Its almost one month since an 8.1 magnitude earthquake hit the southern Mexico states of Oaxaca and Chiapas killing hundreds of people and wreaking enormous damage to structures big and small.
Today in Chicapa de Castro a small town just North of Juchitan de Zaragoza in which almost every third house is collapsed or is severely earthquake damaged, sledgehammers thud the steel reinforced concrete beams that lay like fallen a giants across heaps of clay tile, bricks and concrete blocks. The work goes slowly. It’s hot and the frequent rain showers provide welcome breaks and refreshment. Three weeks ago this twisted wreck was a family home and they watch as walls that they dreamed of one day passing on to their children are slowly reduced to rubble and moved to the street.
I want to ask them what they are thinking as we slowly clear everything to the street ready to be cleared away. The red tarpaulin flaps over their head in the wind and they sit and watch with no expression. Unfortunately the language barrier between us forms an invisible but tangible wall of silence. He is in his 70’s and his wife is too. They still have a daughter who lives at ‘home’ but what will their future be?
After a rain break I get up to work take my shovel and begin again loading the wheel barrow. This is our second day clearing this house and I am sore and going slow. Something drips and runs down my chest, I’m not sure how much of it is the rain and how much is my sweat but I’m soaked and tired. The old man get up and shuffles round headed in my direction. He walks using a shovel to support him and starts to try to help me. With the little Spanish I know I manage to stop him “Señor, no trabajo por favor”. I wanted to cry and I think he did too but I think he had shed too many years over the last few weeks to find more for this small humiliation.
I found myself reflecting on how hard it is to accept help or gifts without wanting to pay. God gave us Jesus freely. The Bible says it like this; “while we were still enemies of God, Christ died for us”. Just like the old man with his shovel we try to do something to at least help but really all our efforts are futile. Everything we have is a gift and when we try to earn God’s favour by working or giving things it’s really like handing the gift back to the giver. God’s love is free. He volunteered himself to take our place.
Our work here is voluntary and it is given freely. As we love people even the walls of language and culture are broken down. It’s hard being here but it’s worth it. Oaxaca, México is suffering and it feels right to be here and suffer a bit with them. And after almost two weeks hard work we have started to see lives being transformed.
Love breaks down walls and the walls are coming down.