We found ourselves in the La Ceiba mall. Not our first choice, but the authentic Honduran shops and markets weren’t open as we had expected, and we had a few hours to kill before church started.
Other than the baristas giggling at my mangled Spanish in an awkward attempt to order a frozen coffee, I could have mistakenly thought I was State-side.
Flatscreen TVs broadcasted the latest Honduran soccer match.
Teenage “novios” walked around with their hands in each others’ back pockets (a practice I find disturbing in any culture).
The latest clothing fashions were on display in store windows and on mall patrons.
The food court was packed.
The place was buzzing, alive with normal Sunday afternoon chatter. People hanging out. Relaxing. Shopping. Enjoying life.
Except for me. I was bothered.
Just 2 miles away from this swirling activity is a slum. A village of cardboard shacks, housing impoverished children, who we traveled 2,700 miles to try and help. Were all these mall rats oblivious to the hopelessness residing just off a dirt path within walking distance from where we shopped? Were they blind, or did they just not care?
The least of these were invisible.
Just as I was sticking my boot in the stirrup to mount up my high horse, I got a little nauseous (and this time, it wasn’t from drinking the water). How often could I be accused of the exact same thing?
Culture instinctively protects us from uncomfortable things. It gives us a framework through which we can sanely process the world. That’s what cultures do.
When we leave what know to intentionally embrace the uncomfortable, we can’t help but see the least of these. They’re exactly who we came here to find.
Back home it’s harder. They disappear into the background. They merge with all the noise. The ebb and flow of daily life swallows the very things that glow like neon when we’ve stepped out of normal.
So here’s the question. No judgment. No condemnation. No cynicism. I’m sincerely asking myself.
How do we once again see the invisible?
“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God.” –Romans 12:2 MSG