What Color is Hope?

What good is a man 
Who won’t take a stand 
What good is a cynic 
With no better plan 

Reality is sharp 
It cuts at me like a knife 
Everyone i know 
Is in the fight of their life 

I believe in a better way

– Ben Harper

Since our move to the desert, on the few trips we have made back home I was captured by color. Flower gardens, green lawns, literal towering mountains loaded with color and life. The day before we came back to Juarez from our last trip, we hiked around Elk Park Trail on Pike’s Peak with our dear friends Chad & Mary. The bold fall colors clung to the aspen, consuming each small grove like golden wildfire. We walked through the forest, touching Pike’s Peak granite, and we marveled at the wild beauty of nature. That kind of unrestrained splendor rakes the hardest of hearts, exposing the fertile and innocent soil of life.

I managed to grow some Zenias this summer. They are fresh little bursts of color in an otherwise dusty and gray environment. I have been preparing the small patch of dirt that is carved out in our patio for planting. While we were in Colorado this past September I collected several zip-lock bags of seeds from various hearty plants. I hope to construct a greenhouse this winter so that in springtime we can spread color around the neighborhood. It seems that the desert, though alluring with its raw harsh beauty, can quickly sap the piquancy out of life. Imagine your home without plants, without grass or gardens, having only one type of tree, no squirrels, just dust, weeds, cinderblocks, and sandy soil.

Xenias in future garden

Zenias in future garden

Color, life, green: they are glinting vestiges of hope. There are days that  the desert gets the best of me. Sometimes my heart is wrenched dry and my body aches. Sometimes the lonely stares and the overwhelming needs in front of my face feel like kidney punches. Lack of color in this city is not the root of these feelings, but it certainly is a symptom of a larger, more poignant issue. When young kids come up to our gate to chat, to get a sandwich, to ask why we are doing pull-ups on our hang board, where we have been when we’re away, and when the gringos are coming back again, there is something in their eyes that gnaws at our hearts. Several of the men in our neighborhood have spoken to me about the difficulty in finding a job here. There is a lot of hopelessness in their voices, and in their eyes I can see clearly how it is draining their pride. Many people cannot find work right now. A lot of factories have shut down because of the so-called-crisis in the States. But a few miles away, across the river, is a church that has almost completed its 16 million dollar building project. Sitting in a service one day we heard the pastor talking about the glorious structure. He said, “When people ask me what I do with all the money that comes into our church, I say ‘Look around! This is where the money has gone!’” One child was quoted as saying that the children’s center was “better than Universal Studios”. This was said during the 12 minute talk he gave about ‘giving’ in which he skipped over the heart of the passage concerning the poor. They only have 4 million more dollars to raise: Starbucks coffee shop, a game-room that rivals any Dave & Buster’s, three giant screens, 4 television cameras, a concert quality light show, a women’s fashion-show next month; I could go on, maybe I should, but I do not want to puke. Money is not bad, nor is being rich, but I don’t know what to think about rich-Christians who ignore poverty, and their disenfranchised neighbors who are thirsty for hope and bereft of color.  

The desert has cooled down considerably and I know that the Zenias will not bloom too much longer. The mornings are almost cold now; I love the chill in the air. In the mornings I like to sweep the concrete patio of the fallen leaves that drifted down the night before from the tree that gives us so much shade. I look up and can see that fall is here. I can smell it. Each day there are less leaves and our shade tree becomes a bit more boney. The evenings are chilly but the days are still warm. Such is the desert. The desert has opened my mind, given me a different perspective on life and faith. And hope, like color, is growing in our hearts for this neighborhood. We choose to not give in to despair and when we feel like our hands are tied, we look at the Zenias.

Fall is Here



12 Responses to “What Color is Hope?”

  1. Love your blog-I will bring lots of flowers when I come & see you.

  2. isaac Says:

    man, it’s infuriating to hear about churches like that. they are so close to the need–and have the solution–yet are so very far away. we must stay focused on our calling, and pray that God re-focuses the priorities of the mis-guided. hang in there guys. i think your greenhouse idea is inspired.

  3. Hey guys. Thanks for posting a new entry for us to read.

    Speaking of waste, crisis, and life . . . we’re house sitting in Sibylle’s earthship above Silverthorne. Nice and quiet. It’s pretty much getting to be winter up here, and the house is HOT, with zero supplemental heating. All of the water, except drinking water, is from rain capture.

  4. I posted a link to this entry in on online discussion forum that we are doing with some of our high school students in Ohio. The topic this week is on social issues and whether or not pastors should talk about them or just stick to personal issues of faith. So, you may hear from some of them.
    Thanks for the perspective.

  5. John M. Says:

    Hi Matt & Misty!

    Wow. Just read your entire blog to date (as a catch-up) – and I have to tell you – it is beautifully written but very difficult to accept given my inherent selfishness over two people I very much care for. I wish you nothing but the very best in your mission and efforts . . . one can’t write words that even come close to summarize how good you are.

    That said, it’s not my lack of faith in God that has me worried. It’s a lack of faith in humanity, human nature, desperation, greed . . . MAN and the imbalance of justice in the world. I’m not trying to talk you out of what you are doing – just promise the people here who love you both that you will not lose vigilance and that, though you will trust in God, you will also use the brains he gave you to the fullest. Please watch each other carefully. Also, keep the mop handy in case one of the lions gets away from the circus. Regarding color: I used to get bored a lot as a kid and found that closing one’s eyes and pushing on them for extended periods, though invoking sharp headaches, leads to some serious color displays.

  6. Honeyman Says:

    So you could say i am totally blown away that something like this is going on, probebly in more places than we know. I just know that this totally changes the way i think about life. My teacher AJ (as shown above) is really teaching us the issue of poverty this year and i am just yearning more and more everyday to help in some way. Its crazy that us as a Christians sit in an invironment that is like this, and we don’t even relize it. If only the Church would change the way it worked and instead of teaching us how we can look good in the eyes of other Christians and God, teaching us how to live for Him. Teaching us to live like the way he lived. Because we are the hands and feet of Jesus.

  7. Hey man.
    Ah. yes. Rich christians who ignore poverty. You sir, have nailed one of the most frustrating things right on the head. I agree. its so frustrating. They have money, they earned it raised it what ever. Thats awesome. Use some of it for yourself. Go for it. but seriously. Why all. How does that bless god? how does that show jesus’ love outside of the community of their church? it doesn’t. Not at all. It makes me want to puke as well.

  8. hey bro, you’re quite the linguistic artiste’. really enjoyed what you had to say. look forward to seeing you in december…

  9. […] their Hummers and Pick-ups so that they can conduct their coerced searches. I was working in our future garden a few days ago with Cesar, our 10 year old neighbor and friend, when the convoy set up a check […]

  10. […] their Hummers and Pick-ups so that they can conduct their coerced searches. I was working in our future garden a few days ago with Cesar, our 10 year old neighbor and friend, when the convoy set up a check […]

  11. […] project with the hopes of bringing life and color to our neighborhood. As I wrote in What Color is Hope, Juarez is devoid of color. Dust, concrete, and trash are the overbearing color-sapping sponges […]

  12. […] project with the hopes of bringing life and color to our neighborhood. As I wrote in What Color is Hope, Juarez is devoid of color. Dust, concrete, and trash are the overbearing color-sapping sponges […]

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