I’m traveling with Food for the Poor to experience their work in Guatemala. Each year 820 AM KGNW listeners donate thousands of dollars to support Food for the Poor’s humanitarian endeavors. As a host and spokesperson for those campaigns, I take my job seriously. I believe anything worth doing for the Lord is worth doing with a sincere passion. Consequently, I am excited to see for myself the life saving work of this important Christian relief organization.
I traveled from Seattle to Houston yesterday and spent the night in a marvelously generic hotel near the airport. This odd staging ground seemed appropriate for the journey I’m about to begin. Airport hotels are, for the most part, soulless in their decor. They feel more like an extension of the airport than an expression of the city where they abide. Consequently, I spent last night in Houston without being inconvenienced by the burden of city ambiance. Hotels near the airport are keenly aware that you are not bedding down in this location to see the sites. Instead, you are passing through or heading to a meeting or event that has little to do with the scenery.
Heading east from the west coast, my body was reluctant to go to sleep on local time. So I parked myself in the lobby to mingle quietly with my fellow airport row travelers. I hadn’t met up with my group yet, so I sat alone in the corner of the entry lounge twiddling on my ipad. Don’t know if twiddling is the right word, but it seems appropriate to express the aimless intent of my evening activity. In olden days, I would have been reading a newspaper or perusing the latest cave scrawl.
To contrast my ipad isolation, an ever increasing number of mildly inebriated, college aged, seemingly unattached adults began congregating in the lobby around me. At a ratio of 8 men to one woman, the room began to increase in volume and exaggerated bravado. Half of the gathering had drinks in hand, the others were between drinks in hand. As the crowd grew to 40 or so revelers, I began to suspect I had unwittingly found myself in the center of an alcohol fueled flash mob.
However, as the volume increased, I began to hear the phrase “party bus” bantered about. As best as I can surmise, I had inadvertently stumbled upon some sort of “bar bus” bus stop. Having never been on a party bus, I am unable to further elaborate. Eventually I headed back to my room as my non-inebriated presence became a distraction to the pre “party bus” tailgating.
As I headed back to my nondescript room, I was struck by the obvious contrasts. Here I am in a airport hotel in Houston, waiting for my adventure in Guatemala to begin. In the next few days I will see gorgeous scenery and devastating poverty. I’ll experience the cultural landscape of Guatemala for the first time and I’ll experience some of my first interactions with poverty induced sickness, disease, and malnutrition. In Guatemala I will celebrate life, and I will be confronted by death; the daily threat and reality of death that faces thousands of impoverished Guatemalans.
I think about that “party bus.” It all seems to me like such a waste of existence. The fleeting, temporary euphoria of inebriation at the cost of financial and relational integrity. The headaches and heartaches that will greet each partier in the morning. It is easy for me to judge the worth of such an activity. It is easy for me to look down upon such behavior.
Even so, I am struck with this profound truth. In the coming days I will see and experience things that will break my heart. I will be confronted with existences that call into question so much of my frivolous behavior and life. In a very real way, my activities at home will begin to seem as noble or meaningful as that “party bus.”
Guilt is a lousy motivator; so is fear. Ultimately, we do the work of the Kingdom based on calling and conviction. With this in mind, I am committed to face the inconsistencies in my faith’s theology and practice. I’m willing to gaze intently into faces that break my heart. I do this with the hope and assurance that I will find Jesus. I will see him among the ruins, I will experience him among the despair, and I will look to his guidance for my response.