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The kind of feet that Jesus washed
We walked into her home. There sat Dona Christina with her head tilted to the right, at a 45-degree angle. There were few chairs, so I asked if I could sit down on the five gallon bucket next to her. She nodded, yes. I sat and looked down at her feet. They were swollen, callous and purple. Her shoes sat next to her bare feet. They were worn, second hand, old shoes. No shoe strings. Her aged feet sat naked upon a neatly swept dirt floor. Her toenails were curled, broken and dried. I imagined to myself, “These were the kind of feet Jesus washed.”
Dona Christina is an elderly lady. In her youth, and adult life, she was a street vender. She sold tortillas in the small village of Esquipulas, Nicaragua. Her grown children live in Managua an hour away. They would have to spend at least a day’s wage to visit her, which would mean choosing between feeding their children or visiting their Mother. The youth group was there to visit Dona Cristina for the action part of our Scripture Course. Each course consists of twenty hours of Scripture reflection and twenty hours of practicing the Works of Mercy. Why? Because we believe, in the words of Dorothy Day: “Food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul.” Both are needed.
I continued to survey the room and the situation. Our youth group was a little uncomfortable even though Dona Cristina knew most of them since they were kids. The small room had a dirt floor. Old bamboo strips were nailed together for walls. There was an indoor wood burning stove that I was sitting next to. I looked up; there was a straw thatch roof, covered with years of black smut from the smoke. I thought to myself, “My God, one accident with fire and this place would go up in a blaze.”
In Nicaragua, the rainy season is about to begin. I imagined, “This place must leak a lot water in the heavy downpours.” Then I realized: “My God, this elderly lady is completely in the hands of God. She is at risk in so many ways. Anyone could walk in here at night and take or do whatever they wanted to this poor old lady…..what in the world am I going to say to her?”
This was our second visit to Dona Cristina. Our plan was to cheer her up with a small celebration and a scripture reading. The youth group, each one giving from their own poverty, brought all the ingredients to make a fresh juice drink to share with Dona Christina. I brought the Oreo Cookies. One girl brought a blender from her house, but since there was no electricity in her shack they went to a neighbor’s house to blend the juice drink. Lionel, one of the youth leaders, and I prepared a celebration of the Word with a few songs and chose the scripture reading. The younger girls carried on like normal teenagers. The leaders in the group prepared the long awaited juice drink.
When all was ready, we stood up in a circle. I asked Dona Christina if she would like to hear a passage from Scripture. She responded, “Who are you all and what do you want? I am an evangelical!” She took me off guard. The last thing I wanted to do was to impose on her anything she did not want. But Lionel responded and comforted her by saying, “Dona Christi, don’t you worry! We are simply here to visit the sick. There is only one God. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ. We just want to visit you and that is all.” She nodded in agreement and approved for our work of Mercy to continue.
One of the young women leaders opened the Bible, as we sung. She read the selected passage we chose in which Jesus heals a woman who had suffered a hemorrhage for twelve years.
Then the miracle happened.
During that reading it was as if everything in the room changed. Dona Christina’s face lit up. As we shared our insights about the passage, we all felt a deep peace in the room. At the end of the celebration, we prayed over Dona Christina. We asked the Lord to heal her of all that is draining her life, energy and happiness. She seemed to understand. She smiled, and began to speak with a new energy. After we finished our prayer, the youth group served the cookies and juice. Dona Christina began to laugh and I saw that she had no teeth… “Oh, that is why she is not eating the Oreo cookies,” I thought. She drank her fruit juice and thanked us for our visit. There was a storm brewing and the group said, “Pat, it is time to go.” I went outside and looked up at the darkening sky and felt the dampness in the air.
We said, “Goodbye” and made our way home before the rain began.
Images from Nicaragua
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