I was reminded of this truth rather powerfully last week when none of the gringos (except for me) were able to come to the Spanish speaking bible study that meets at our house, so our group consisted of only myself and four of my undocumented Mexican friends. One of the families (Felipe and Monica) lives five blocks north of us and has been splitting time between Juarez (their home) and Denver. They were in Juarez in April when gunfire between warring drug lords broke out in front of their trailer. Everyone hit the deck and waited for the shooting to stop. When silence finally returned, they walked outside of their home to see five corpses, one of which was that of their 9 year old son. Another woman at the study was Ana, an undocumented mother of three who lives in an apartment a few blocks from us. The fourth person was an undocumented Mexican woman who now lives in Houston but was visiting for a couple weeks.
I started our time by asking how everyone was doing. Felipe and Monica said that it had been an exceptionally hard week, as the waves of grief around the loss of their son had been especially intense. They began to sob. Ana broke into a mini-sermon to remind them that God loves them and that he disciplines those he cares about. She sited both the life of Job and her own. I’ve known Ana for four years, but learned for the first time that her first child had died at 6 months of age. Ana talked about the extreme grief that she has known that comes with the loss of a child, but that for some reason God wants to take some of us home early, which she stated is what he had done with the son of Felipe and Monica. Felipe and Monica continued to weep; Ana continued to preach and comfort. We eventually laid hands on them and prayed. Afterwards, we opened our bibles to James 5:10-11 and moved forward with what we had previously planned to study:
Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
Felipe and Monica are homeless and – for the moment – living with Monica’s family. They are looking for a low-rent place to stay. As they were leaving they saw a For Rent sign in front of the apartment across the street. I explained that the reason it is for rent is that it was vacated the previous Saturday after an intruder broke into the neighboring house, tied up the man, and attempted to rape the woman. When she resisted, the intruder pistol whipped her and then shot (and missed) as she ran in terror from the house. We don’t have to worry, I explained, because the police ended up shooting and killing the intruder after a high-speed chase through our neighborhood. Ana replied that we don’t have to worry because God loves us and protects us. Felipe said at least this is a safer place than Juarez, which has the highest per capita murder rate in the world, higher even than Mogadishu, Somalia.