November 16, 2020
I made the return home, to Agua Viva Children’s Home, a place that was so transformative to me during my teenage years and young adulthood.
Logan dropped me off at the gate. He is no longer allowed on the property.
I rang the bell at the guard gate, and spoke in Spanish to the man who appeared: “Good afternoon. Please inform Señora Evie that Lucas has returned home.”
The guard was confused. Who is this random, bearded graying gringo standing outside the gate, and all by himself? He went and phoned the director.
After a minute or so, he returned. “She’s waiting for you at the top,” he said. And then, smiling, “She says you know the way.”
Oh yes, I know the way.
I helped build this very road leading up the hill, where the home lies.
The dormitories, where our teams slept at night, a bunch of white, sheltered, spoiled Dallas kids, complaining of June bugs on the window panes, and no air-conditioning, and pitiful shower systems that barely drip lukewarm water.
The Comedor, where all gathered for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, where I smuggled PB&J sandwiches to all the orphans (since those delicious Guatemalan delicacies were reserved for “gringos only” – a policy I found detestable and against which I rebelled in secret).
The soccer field, where we all mixed and battled like brothers until covered in mud from head-to-toe, laughing in the pouring rain; where I earned my glory and fame behind the goal, diving for shots and tasting the dirt and shouting “VIVA LUCAAASS!!!!” at the top of my lungs every time I blocked an orphan’s shot, egging him on for more, daring him to beat the gringo.
The assembly room, where we would gather at night, and take up the guitar and sing and dance and clap our hands and shout at the top of our lungs about the love of God.
The back fields overlooking valley. The volcano, and the mountain, high above it all.
The still presence of the God of the Universe, so present to me then, still lives here today.
And meets with me now.
It was in this very spot, nearly 20 years ago, at this same little round table, now stained and worn out from the ages, where I first knew – deep in my bones – that life was about so much more.
That the world is bigger, that needs of others are greater, and that, if I am not careful, I could live my entire life forgetting about who God is, and who I am, and who he has called me to be. That I could waste my life, and the little time I have, working and toiling towards worthless endeavors; fortune, fame, frivolous pursuits that, in the end, go nowhere and do nothing.
That I could waste it all – my time, talents, my passions, my endeavors and pursuits – and die with regret for not having given it all away, for just going with the flow of the masses, for giving in and giving up, and, worst of all, losing heart.
And here stands a man at the bottom of a hole he’s made.
Returned home, to Agua Viva, at 36 years old; broken, and reborn. And I can still hear the voice of God:
“Now you are free. Now live again. Follow your heart, the one I have given you, the one I placed in your chest. Follow Me.”