As this Lenten season began, I found myself once again in the Dominican Republic. Every year at this time a group of faculty, staff and students travel with me to communities on the island of Hispanola to learn and experience first hand the joys, challenges and hopes of subsistence farmers and immigrant field workers from Haiti. Host families open their lives and homes to us in a way that enables, even non-Spanish speaking sojourners to feel connected and welcomed as extended members of the family.
Inevitably during our time in the beautiful mountain village of Arroyo de Toro, as part of learning about the community, we hike over dirt roads and narrow paths. Farmers guide and lead us to their fields where the crops are grown that help enable this community to survive. To actually enter into these fields, we always need help. The reason for this is that the fields are protected from cows and horses by way of barbed wire fences. Trying to negotiate the space between one strand of barbed wire and the next, by oneself, takes acrobatic grace, no loose clothing and perhaps a thinned down version of one’s body. I don’t recommend it, and neither do my torn and ripped jeans. The only sure way to more easily and safely make it through the wall of menacing wire is to have assistance. Helping 12 people through the twisted wire on the way to a spectacular view of the village, fields and distant ocean took some effort but it was well worth it. The action of the helpers and the yoga like moves of the participants through this obstacle left me with a fixed image.
Several days after returning from our pilgrimage to the Dominican Republic, Bishop Kae Madden, without knowing about these recent wire crossings, shared this poem/prayer with us on the Bishops Council:
In the landscape
Of LifeBarbed wire fences
Some barbed wire fences…
We put up.
Some others string and twist.
Some barbed fences
Are societal or cultural,
Some are practical
Some from our past
Some fear of the future.
Steps down on a lower barbed wire strand
And lifts up an upper barbed wire strand
Creating a spaceInviting you
To GO THROUGH,To come in… or go out,
To new life,
To the unexplored
To what is beckoning….beyond.
As Jesus-with-skin on,
how might you hold a space for another to come in or go through?
(Or sit alongside if moving is not currently possible?)
At Jesus’ invitation and accompaniment,
look around you to discover what is restrictive
and where you might be Let In or Go Through.
Who might stretch the wires for you???
As we continue on our journey through this Lenten season, I hope that we can reflect upon these images in our own lives. Some of us who grew up on farms have had to learn how to put up these barbed wire fences and have also personally experienced making our way through these fences. Most of us have driven past these fences without much thought to how protected we are from the horses or cattle that would surely wonder onto the roads without these barriers.
I pray especially for all of us who need to cross over to the other side of these wires to find reconciliation, to search for new life, to be sent to plow and sow in fertile fields. I pray that we would be of assistance to those who are fenced in and trapped in barren lands.
May our Compassionate God through the Holy Spirit lead us forward.
Paz y amor!