that the message of Christ would be shared. They acted out the story of the paralyzed man who Christ healed because of the faith of his friends. It is a story I have heard over and over again. It tells of the amazing faith of friends that brought the man to the feet of Jesus, breaking through the roof to present him to Jesus. The focus of the story has always been the friends but tonight, at least for me, the focus was on the paralyzed man. In the skit, not only did he not have faith, he did not even want to go! His friends insisted, comically saying, there was nothing he could do to stop them, as they picked up his mat and carried him to Christ. At the end of the story, the paralytic, played by a man who had actually lost his right arm, told his personal story and the message of salvation. In the end, nearly half the place was standing. I thought for sure I had misinterpreted something (I’m still studying the language and only get half the message sometimes), not sure why so many people were standing. However, I had not. This was truly the amount of people accepting Christ. We continued to worship together, now as one body. They even called all the pastors in the room to the stage to have the people of Santiago bless them as well as the pastors bless the people of Santiago. It was truly an amazing night.

Today as I reminisced with my fellow Cristiano, he talked about the poverty in Cuesta Arena, which he recently witnessed himself, and the richness of the previous night. He talked about how the people in Cuesta Arena share chairs because they can not afford to buy new ones and how they cook, bathe, and drink water that is incredibly contaminated because they can’t afford to buy clean water. It is a level of poverty that the rich cannot even comprehend. And it is no different in the states. People choose to see what they desire to see. As I sit in Sairy’s new apartment, with a view over the city of Santiago, I see the new apartments being built, massive houses in the mountains overlooking the city, and two grand plazas full of all the un-necessities of life. If you look close enough, you see the poor digging through the rich’s trash, begging in the streets, and sleeping in the shade.

When I worked with the homeless in West Orlando, it was no different. As you drive down 50, you see beautiful neighborhoods, huge malls, and nice cars. If you look a little closer, you see Dirty Dan struggling to walk down the street, Tim sleeping on a bench, and cities growing in the shadows of the woods. It is not until you open your eyes and desire to see, do you realize the poverty surrounding you, even in the richest of cities. It is not until you walk with them, do you learn their names and more importantly their stories.

To be Christ-like is much like the once popular saying What Would Jesus Do?. In order to know what He would do, we must become like Him. We develop His eyes, to see the all people as His children. We tune our ears to His ears, to hear the cries of His people and listen to their stories. We reach like His arms and hands to hug and touch the un-touchable. But most importantly, our hearts and minds become as compassionate and tender as His.

Sairy told me once that our minds are like that of a parachute. If they remain closed, you will certainly die. As I enter my second year in the social work program, this saying hit home. Before any action can be taken, you must open your mind to understand. People often ask why I come to this city. What does my heart feel here that it does not feel in the States. The truth is the humility of the people. As people come face to face with Christ, their hearts are changed. They become servants, true servants whose hearts break for God’s people and whose eyes are opened to the world around them.

I have no idea the future that lie ahead of me. Whether it is in the States or in the Dominican Republic, my eyes have been opened and my heart has been penetrated. My prayer for myself, as well as other “Christians”, is for change; that we may literally cultivate into the eyes, hands, feet, hearts, and minds of Christ in our communities.

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