Between weakness and power, the desert…



We live in an oasis of violence, a desert town, a border town. Shimmering with blood, Ciudad Juarez, MX, is our sister in misery. This border town is the chalkstone in the cartel’ s business and ground zero of a deadly war. Heavy armored patrols of Mexican and Federal police roll though the city in convoys of 2-10 vehicles. They are like sketchy memories passing by as they appear to be the hand-me-down armor of Desert Storm, another desert war gone by. These convoys pass by battle-ready, fingers on triggers, mounted .50 cal machine guns manned with anxious soldiers. They parade through my neighborhood often, passing my gated courtyard. I stare at them, one half of me in awe the other in disbelief. Even as I watch them rumble by, I am surrounded by gates, concrete, bars, and razor-wire. And somehow, even behind these barriers that are intended to hold out the evil, and although just down the street 50 men sit like starving cats waiting to pounce on the evil, I am not at ease. My wife is inside the house scrubbing a tile floor that has not been cleaned for two years. I think of her during these times.

At night we prop a flat iron griddle against the front door, poised to come banging down to the tile should someone try and open our broken front door. I usually lay awake nights, on my back atop our bed, and listen to the squeaks of our rackety swamp cooler while wondering if I would be able to hear someone trying to break into the house over the noise. What would I do if someone actually came charging through our door? I realize how little I trust my God. Though he has been so faithful to me, so constant, I still fear the fact that this world can be dirty, dangerous, and unpredictable. This is a crash-course of learning to trust him on a new level.  

In the first two weeks of August, about 120 people were shot and killed just in Juarez: more than 800 this year. We are not a target, per-say, so we do not go about our day in fear, but there is a nagging in the back of my mind, like a metronome keeping time, telling me to be aware. Misty cannot go out beyond the gate of our tiny courtyard by herself, not even across the street to the convenience store. If I leave the house to walk to Juan and Carmen’s just a few houses down, or if I go to the store without her, I have to lock everything behind me. I leave feeling vulnerable and my heart hurts for her.  We are told to never allow anyone in to our patio or to give anything away. People here are hungry and tired and live with a different kind of need, one that we do not quite understand. They tell us that if we give them a foothold, they will not stop taking, using force if needed, until there is nothing left. It is difficult for me to hear that, especially when so much inside of me wants to give. “El Toro”, the Bull, is the name of an alcoholic that hangs out by the house. He asks me to give him something every time I see him. He is one of the many hungry ones that are our new neighbors. He and his friends spend each morning sharing a cheap bottle of Mezcal, a tequila-like spirit, they mix it with juice and banter with any and all who pass by. 

We live in the desert now and the desert life is different from all that I know. We live in Mexico and at night, from our roof-top, we can see the string of border lights marking the line between two very different worlds. People keep asking Juan and Carmen about the gringos living in the hood and they wonder why. Some days I wonder what we are doing here too. But even with eyes wide open, surrounded by rumors of violence and the shock of a new culture, my heart is slowly welcoming this harsh land.



7 Responses to “Wide-eyed”

  1. That’s it, we’re coming to get you guys and bring you back! I don’t care what the Lord says… WOW!

  2. Chad Michael Davis Says:

    Nice blog. Mucho interesting. Looking forward to seeing you guys in a couple of weeks. Minimize risk as much as possible, otherwise live. Just like the mountains I think.

  3. As I read through the journal of events that have transpired in your brief time there so far I am brought back to the reality of the sheltered life that we lead here in Colorado. We have little to worry about with gangs, drugs, violence even catastrophic weather events. We can have our little snap shots of more severe social and climatic environments with our little mission trips but it is the staying power of people like you that are willing to endure on long term that makes the difference. We so appreciate your willingness to follow God’s DIRECT will. We have jokingly said to God “I will go wherever you send me, even if it is to an African village”. You just did not know that he would send you to Juarez.

    I remember this quote from a book on philosophy that I once read and memorized the entire book (ok, I googled this):

    The world has achieved brilliance without wisdom, power without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war that we know about peace, more about killing that we know about living. ~Omar Bradley

    And to be more poignant:

    Sometimes I think it should be a rule of war that you have to see somebody up close and get to know him before you can shoot him. ~M*A*S*H, Colonel Potter

    We love you guys….

    Dallas, Lisa, Luxe and Roxy

  4. […] know it, but I cannot reconcile it in my heart, or my head. I think of Chad’s comment from Wide-Eyed. He said, “Minimize risk as much as possible, otherwise live. Just like the mountains I […]

  5. Adam&Jess Says:

    Having only recently become aware of your blog, I just read this first entry tonight and am blown away … I am also in awe of you guys and the conditions in which you live. May God continue to protect you and I look forward to reading more posts from your life in Mexico. Thinking of you guys and praying for you.
    Jess Williams

  6. Jess,

    Your comment could not have come at a better time. Thanks for taking time to read our blog and especially for your prayers, for it brings much needed light and strength. We appreciate you and Adam a ton!

  7. Kiery Says:

    I was just reading these earlier blogs again so I could remember what you were experiencing when you first moved to Juarez. We all have our own types of gates, concrete, iron bars, and razor wire in place to keep all that is evil from taking those things most precious to us. Yes, we even have our own versions of flat iron griddles that we prop against the door of our lives; some way to warn us of impending danger. For me it was a couple suitcases against the door of a not so good looking motel room where I found myself arriving very late at night in Carolina. The atmosphere seemed more than a litte uncomfortable. That is saying a lot, since I was coming from New York City on an excursion to get away from the concrete city for a few days. But, I am reminded of something Jim White said. You met him when you were here. He has told me of over half a dozen experiences that he had where he should have been killed. But miracle of miracles, death evaded him –again and again. He said that it is not the locks that keep out evil people. We all really know that an evil person can get into almost any abode if he really wanted to do that. It is the Lord that keeps out the evil. –The angel, whom we do not see, standing at the door. I have heard of instances where God has shown the angel to the enemy and the enemy was stopped in his tracks. I have accidentally left my door unlocked at night here in Dallas county. But the angel protected me while I slept. I’m wondering if your faith in God has changed with regard to the danger in Juarez. Do you ever “get used to it”? I wonder if you feel a lot different when you go into the interior of Mexico. Do you “relax” on those trips? I trust you are keeping alert, especially in Juarez. Watch out for those roaring lions!

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