As I went walking I saw a sign thereSeat belt buckles clicked. We were about to leave this labor camp and drive to the next farm. Heading back down the one lane bumpy dirt path, a huge black SUV suddenly appeared, turned towards us, and began accelerating straight at us. I saw F’s hands clench on the steering wheel, but knew we were never to back down. Don’t stop. Keep driving. So we did, driving straight, staring into the windshield of the oncoming car. No other way out. Keep going. A last minute swerve and a flash of sunglasses shielding the eyes behind the angry face as the SUV races by us, barely avoiding swiping the side of our small sedan. We were in a little car. That’s always how it was. The patrones and farmers had the trucks. And the power. Bigger the car, bigger the title, bigger the stakes. Even the boys full of machismo were visibly frightened. I heard our supervisor’s instructions in my head, “Be strong in your words, and calm in your mind. If the police come, or someone has a gun, keep right on with what you’re doing.”
And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”We’d been assured that if anything happened to any of us, our friends would write a corrido in our honor. We all joked about what our ballads might say, and who we would get to write them, but despite the jokes, none of us actually wanted one.
But on the other side it didn’t say nothingThe screen door of the trailer banged shut behind me, and I lightly placed one foot on the top wooden step before hopping straight to the bottom. It was covered with a slick green moss, a sign of its age and submission to the forces of nature. I was pretty sure these stairs were mainly rotten, and I was never quite ready to find out for certain. The pig cooker was still in the middle of the tall grass, and the neighbor’s scraggly looking dog emerged from its wooden doghouse that had graffiti reading Smokey in airbrushed letters across the side. I didn’t know if Smokey was a reference to the dog’s name or simply the quality of the air around here, because between the barbecuing and all the cigarettes my friends had gone through, there wasn’t much left to breathe. F and J were right behind me, having invited me to hang out on our lunch break, and now ready to go to the Food Lion with me, which was the most exciting hangout spot we could come up with. As I turned the corner of the trailer, I saw the sleek Dodge Charger that looked out of place next to the dog house, metal fence, and wandering roosters. Sheriff, the side of the car read, in gold and black letters that were intimidatingly official. F and J immediately started speaking Spanish again at the sight of it, motioning for me to follow them. The officer had his window rolled down and I could feel his eyes fixated on us I felt like I’d chosen sides. I was with them. The officer wanted to know why. I would have told him. He didn’t ask.
That side was made for you and me“Hey, did you see that minister at the meeting yesterday?” “Yeah I did, she was quite attractive, wasn’t she? If all our ministers in the UK looked like that, I’d probably become a Christian. “My brother, God rest his soul, used to watch American religious television programs. He always said that if there was that much joy in churches in the UK rather than them being so dull and lifeless, he would have gone to church.” “Yeah, I know what you mean. When I was a young lad I used to go to Sunday school. We all did. They had free oranges. We’d go to get the oranges, you know?” “Yep. I respect people with religious faith. I haven’t got any myself. My buddy is working on me. But I really respect people who do, it’s a grand thing.” The Honorable Brit mused with his comrade in response to learning about my faith. Participation in life together is not just sorrow, but joy. I’ve found joy in the church.
In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?As I looked up at the moon lighting the path in front of me just enough for me to see the next step, I finally understood my rodeo trainer’s words. It was never about the theories and specifics of the horse world. It was about trust, patience, calmness, body language, and comfort in the face of fear. It was about the embodiment of love. That was a lesson never meant just for the stable, or at least Jesus didn’t seem to think so.
***I used to just hold on to my H4 dream. But now, I’ve found that I want the whole rest of the alphabet too. F, J, L, P, C, M. The Word. The whole beautiful community, where you can flip paint buckets upside down and sit for hours as the sun sets talking with representatives from countries I’ve never seen, whose grounds I’ve never walked. So many languages, life stories, dialects, and dreams. The richness of the Body of Christ, with which we can walk out the melody of new creation. Because it turns out:
This land was made for We
En el principio ya existía la Palabra; y aquel que es la Palabra estaba con Dios y era Dios.
Él estaba en el principio con Dios. Por medio de él, Dios hizo todas las cosas; nada de lo que existe fue hecho sin él.
En él estaba la vida, y la vida era la luz de la humanidad.
Esta luz brilla en las tinieblas, y las tinieblas no han podido apagarla.
San Juan 1:1-6