Monday morning we took the COF group down into La Carpio. La Carpio is one of the poorest areas of San Jose. The section of La Carpio where our community center is located is known as the "cueva del sapo" or "cave of the toad." It has a reputation here in San Jose as being very dangerous. Most people who live in San Jose have never been to La Carpio and don't plan to ever go there. Local gangs are active in this area.
The first thing we did was take the group on a walking tour of the area to give them a feel for what life is like in La Carpio. We walked past small homes with dirt floors, built of tin and wood. We saw a couple of recent mudslides that had left some homes in precarious positions. We carefully tiptoed across sewage in the road. Laundry was hanging out on fence posts and bare bushes. Trash littered the sides of the road and tumbled into the toxic river passing through the neighborhood. Stray dogs, with their ribs prominently displayed through their skin, sniffed at our heels as we passed by. Electric cables criss-crossed the area as local residents rigged up access to have light at night.
As I brought up the rear of the group, I heard one of the girls in the group exclaim, "It's so beautiful!"
Her words stopped me in my tracks. I had never thought of mud or sewage or trash as beautiful. I had never thought of poverty as beautiful. And yet that is what God saw that day - the beauty of La Carpio - and He showed it to this young woman who inadvertently showed it to me.
As we made our way back to the community center God opened my eyes to the truth of her words. I stopped by to visit a family I have come to know over the years. The grandmother is the oldest person living in La Carpio, having lived to be over 100 years old. We reconnected with Devlin, a young girl who fell in love with Mark two years ago. I have her picture in my home office. Her smile upon seeing Mark was priceless! I stopped to visit with another young mother who introduced me to her newest son, David, who is two months old. He was perfect and gorgeous! We spent the afternoon hanging out with the precious people who make La Carpio their home. It really WAS beautiful!
(photo courtesy of Ellen Olive)
Thank you, God, for letting me see with YOUR eyes!
"This is the message you have heard from the beginning:
We should love one another." 1 John 3:11