Seven years ago I spent a week in Colombia, South America — three days as the guest of a rather well-to-do family in Bogotá in the country’s elevated interior, followed by three days in coastal Santa Marta, among families who literally felt blessed to have a roof over their head.
I remember enjoying the hospitality of one multi-generational family (a great-grandfather, a grandmother, a mother and her baby). Their furniture consisted of a picnic style table with benches, and a school desk. The cement-block, fresh air ventilated and naturally sunlit structure was built on either a cement slab, or more likely, the natural rock floor of the Andes made smooth and flat.
Out back in the open air was the “kitchen” in which roots and tropical fruit and vegetables were cooking on a rock stove fueled with firewood. The young mom proudly guided me to their water source, a well recently dug into the hard Andean rock which extends to the coast. For many months using only hand held implements, they had dug a wide hole, three or four feet deep, which they covered with a tarp.
They had hoped to go deeper, she explained to me in Latin American Coastal Spanish, but it was just too difficult to dig with hand-tools. So they stopped digging once they reached a spring-fed water level.
She was really proud of her well, because it meant she didn’t have to buy water, or carry water in from somewhere else.
The hospitality and friendship which this Christian family extended could not have been more authentic!
Later that week, I had the privilege of presenting a sermon about JesuCristo (Jesus Christ) who fed and ate with the astonished disciples in a post resurrection meal, as my English was translated into Spanish. Present in the audience was the family we visited, being members of the local church which had invited me to preach to them in English.
Thanks to mi amiguito, a little Colombian friend who loved to take fotografías, I returned with many digital images of my visit with these South American neighbors. These were not some sort of strange and isolated primitives, but were just like my multi-generational North American family, but without the material advantages.
They were people rich in pride, from a culture of family, manners, and above all hospitality.
These were a people of dignity and love, fellow believers in Jesus, who were deserving of much more than they possessed. They were the poor of Matthew 5 who possessed the Kingdom of Heaven!
Blessed are the poor in spirit, Jesus had declared. The Luke parallel makes it clear that Jesus was addressing their poverty and not merely recommending humility. Blessed are the poor for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
For those of our country who love to degrade the poor by misappropriating Jesus’ words, dismissing them as welfare parasites worthy of their station in life, while themselves seeking to pay less taxes so as to become even richer, perhaps a word from Jesus in in order.
But woe to you who are rich,
for you have already received your comfort.
Woe to you who are well fed now,
for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will mourn and weep.
Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you,
for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.
— Jesus Christ, Gospel of Luke, Chapter Six