One of the highest hopes for ministries among the outcast is that men and women would discover their own value.
For instance, in the massive trash dumps of Guatemala City there are hundreds of despised poor men and women that pick through the rubble each day to survive. Most citizens refer to these filthy lives as subhuman "scavengers." People on the margins often internalize these labels. "Wetback." "Convict." "Illegal." "Criminal." They see themselves as having no value, and often live accordingly. But a ministry there in the Guatemalan dump, seeking to love the unwanted, calls the lives they find in the wreckage "treasures" instead. The heart of God inverts most of our world's values.
The problem, though, is trying to help the unwanted internalize their new value. Sure, the ministry workers see them as "treasures," but when do the despised discover themselves to be so?
Below is a note from solitary confinement where a tattooed felon--our brother Neenie--describes discovering his value in God's economy.
Treasures in the Streets
Check this out homie. In Matthew 2:11 when the wisemen came and presented Jesus with all these treasures, to me I started thinking of my birthday coming up. Homie, you don’t read about Jesus and these treasures later on, selling them, or wearing diamond earrings or flossin’ shit [lacing oneself with finery]. Si me entiendes. Well, today I also read in Matthew 6:19-24 where it talks about layin up treasures in heaven. Like giving away all that we got.
Okay, check this out. Yesterday I had some money on my phone pin account and I see homies in here who don’t got no feria [money] to call anyone or for tienda [“store,” commissary snacks or hygiene]. Right away I felt like helping them out. Usually homies have too much pride to accept it, but I’ll tell them to at least let me relay a message for them with my connections to the outside, me entiendes?
Like I told you, I’m not trying to build this gang ministry “Hope for Homies” for the money or publicity. I was blessed with all the skills I need for it. Some people may look at me or my skills as flaws or whatevers. But I can understand “us,” the ones who fell to the bottom of the pit and can’t get out.
Like it says in Matthew 6:22-23: “the lamp of the body is the eye” y so on. Well, all the bad, miserable, horrible shit I’ve been through is my eyes. I see what happens in the darkness, so I have a lamp, kind of, with my eyes. With them I’ve learned to use it to my advantage, to teach people, show people through the darkness—and they listen because I’ve seen it all.
Then in the next verse, 24, Jesus says we can’t serve two masters. Pues, all the clecha [teaching, training] I have, from grinding the streets for jale [drug sales], to gangbanging, to playing women y so on, I’m not going to use it for the bad reasons anymore, but I can use it still for good causes, for God’s work. Like helping youngsters before they start gangbanging. Or helping educate ignorant fools [community leaders?] who only see us as flaws on society. Or supporting other homies in the changes they’re trying to make out of the street life, but who feel stuck. Me entiendes, babyboy?
Treasures don’t gotta be diamonds and pearls. Sometimes treasures lie within us. And that’s my treasure. It’s not to be used in a wrong way like I did for years. It’s got true value on the streets, don’t get me wrong—but when used for good, its more valuable.
Damn, this clecha is just flowing in my veins!