Our little group struggled to climb the steep, un-paved street. It had just rained so the going was treacherously muddy. We had to park our vehicles on the paved streets below, as driving them any further would be extremely dangerous.
We marveled at the structures along the roadside, little make-shift buildings that were constructed of nothing more than sheets of metal, perhaps some wood, secured precariously to foundations composed of old rubber tires. The families who called these shacks ‘home’ eyed us warily as we struggled up the muddy road. I was struck with the irony that not one of these structures had indoor plumbing, and the outdoor bathrooms were covered by lean-to’s composed of old discarded billboards and such, yet all of these homes had electricity!
As I panted for air (it was quite a hike!), pushing myself onward and upward, my eyes caught sight of a beautiful little garden someone had planted outside their ‘front door’. Tears leapt to my heart as I observed a young mother’s attempt to make something beautiful out of her poverty. This trip had only just begun and already I was irrevocably changed.
At last we arrived at La Roca, The Rock, a shining light set upon a hill. This place was not only a church, it was a refuge. It was a shelter for the orphaned and unwanted, for the women who could no longer stay with abusive husbands or the young women who could not allow their younger siblings to live with abusive fathers.
The children ran up and greeted us with beautiful smiles and soft brown eyes. The women of La Roca greeted us in the same manner, but their soft brown eyes were weary from the day’s labor. In their hearts they carried the blessed knowledge that tonight we would cook dinner AND clean up the mess! And tomorrow morning they could leisurely enjoy breakfast while we served.
The very few men who were there felt the excitement, also. They knew that they would not have to finish painting the school by themselves and that soon their foundation of tires would be strengthened against the upcoming rains.
We were finally introduced to the Pastor of this humble orphanage-slash-church. He was a jolly Hispanic man with a sweet, unassuming wife and gracious children. Their little ‘apartment’ was humble by any means. They did not have any luxuries above what the other inhabitants of La Roca were allowed. They had to shower with cold water and use the community bathrooms along with everyone else.
I watched and listened as this Pastor proudly gave us the grand tour, which took quite a while. They didn’t call this place ‘The Rock’ for nothing. It was literally built on a hill, so you had to ascend and descend many stairs to get around the place!
He showed us the school which had been his dream. It was a very modest school with very high ideals. It schooled not only the children of La Roca, but also the children in the valley. These children were born without identity. They had no birth certificates nor records of immunizations so they could not attend regular schools. Here they received an education and immunizations. And they also were able to receive documentation of their existence. He then showed us the medical clinic that had only recently begun operating. He shared with us story after story filled with the miracles of the Lord.
I had assumed that this man had grown up either right here or at least close by. He so easily adapted to this environment and the people loved him dearly. However I soon learned that he not only was born a U.S. citizen, but had graduated from a prestigious college and in fact had the freedom to pursue a very comfortable career.
But this man loved the Lord with his whole heart and desired nothing more than to serve Him. And when the Lord called him to this humble place, he and his wonderful family picked up and moved to a foreign land and together they built this church that had once been only a dream, yet was now a light of hope to all who would receive it.
The word Pastor means literally ‘to feed’. In my eyes this man is the epitome of a Pastor. And in the day he meets his Lord and Savior, he will receive a crown set with many jewels and a hearty “Well done”.
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