It was another 18 hour bus ride from Cuzco to La Paz, and I unfortunately didn’t sleep at all. The ride was freezing and bumpy. The Americans had an annoying, but finally successful time trying to obtain visas. We had ascended significantly higher, too, so it was so much colder here than Cuzco, and no one was feeling any better from the altitude change. As soon as we arrived, our host, Pastor Tito, put us to work. This week we helped him with his children ministry and homeless ministry.
He would take us to various neighborhoods on the edge of La Paz to play with the kids. Playing soccer at 4000 meters is no easy task, let me tell you, especially if you’re not athletic. We put a couple shows on for them, acting out Bible stories to illustrate Jesus’ love for them.
At night, Pastor Tito would take us out to feed and clothe the homeless. The homeless here would pitch make-shift tents out of tarp and all huddle together in huge groups to keep warm. Tito would invite them to come out of their tents to receive a hot drink and some bread. We got to pray for them and hug them and tell them that they were loved. They told us how unusual it was for them to receive such simple care, as most people either ignore or abuse them because they are poor.
On the first night of homeless ministry, God really revealed to me His heart for people. I was feeling really sick from all of our traveling. My body was so fatigued from the altitude, and I was still extremely nauseas. It was freezing outside, and even windy. I did not want to be out there feeding the homeless. I was sick. I was tired. I had to go to the bathroom every five minutes. I just wanted to go to bed! Try as I might, I could not seem to really focus on what we were doing. I wasn’t really present, and therefore not fazed by what I saw. I was pouring the drinks, I was laying hands to pray, I was embracing my fellow man in my arms. Unfortunately, I think my willingness was subconsciously a device to distract myself and make the time go faster.
When we finally did get ready to go back to the house, we stumbled across a man standing up against a wall and sleeping. To my slight disappointment, we stopped and offered him food and drink. Two of my friends gave him some of their clothes to keep him warm, as he didn’t have any layers on besides his shirt. We didn’t quite catch his name; he was drunk and babbling all kinds of nonsense as he accepted our gifts. The other four Spanish speakers and I were the only ones who understood him, and it wasn’t worth translating for the other five who didn’t. He kept going on and on, and it seemed we would be standing out in the cold forever.
We stood there listening to him for so long. I kept looking at my watch, and hopped up and down a few times to keep warm. Out of nowhere, my friend Scott turned to me and told me to pray, so I did. Before I could even convey anything to the Lord, He told me something that silenced my private complaints.
God told me this:
Charlie, I see you. I know you’re sick. I know you’re tired. I know that because of this you don’t want to hear what his man has to say. Luckily, you’ll be going back to your bed very soon to rest and you won’t have to listen to him anymore. But I want you to know that I will still be here, listening to him. To every drunken word that comes out of his mouth, every beat of his heart, and every thought in his mind. I will be here listening to him until his last breath, because he is precious to me. He's precious to me just like you are precious to me.
And so there I saw the heart of God standing before me, leaning against a wall in the Bolivian winter. This is what God values. This is what He cherishes. People.