ON THURSDAY I joined a group of about 15 faith leaders, lawyers and justice & peace advocates on a visit to El Tamarindo, a community of women, children and men who have been displaced at least once and have relocated to land just outside the city of Barranquilla. It was my 4th visit to El Tamarindo, and I was excited to see familiar faces again.
I’d like to share the following piece by Rev. Sarah Henken, a short but compelling story on our time at El Tamarindo. Sarah is my site coordinator/mentor this year and serves as mission co-worker in Colombia through the Presbyterian Church (USA). The original post can be found on her blog.
Angels in El Tamarindo
Posted on December 4, 2015 • By Sarah Henken
Today is Angel Gabriel’s birthday. Yesterday, our words shrouded by the uncertainty of whether his home would be destroyed today once again, he told me that his birthday always brings sorrow.
Gabriel is a member of ASOTRACAMPO, the association of campesinos resisting one more round of unjust and violent uprooting from their homes on the farmland of El Tamarindo. (If you’re unfamiliar with this courageous community, I’ve written about them on this blog and for the journal Unbound.) They had received word that an eviction action would take place today, but at the last minute that action was stayed yet again. An unexpected respite from the immediate threat, but not a full reprieve. The eviction could take place as soon as Monday.
While they wait to be relocated to new farmland—land to which they can hold undisputed title—they don’t sleep easy at night. This year they have had their water shut off, received threatening phone calls, faced intimidation at meetings with the rich and powerful who want their case to go away. They live crowded together, neighbors previously uprooted taking refuge on their farms, with little land available and not much heart to plant crops that may soon be razed to the ground. And yet, life finds a way.
Fields which a month ago were dry have grown lush and green; a little bit of water has renewed their beauty. As we sat in the oppressive heat, we prayed for the movement of God’s Holy Spirit to flow amongst us, and the breeze picked up to refresh us over lunch. For a community whose path was unclear, a new door has opened as the constitutional court plans to review their case.
A poem for Advent by Ann Weems begins: “Angels still appear to those / ready to receive blessings / in spite of the barren / impossibility of their lives.” El Tamarindo is one of seemingly countless places where hope is hard to find right now. And yet, we await a miracle, an incarnation, for Christ to come and join us in the midst of impossibility and show us the way. This Advent season, it seems we need that improbable blessing more than ever.
I pray today for hope in the face of impossibility, for protection from harm, for light that counters darkness, for hearts of stone to regain their humanity, for wisdom in choosing words and actions, for strength and imagination to nurture peace in the midst of so much violence. And I pray with thanksgiving for Angel Gabriel, that God guide and uphold him, and bless him with many happier birthdays to come.