I have nothing to teach you

Living in Buenos Aires presents me with a variety of challenges. Hour long bank lines and cramped train rides where you unwillingly get intimate with your neighbor are but a few. This new challenge will force me to dig deeper. In Buenos Aires a villa is basically a slum. A place where people suffer.

Providence brought me to Villa Uzal about 15 minutes from my home to converse with a young man, C., who grew up in the streets of this neighborhood. He returns often as his extended family still lives there. C. tells me, “La villa te absorbe.” Meaning, the place sucks you in.

So he tells me his story. Of a past full of drugs, cars and crime. Of lifting himself out of it all practically on his own. Of children stealing and dying and luxury sedans wheeling into the villa to do commerce. Of his dead brother-in-law, killed in a shootout. Of another family member and friend killed. And another. And another until I’ve lost count. He tells me he worries about the 14 year old kid on the corner with his baseball cap skewed sideways. This kid’s brother was shot in the belly while the kid watched. And even though he’s incredibly bright, C. tells me, the kid will need a lot of attention and patience to not end up in prison or full of holes in his chest. I hear about the 17 year old girl with a mentality of a ten year old, pregnant by abuse and infected with HIV…  La villa te absorbe…

C. was trapped, but he escaped – without faith in Jesus Christ. By nature he worries about the kids in the street that he knows are stealing from the chance for a better future for his neighborhood. He does all this without faith. So by what right or by what reason do I have to teach or advise him of anything? The answer? I have no right and no reason at all. My innate strength and goodness are puny in the shadow of this young man tattooed with ink and pain.

We look down the main corridor of the villa watching kids scurry after a ball, and I hear him tell it as if describing a late summer storm. Behind the soft pitch of his words his clear green eyes deepen saying, “We’ve seen some things. Man, we’ve seen some terrible things. The seeing made us suffer and cry. This is all we’ve seen since he was a baby; he hurts and he needs. But just listen. Just listen for now.” And so here the Jesus in me found a way to act and to heal. By just listening for now. As a person, there’s little I can do for this young man known for his work ethic and for pulling his family out of the misery. But if I impose my limitations on the Lord, then I make God quite small.

I just have to step aside and let Jesus do His work.

You support C.’s community when you  buy one of my books  for as little as $0.99. Details here.

The picture in this blog is of the famous Villa 31 in Buenos Aires. Villa Uzal, where C. comes from, is another smaller slum on the outskirts of the city. 


27 comments on “I have nothing to teach you

  1. Naphtali says:

    And I sit here in a comfortable chair with coffee…you are there making a presence even if there are no words. Others see in you something they have never had or maybe seen before. That dear friend plants a seed when you had no dirt. God can do what we can’t and he knows your heart. He will take that seed and make it grow. My prayers are with you and those you are ministering.

  2. Rachel says:

    Beautiful written story! Sad but reality of the way so many live. We must be thankful for what we have. The power of God and hope is so much greater ♥ to combat any pain or destruction.

  3. How can I say “like” to the brokenness – but the Wind of the Spirit is still at work, even here.

  4. Cristal says:

    “But if I impose my limitations on the Lord, then I make God quite small.” (This is something I needed to hear today — for me, of little faith who needed to be reminded God is God and I am not!)

  5. granbee says:

    I am praying for your work with C.–and for C., RIGHT NOW. Thanks for providing a link through which we may be of assistance. So wonderful of you to go into that Villa 31 in Buenes Aires. God loves YOU and God loves C. Let your light so shine, that C. may truly FEEL that love.

  6. Suz says:

    Praying — his will be done on earth as it is in heaven — in the villa and elsewhere.

  7. tessf says:

    What an amazing piece. So much more to learn from students at times.

    I remember one time, one of my toughest and meanest students, someone full of contempt for everyone and everything. ..coming to class the first day and shouting obscenities at me for marking him tardy. ..a few weeks later, he broke down in tears and told his story. I haven’t been the same since.

    Thanks for posting.

  8. Debbie says:

    Such wisdom, Vince. I’ve too often put my foot in it when I should have stepped aside – and come along side.
    I’ll add my prayers to those above.

  9. lbtk says:

    I love the pictures and bits of culture you bring to my life from your corner of the world. I love that the photo of the kids playing ball looks similar to pictures from our school’s yard when I taught elementary school.

    Because you have given me beautiful words to read and inspire me, I am giving you the “Beautiful Blogger Award.” Please follow this link: http://wp.me/p22liv-aI to find out why I gave it to you and how you can pass it along to other “beautiful” bloggers.


  10. Tammy says:

    “Beautiful Blogger Award” is right…and it sounds like you did exactly what Jesus asked, you were His ear. We’re all too quick to “do” when often the process begins with just listening. And letting relationships develop gradually. In times in my life when I questioned God, I think “hearing” more on what I questioned did not help me with my relationship.
    Excellent word illustrations of life in your part of the world, the photo is also a great snapshot. Thank you for sharing, strength and peace to you this day.

  11. jamie says:

    It’s great to read that C. made his way out on his own. It’s sad to catch a glimpse of what he has seen. You can teach him that Jesus can remove the “villa” out of him instead of C. just leaving the “villa”. I pray that God will show you how to do this. There is always hope in Christ Jesus!


  12. ansuyo says:

    “But if I impose my limitations on the Lord, then I make God quite small.”. So true. We tend to think in terms of not being able to make a difference, but we can all listen and pray. Thank you for this wonderful post. Angie

  13. An emphatic and powerful post.I do believe in the sacred act of “listening with the Heart filled by God’s Grace”. No words are needed yet a healing greater than one fathomed may occur in the silent space that opens and allows the transmission That Greater Heart, able to use your presence as a conduit forming Triangles of Blessed Healing and connection. Thank you for following my blog. I am honored to discover yours, Love, Linda

  14. […] don’t have to sacrifice everything and live in the slums of New York, Buenos Aires or Karachi, but we must move out of our comfort zone to make a […]

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