I Don’t Understand – No Lo Entiendo

Report received May 16, 2013 from Barranquilla-based accompaniers Bill and Liz Branch.

No lo entiendo.  No lo comprendo.  Over and over again, we have uttered those words here in Colombia. 

Usually we mean that we don’t understand the Spanish.  But -- there’s a lot more than Spanish that we don’t understand.

We don’t understand how people with miniscule resources can be so gracious.  Over and over again, we have been treated to wonderful hospitality in situations where we wanted to be the givers not the receivers.

We don’t understand how people whose lives have been ripped apart by violence, who have been uprooted from their livelihoods and homes, start anew with new resolve to make a home for themselves and their families and do so with courage and generous love without reacting with violence or lashing out in anger.  We visited one such group of farm families last weekend.  Their herd of 625 cattle was stolen some time ago.  Thanks to the Lutheran Church, the farmers now have 62 cattle for a new start.  In spite of threats to run them off, these folks stay on their land and organize themselves for a better future. 

We don’t understand how people with a lot of land and a lot of power act as if they have the right to take land and lives with impunity.  For example, a multi-national palm oil corporation wants to add the small “finca” of a poor farmer to their vast lands.  So they may hire paramilitaries to kill the farmer or frighten him from his finca.  The next season they transplant young palm trees to that plot of land.  Then we remember the prophet Nathan’s story of the poor man who had only one ewe lamb.  The poor man’s prosperous neighbor decided to enhance his own flock, so he confiscated the poor man’s one lamb.  This story may have been about David, but it applies to the “David” in all of us.  

We don’t understand why a young person who wants to attend a youth triennium in the US this summer is denied the opportunity (by the U. S. Embassy), partly because of where she lives and partly because Congress has yet to address immigration issues in a just manner.

We don’t understand why a God who is all powerful and all present would choose to send God’s son and heir to live for and serve us, people who act with impunity, choose violence over dialogue, and live to put ourselves up and others down.  

But we do understand that God in Jesus Christ continues to offer all of us the possibility of forgiveness, hope, and learning to live together.  “Thy kingdom come…”