Another report from our root cause pilgrimage in Honduras as we seek to gain an understanding of the migration crisis.
Sunday was a hard day.
We, who are members of the instantaneous gratification generation don’t truly appreciate hard days. They tend to interfere with our Lattes, Loungers, operation of our remote controls as well as distract us from our all encompassing focus on our electronic devices chasing cat pictures and false news.
But hard days are necessary days. They inform & transform us at much deeper levels than sound bite journalism or google searches ever will.
On Sunday, we traveled high into the beautiful Honduran mountains and deep into their valleys that lie between. We were in search of the Lenca people from Rio Blanco who are the protectors of the Rio Gualcarque. We came to learn from them the stories of why this land is so holy and this river so sacred that they were will to forfeit their lives to protect it, including the life of their leader: Berta Caeresc.
To get to this sacred place, we had to endure some bone bruising and teeth rattling miles as we made the journey along roads that you & I would never accept in our everyday lives because well we have the privilege and the power not to accept these conditions. In truth, its was probably better that we did not fully understand the arduous nature of this day before we started as we might have opted out and that would have been a mistake.
Jesus in his wisdom knows this tendency of ours and warned us in several different Gospel passages to “enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who will take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who will find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)
So we made the journey.
Turns out the bumps and twists and jostles along the way were the easier part of the day. The hard yet beautiful part was to hear the voices of the Lenca people tell their life stories of protecting their holy land and their sacred river from the corporations that would destroy it to build a large hydro-electric dam to provide power to other corporations to rape the land in search of gold and other rare metals so necessary to the operation of our remote controls and digital devices.
It’s hard to hear their stories and realize that at some level we are responsible for the corporations that employ the forces of evil that destroy their lives. Hard but yet very necessary that we pause upon our life journeys to listen, to learn and perhaps even to be transformed in the process.
We gather on a hillside, near the sacred oak tree where they had made a stand against the corporate invasion and told them you will not pass this point. We lighted candles in front of a picture of their latest martyr, the one named Berta Caceres.
A number of the Lenca leaders spoke their stories to us. Each different and yet each the same. Their stories of the sacred river and this holy land in which they farmed stony hillsides by hand because there is no other way to farm it. A land and a life filled with daily struggles and hardship the like of which we have never seen let alone understand. And yet a life and a land that they were willing to die for. So said the aged woman elder, the male leaders, as well as the leader of the woman’s group who had personally survived a machete attack and was willing to endure yet another if such was necessary to save this place from our invading corporate greed machines.
When they finished their stories, I preached a little bit. This was a first for me. I had never preached to a hillside filled with indigenous people patiently & gracefully listening to me. It was an amazingly short sermon for those that have heard me preach and yet it somehow God still spoke through it.
I told of the encounter of Moses and the burning bush. The bush through which God spoke to Moses with the essential message of take over your sandals and show some respect for the land you are standing on is holy. I related the story of how rabbis have argued over why it was necessary that the bush burn and yet never be consumed and their conclusion that it was necessary because it was not known how many times Moses past it by before he noticed it and through that pause to wonder hear the voice of God and learn that THIS LAND IS HOLY.
I told the Lenca people, that on this space and in this time, they are a burning bush. They are the burning bush that must continue to burn and not be consumed until our modern world finally noticed them and paused long enough to hear the voice of God proclaim through them: THIS LAND IS HOLY. And then I prayed and ask our Lord to help us make this happen soon.
In truth, we need millions of burning bushes across the Globe such that eventually the powers of greed and destruction will get the message from God that we need to treat all of God’s good creation with care and respect. We have a few burning bushes now such as these people and the Lakota people in North Dakota as well as Senaca Lake and other places where people are willing to risk freedom, life & limb in order to say “stop this destruction”. But we need a million more.
After our meeting, we walked down the mountain side to the river in order to blend some of the sacred water we had brought with us from our hometowns with the sacred water of their river in effect saying all water is sacred. To get to the river was another hard path, a very necessary struggle to be in oneness with these people in their sacred place. In truth I needed help getting back up the mountain or I wasn’t going to make it. But that’s ok, that fact that we need help should not preclude us from the necessity of making the journey, hard thought it might be.
On the way to where we would finally rest our weary heads this night, we had to pass through a dark dense fog. At times, we had to go slow as the dangers were not readily apparent and the direction forward was not always clear.
That’s where our modern society finds itself right now. In a fog, facing a difficult journey where the dangers are not readily apparent and the direction forward is not clear.
But journey forward we must if our children and grandchildren are to have a future.
Not sure where the final destination will be but I’m sure that we will need burning bushes to light the way. And some of us will need to be those burning bushes allowing God’s voice to speak through us so that our civilizations comes to realize that all Creation is Holy.
Blessings on your journey of transformation
Rev. Dr. Terry Gallagher